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In many countries the markets are some of the most interesting places to visit. However, as a result of tourism, culture and competition, many of the sellers/touts are...well...aggressive. This can consist of:

  • not taking no for an answer
  • chasing you down the street
  • trying to force you to wear their hat / trying their jewelry etc
  • trying to pull you into their shop / restaurant
  • wanting your name, where you're from to get a conversation meaning you stop, and may come in, when you just want to walk but not be rude

If you, like myself, don't shop at markets for souvenirs (I look for food, at best), and simply want to browse or walk and look, how best to handle said aggressive shop-owners?

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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I have faced this countless times while travelling in Asia because sellers can be incredibly aggressive in their selling tactics there. The best way to handle this is the same as the answer about how to handle "string people" in Paris: appear local and don't engage them.

  • Appear local: Okay, there are times when this is not possible. There will be places such as monuments that clearly only tourists visit, or you may stand out very obviously as a tourist due to your ethnicity. The key is appearing local. If you can say "no" to them in the local language, it gives an impression that you could possibly be an expat and thus wise enough to be not an easy target to rip off. At the end of the day, the sellers are only concerned about the payoff for their effort. Giving the impression that you're an expat who lives in the country is very effective at discouraging them to spend time on trying to convince you to buy something.
  • Don't engage them: Engaging touts or hardsellers in a market is a very tourist mistake to make. This especially happens at train / bus / airports in some countries too. If you observe locals or expats, you'll notice that they just ignore them and walk on. Engaging with them in a conversation on what your name is or where you're from / going to is something that only tourists do because they are afraid of coming off as rude. Don't be concerned about that!
  • 'Dress down' to appear less flashy: If you don't want to spend money, look the part. Crack out those cargos or short and t-shirts, and give the appearance you have less cash to spend. Chances are touts will get the hint and then you can have interesting chats where they too know you probably aren't going to spend money (but even they get bored so they'll probably chat with you anyway).

All of this depends on your mood of course. If you aren't looking at buying anything, then be firm and don't let yourself be swayed. There are times though when I have slow days when travelling and don't mind chatting with shopkeepers. Be explicit. If you aren't going to buy something, tell them that upfront.

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"I can dress however I like - It doesn't mean I want to be robbed, or that it's my fault. Don't blame the victim." - remind you of anything? –  trideceth12 Feb 10 '13 at 4:31
4  
Being blamed and avoiding a problem are not the same thing. You can sleep in the middle of the freeway at night if you want to exercise your freedom. I wouldn't advise you to though even if the driver could be blamed for not paying enough attention to the road to avoid you. –  hippietrail Feb 10 '13 at 6:36
    
@Ankur: You said this much more eloquently than I did! +1 –  Jonas Feb 11 '13 at 2:36
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Agressive sellers are like off-line telemarketers. There's very little you can do but to ignore them, and to be rude, if necessary, unless you have the ability to not appear like a tourist.

Also, like you can hand the telemarketer call to your spouse, you can lead aggressive sellers toward more interesting prey, such as richer-looking tourists who aren't being accosted yet.

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There is one technique that works for me every time:

Ignore them completely - Like they don't exist

Saying "No!" is generally a mistake, as it gives them something to work with. It's very hard to continue interacting with someone who is blanking you. Furthermore, as it is abnormal not to acknowledge a person who is talking to you, it makes the tout wonder if you might be a bit psycho.

Since I was told this technique it has worked for me absolutely every time. I am so used to pretending that these people don't exist, that even at home in Australia, if someone offers me promotional material in a shop - I blank them too!

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