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I'm visiting Dubai soon (although I'm happy to keep the scope of this question wider), where I think haggling is a standard expected part of buying many goods (in my case, probably mostly souvenirs). I don't really enjoy haggling (many reasons, but as the top-rated answer here says, it's tiring) and would prefer to often accept the first price offered.

So: how can I avoid or minimise haggling in shops, bazaars, markets, malls, etc. without causing offence or upsetting anyone there? If I'm happy with the first price offered, and accept it, will people get upset? How will the expectations around haggling vary depending on what I'm buying and where?

(Note: I'm trying to avoid getting into a debate about whether haggling is "good" or "bad" - I know one could argue it's part of the local cultural landscape that's worth participating in - let's say I'm consciously choosing to avoid it).

(this question is related to this one, but I think the objective is a little different :)

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I'm assuming you've seen the Haggling Scene from The Life Of Brian? (Find a version of youtube if not!) –  Gagravarr Sep 10 '13 at 13:07
    
@Gagravarr, I had, but thanks for the reminder :) –  Andrew Ferrier Sep 10 '13 at 13:11
    
I would not worry about it too much. Your very existence offends someone. If you haggle too much, merchants will be offended. If you don't haggle enough, you contribute to inflation, offending customers. –  emory Sep 10 '13 at 17:10
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3 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

First of all, haggling is not an expected part of buying goods in Dubai, which is by a fairly long shot the most Westernized place of the Middle East. Most people shop in shopping malls much like those in London, where things have clearly labeled prices, and you would only negotiate for discounts if you'd do that in the West as well (say, buying a sofa). Neither will you need to haggle for taxis, public transport, restaurants, cafes, etc. You can thus quite easily complete all your souvenir shopping in haggle-free comfort in a mall, department store or even supermarket -- I've found the best thing to bring back from the Middle East is high-quality dates, and both Carrefour etc and the airport sell nice gift-wrapped ones at excellent prices.

Where people do haggle is the traditional markets, most notably the gold souq and the other markets around the Creek. Rest assured, no merchant will be offended by you accepting their first price, in fact they'll have a hard time containing their glee as they try to sell you more stuff and then pass you onto their friends to collect some commission on top.

But if you must buy from a haggle-y shop and don't want to haggle, I usually adopt this approach: establish a reference price by visiting a hotel gift shop (ludicrously overpriced) or a fancy air-con mall souvenir shop (still overpriced, but not quite so badly) and chop it down to what seems like a sensible level. Then walk into the bazaar shop and ask if you can buy X for Y dirhams. If they say "yes", win-win; if they say "no", say thank you and walk away. If (when) they run after you yelling lower and lower prices, turn around once they get to the price you named and you have a deal.

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If you are offered a price that you are happy with, instead of accepting it, just offer half. You will be offered a third price, that you can accept without offending the seller.

If you are offered to speak first, just say that you are not interested and start to leave. You will eventually be offered a price.

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Thanks, that's helpful. So, presumably you're saying that accepting the first price offered might not always be deemed polite? –  Andrew Ferrier Sep 10 '13 at 12:30
    
I understand that you might feel uncomfortable with accepting the first price. I would too. I don't know whether it is actually an offence. –  mouviciel Sep 10 '13 at 12:33
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No-one will be offended by you avoiding haggling and meeting the first price offered!

The seller will smile, say thank you, hand you the goods, accept your money and probably say "come again please".

If you want a better price that's when you haggle (in places where that is common) and it's also usually accepted without comment. The biggest compliment you can make is to pay them initial price!

If you haggle and offer a pitifully low price and don't budge much, e.g.

Them: Its 24.40
You: How about $5?
Them: ok... how about 22.00?
You: How about $5.50?
Them: hey you're insulting me with that price.

btw haggling does happen in the west a lot. It's just that it's usually for items like cars and houses, not new consumer goods.

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