Among us, no one has ever been to the market. Yes, we are preferring to any local markets that have appeared to any residential areas. And also, has anyone ever gone to the market to buy stuff but have not once bargained? We’re pretty sure that 99,999% of Vietnamese people will say “NO”.
So why are we haggling? Easy! Because the shop owners often … overcharge! And this “pair of cards” has contributed to a very typical business culture in Vietnam.
“Bargain” is to offer a discount on an item, compared to the price offered by the seller. And of course, “overcharge” is the opposite implication, that is, propose a price higher than the buyer wants. These two moves have the same starting point as the psychological expectation of maximizing profits in business/ consumption.
The seller always wants to earn the most profit, so he offers the highest price that is possible for his goods. Buyers also want to get benefit from the best possible cost savings, while getting what they need. It is understandable in a buying-selling relationship.
However, this seems to acceptable and exists merely in a small scale business environment, for example in local markets, That’s why we can’t see these habits in supermarkets or big stores!
Many our foreign friends, when asked about the most impressive things in shopping in Vietnamese markets, said it was “bargain” and “watching people bargain”. And for us, it’s no longer strange to be asked or to be part of these too familiar conversations:
“A: Hey Phoebe, should we bargain?
Us: Yes, of course!
A: How come?
Us: Cause they may overcharge us!
A: Why in Vietnam, every markets, overcharging? Why don’t they give us a real price? an exact one?
Because, maybe it’s a deep-rooted habit of Vietnamese sellers. And because for many (probably a majority) Vietnamese people, “haggling” is no longer just a simple economic calculation, but a … pleasure when shopping.
In more comprehensive way, “haggling” and “overcharging” make clients and sellers interact to each other, especially in emotional way, which partly contributes creating market culture – an irreplacable part of Vietnamese daily life.
But there is also situation that we don’t like to bargain. We saw a girl who did not bargain when buying goods from the elderly in the market. Can you guess why? Perhaps because at that time, she saw the image of her grandmother in the countryside in the shape of the old lady selling goods.
And, last but not least, please don’t take it wrong! To us, higgle is a pleasure only when it’s based on the right principle called “thuận mua vừa bán” aka “amicable sale” in English. Because no buyers want to be riffed off, nor do any sellers want to suffer a loss!