Shopping in Cabo or Mexico in general can really be an experience. Many of you who have already traveled deep into Mexico or just over the border have experienced the small trinket shops that sell all kinds of Mexican handicrafts, including blankets, pottery, masks, silver jewelry, hats and much more.
The fun begins with the fact that in most of these small stores the price is far from fixed. The ability to haggle (definition from dictionary.com: To bargain, as over the price of something; dicker: “He preferred to be overcharged than to haggle”). Well not I, if I can haggle the price down easily then I will. I don’t want to be a codo gringo but within reason the sellers expect you to do this.
Now mind you this is not the case in the more “gallery: like stores with very special or fine products for sale. It is also not acceptable to “Haggle” at the grocery or auto parts store for example. But in the street stores and vendors at the “Tianguis” (open air market) it is not only acceptable but expected.
Haggling can be fun and shouldn’t really stress you out. Now when a vendor offers a hammock for $50.00 USD for example how much lower should you offer? I generally cut the price in half. You may not necessarily get that price as you should expect a counter offer much higher. The process generally ends up in the middle between your low and their high.
Yes they do have that high of a margin on many products and I especially do this when buying a volume of things. Just remember if offered with a smile and respect they will not truly be offended. Many times they will act disappointed and begin to tell you their hard luck story. The fact is, many of these vendors for example in towns like Tijuana, Ensenada, Cabo or mainland tourist areas do make very good profits even while paying some pretty high rents.
Especially those beach vendors that just keep coming on most tourist beaches in Mexico, can really cut their price, as they pay no rent or permit fees at all. These are not the vendors you should really buy silver from as the “made In Mexico” and “521 silver stamps” are commonly fake as the Rolex watches sold in the street. The best place to purchase silver is in the true stores with clean display and a scale present to show you the quality.
Now for a few Baja Insider tricks. First, always offer very low and when they counter offer just act like that’s too much and become disinterested at that price. Many times I’ll leave the store and go to the next starting the process over and then using the lowest I could get at the last store to motivate them to beat it. You can always return to the store with the best price or the best quality product.
Another tip is not to talk directly in front of the vendors when discussing the value with your shopping partner. Why? Because many of them do speak or understand English and may use what you say
to help close the deal or they may misunderstand what you are saying and become offended. Just ask for a moment and wander the store away from them while you discuss your desires
This is meant to be fun and not offensive. There is no reason to take what they say personally and if they do it generally is an act. I know plenty of vendors that can make very good income even at half price. Now this is not always the case with all products so if it is a uncommon product or they have a reason such as better quality they may be pretty tough on their price.
As far as products you need to be careful these days for instance if you’re buying some of those little guitars for the kids that they are not from China. Lately there have been a lot of imitation trinkets flooding the market form China. What is really funny is that many merchants forge to remove the made in China sticker while trying to pass it off as a Mexican made handicraft.
Haggling is only part of the adventure. Finding what you want in the color style and or size you like can be a bit of a treasure hunt. Many vendors will actually help you out if they don’t have what you are looking for and they will send you to a friend for your purchase. Most vendors are very cheerful and motivated almost to the point of being bothersome. If you politely ask to be left alone to browse most will accommodate you. Some vendors can be a bit pushy but remember you can always just smile and move on.
Realize however there are many differences in the quality of products. For example the typical Mexican blanket can be the light weight or heavy weight cotton. The sizes and quality of weave may differ as well. There are also some very beautiful wool blankets and wall hangings these days that are more of a gallery quality so don’t expect as much of a reduction in price on something like that.
Have fun but don’t carry it too far and become offensive or act as a cheapskate. Remember most likely the pesos you are saving are not of nearly as much value to you as they are to the vendor. There is however no reason to feel sorry for them and just pay the first price given. They really do put the prices up expecting a little discussion concerning price.