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Bargaining Tips, or How to Be a Success at Bargaining in Indonesia

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For many Indonesians, bargaining is a way of life and getting a fair or cheap price is regarded as a challenge. Sometimes vendors name a price based on the customer’s perceived ability to pay,
rather than the actual cost of the item. This makes it more difficult for foreigners, who will usually be quoted a higher price. Some people consider bargaining to be time-consuming and frustrating, but it is also a game and if you know the rules it can be fun.

  • Do not try to bargain in shopping malls and stores with fixed prices. You are expected to bargain in road-side stalls, such as those selling plants and flowers, traditional markets and “tourist areas” such as Jalan Surabaya, Pasar Seni Ancol, and the various “antique” shops in Jalan Ciputat Raya and Jalan Kemang Timur, or in the Puncak area.
  • In some shops, particularly in “tourist areas”, you will immediately be offered a discount or “special price”, because you are the first or last customer of the day or to encourage you to come again. This is an indication that the vendor is open to bargaining.
  • Do not commence bargaining if you have no intention of purchasing – this is considered “bad form”.
  • It helps a lot if you have some knowledge of the item’s actual price. Do some surveying first at fixed price stores or ask friends what they paid for certain items that you are interested in.
  • To start the bargaining process, first ask the vendor the price of the item that you are interested in. Then ask if the price can be reduced (Boleh kurang?). If the answer is “Yes” (Boleh) or “Yes, a little” (Boleh, sedikit), you begin negotiations.
  • As a general rule you can offer to pay one quarter to one half of the first asking price, with the vendor and purchaser making counter offers until a suitable median price is reached. The agreed price that you reach may be about one half to two thirds of the initial asking price.
  • In some traditional markets the prices offered are already low and vendors may take offense at a very low first price offer, therefore you should only ask for a discount (Minta diskon). Normally this is obvious from the reaction of the vendor when you “suggest” the price you are willing to pay.
  • If you are purchasing more than one item you should be able to negotiate a better deal.
  • Even though you really like something, try to keep calm and poker faced, as the vendor will stick to his higher price if he thinks you will pay it.
  • If, after some negotiations, you consider that the vendor’s price is still too high you can leave the shop or stall and move on to the next, which will probably be offering similar items. This often does the trick and the vendor will rush after you accepting your last offered price. If this does not happen, you know that your price was still too high and the vendor would have suffered a loss loss or he is not willing to sell for that price.
  • When you and the vendor have agreed on the price you are obliged to complete the purchase.
  • Build up a relationship with a vendor at a store where you shop frequently. You can remind the vendor that you have shopped there previously and as he recognizes you his “first price” will become lower.
  • In shops that allow bargaining you should be aware that it is unlikely that you would be able to get a refund or after sales service.
  • Bargaining is a skill that can be developed with practice and you will be proud of the “bargains” you have acquired. There will be times when you discover later that you paid “too much”, but the prices in general are very affordable, and the experience of bargaining is enjoyable in itself.
  • Patience and good humor are vital for successful bargaining. If you are not in the mood for bargaining, then shop in stores where prices are fixed

Enjoy your bargaining experiences in Indonesia!

Our thanks to Colliers International for their generous contribution of this article!

Housing and schooling information for expats in Indonesia expatriate website for Indonesia Indonesian language translation of article

Practical Information for foreigners, expats and expatriates moving to Indonesia - find out about housing, schooling, transport, shopping and more to prepare you for your stay in Indonesia

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