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How To Bargain In Paraguay
September 23, 2011, 1:27 pm
Filed under: Paraguay, Travel Tip

I’ve had my fair share of bargaining experiences, having traveled to many different areas of the world. In India, getting into an angry haggling war while pretending you know the real price is very common. In China, you can be extremely aggressive with your bargaining, asking for up to 10 times lower than the asking price (walk away and you’re golden). In Kenya, you have to ask in a much softer, nicer manner to get people to lower their cost to a reasonable price.

In Paraguay, the bargaining tactic is knowing someone who bought the same thing for much cheaper. Merely mentioning it gets you a much more economical price.

A few examples: I’m getting screen doors made for my house to ward off all kinds of insects and dengue-carrying mosquitos. When I previously talked to some friends and fellow Peace Corps Volunteers who live in a totally different area of the country (and much more rural, hence cheaper prices), they told me a carpenter agreed to make them screen doors for 50 mil each (about 13 dollars). When I asked the carpenter here for a price, he told me it was 170 mil for each door. Startled at the price, I off-handedly mentioned that my friends in San Pedro were having their doors made for 50 mil- and without skipping a beat, the carpenter said ‘Oh okay no problem, I can make the doors for 50 mil too.’

On a different adventure, I went in search for the cheapest refrigerator I could find today, as I need one for my house. Fridges here are very expensive for our Peace Corps salaries, but after hearing horror stories about Volunteers buying used fridges only for them to stop working, us volunteers in the Caazapá area decided that buying a new fridge would be the best tactic. Following advice from a volunteer, I heard that a certain store sold a fridge to her for a super low price, so I walked in and announced that my friend (describing all of her characteristics and name) had bought her fridge for 1.5 millon (about $375) rather than the regular price of 2.3 millon. I had them down to 1.6 millon before calling her and realizing that I had walked into the wrong store. They didn’t even know my friend, but they generously lowered the price for me anyway.

This mode of bargaining works much better than just asking for a discount. When I went into another store previously and asked for a discount on a fridge, I was only given a measly 50 mil off of it. Paraguayans don’t seem to respond to bargaining in the same way that other countries do: they are more interested in matching the price of other stores or friends who paid less for the same thing. I’m not sure how well this tactic works on everything, but it’s interesting how different cultures bargain in different ways.

Note: I didn’t write this post intended to rip off Paraguayans- everyone is trying to make a living, and I believe that people should pay a fair price that makes both the owner and the seller happy. However, since everyone can tell immediately from my Spanish accent (and looks) that I’m not Paraguayan, it’s easy to sometimes put a special ‘foreigner price’ on things. This is when I believe bargaining tactics come in handy, not just to get the right price, but to show that not all foreigners are extremely rich- especially when in reality Peace Corps Volunteers make less than the minimum wage than normal Paraguayans make.


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