Traveling abroad presents many incredible opportunities for tourists: beautiful scenery, lifelong memories, and souvenirs. Those who do not have experience, however, are at risk of being ripped off, particularly at overseas “international bazaars,” like the ones found here. The merchants who run these bazaars have years of experience in manipulating the emotions of unwary travelers. Here are a few tips to avoid being scammed :
No, he (or his friend) didn’t make that. This is a subtle trick that most would-be buyers brush aside. They’ll say things like “I started learning to sculpt when I was six years old!” Even if their audience doesn’t believe the seller actually crafted the souvenir in question, the “homemade” label can still stick subconsciously. There’s no point in trying to call them out on it, unless you’re a professional sculptor. But being aware of the trick can help minimize the effect it has on your subconscious mind when buying souvenirs.
No, friend, you don’t have that much in common. It’s an unfortunate truth of the marketplace that people lie. A lot. In fact, you might say that every word that comes out of their mouths is probably false. (It’s easy to be offended by this fact, but keep in mind that many of them have to lie in order to make a living.) Merchants will ask the occasional personal question—don’t be surprised when it turns out they’re practically you. Religion, country of origin, Alma mater, career, favorite band or movie—they’re all fair game. They’ll call you “friend,” and declare what wonderful people you both are. Once again, it’s a cheap scam, but one that builds an instant relationship with a would-be victim. Be ye warned.
No, there’s no tax on that. It’s a cheap, easy trick to try and pry a few more dollars out of you. Once the seller agrees to a price, don’t let him talk you into paying a cent more. Because they will—I once had a merchant at an African bazaar try and get me to pay extra for soap to clean the socks I’d used as a bargaining chip to knock down the price a little. Don’t fall for it.
No, you don’t want to meet his friend. People hate being rude (though it’s hard to believe, sometimes). Nevertheless, merchants will use this tendency to rope you into purchasing more than you want. Often they’ll pretend they need to help another customer, and walk you over to their “friend” (a fellow merchant) to wrap your purchases. This friend will slowly go about his business, while showing you a whole host of wonderful souvenirs you just have to have. And then he’ll walk you over to his friend, and so on….
No, I don’t want a $20 chocolate bar. A friend of mine made this mistake, much to her eternal embarrassment. There’s a reason knowing the exchange rate helps with merchants—they can’t talk you into anything too absurd if you’re constantly double-checking how much you’re spending in “real” money.
No, I won’t pay more than $5 for your new Lexus. International bazaars are notorious for being difficult to escape. It’s like a black hole—no matter how hard you try, the merchants keep dragging you back in. Sometimes, the easiest way to break free is to offend the seller. Offer them a pittance for something that’s obviously valuable. Oh, they’ll make a big show of how much you’ve offended them—in fact they may never recover! But you owe them nothing, and if forcing them to act hurt is the price of escaping with your wallet intact, well, so be it.
Even with the best advice, you’ll probably get ripped off at some point. These people have years of experience, and you’ve been shopping at their international bazaar all of ten minutes. Still, following these tips above may spare, or at least warn you, of the numerous scams out there. Be bold, but cautious, and you’ll walk away with some great memories and souvenirs—and only slightly overpriced ones at that. For tips on negotiating a better price, check out this bazaar guide.
What sort of experiences have you had at overseas bazaars? Any tips to avoid being scammed? Feel free to share them below, along with any tales of miserable failure!