Monday, December 19, 2011

At the end of the day is it worth it?

As a traveler in Southeast Asia, most things are relatively cheap letting you travel for longer periods of time with less money saved or total spent. Food, transportation, basic hygiene products, drinks, and clothing are a fraction of the cost in the US.  Some travelers go to Thailand with a back pack and a few basic things and buy the rest as they go.  When it comes to purchasing and negotiating how much is too much? And how much is taking too much energy out of your overally mood and attitude toward traveling.

Starting off with transportation, tuk tuk’s(taxis) set the price higher for a fare when they see your backpack.  A travelers backpack is a symbol for money and business for tuk tuks.  The tuk tuk quotes you 40 baht and you go back and forth negotiating a lower price.  A person may enjoy this negotiating, but from my experience most do not want to negotiate and some do not even try.  During the day negotiating maybe fine, but after you have been on a bus or out all day and you just want to get to your guesthouse-it may not be worth the negotiation.

In Thailand, it feels easy to negotiate, Laos-moderate, and from what I hear Vietnam is difficult to negotiate.  I have about people’s experience being near violent with Vietnamese requesting a specific amount and not budging.  With a negative experience like that, it brings your mood down and affects your overall experience.  My friend says, “Vietnam is always a bargain or negotiation everyday all day.” This does not sound like it is a fun thing to me when you have to put time and energy into negotiating what do you think?

Also, some more food for thought involves how far to take your negotiations with the type of people you are bargaining with.  If you are bargaining with a street vendor in Thailand or Laos, they already are not making money and negotiating with them you are basically taking money out of their pocket.  When a lady has a baby in her arms and she is working on the street selling rotis do you negotiate? Is it worth saving an extra 50 cents to a dollar? This does add up overtime, but how do you feel taking from a family or someone who has so much less than you?

In Laos, an English couple were making a deal with a young teenage boy selling paintings.  His paintings were precious and he was already selling the small ones for $1 dollar each and the couple were trying  to get the paintings for less than a dollar.  This boy was out there performing his passion and exposing himself to a market full of people and he gets low balled on his beautiful work.  The look in his eye when they dropped the price touched my heart as I felt him sink a little bit, but he ended up selling them lower because of course he needed to make the profit whether his asking price or not. 
In Thailand, I tried to bargain on buying some bananas and stopped to realize that I was making a bargain to save $25 cents.  I had a self reflective moment and thought about what I was doing.  I ended up not buying them at all because I thought about what I was doing and why I should not be low balling things because I can. 

These people have families to feed and work very hard everyday.  Do we think about them when we are negotiating and is it all worth the fight at the end of the day?

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