I can’t tell you about the Ancient Greeks or the Byzantines, but the bargaining tradition of present day Greece certainly was influenced by four hundred years of Ottoman rule. It’s a nation with carpet-sellers, for sure, but since progress and a more European identity have been tossed into the modern day, Greek salad, some businesses just won’t haggle; they might even take offense if you try.
Don’t fret. I’m going to teach you how to avoid an awkward encounter and shop like a bargain-savvy Athenian.
WHERE TO TRY
A good rule of thumb is to finagle a deal when you’re in a very low-end store where the goods of one huckster look just like those of the next. In Plaka and Monastiraki, you might find identical purses “Handmade in Greece” in ten different locations. These shop owners have been hit very hard by the crisis and are looking to get rid of merchandise, but be reasonable. If they’re selling it five and don’t budge when you offer three, it’s not because they aren’t willing to work with you, but making three euros on a sale isn’t very interesting. Buy ten of the same five euro item and you might find that they’re more flexible.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you should try getting a better price in very high end shops. Art, carpet, leather, fine jewelry and pottery vendors are always willing to listen to your offers because one sale means they’ll get a better night’s sleep.
Save your breath in museums or franchise shops, name brand stores and department stores. They won’t deal.
Let’s say you’re trying to get a gold bracelet with the famous Greek-key pattern from “Stavroula,” the shop owner. She’s taken it out of the case for you and now you begin the discussion.
Avoid starting out with saying things like “What’s your best price?” It might make Stavroula defensive about the quality of her merchandise. Instead, try “What price are you asking?”
Stavroula tells you.
Come back with something like “That’s more than I want to spend” or “Hmm… well, I don’t know if I like it that much.” Pretend you’re a cat and the bracelet is a mouse. You pick it up, you put it down, you bat it around, and if Stavroula hasn’t so said anything by now then lay it back on the counter and stand up as though you’re going to leave.
This is her cue to try one last desperate pitch.
Should you agree with Stavroula’s offer, you have committed yourself to the sale. To change your mind now or to try again for a lower price is considered poor form.
While most shops will have English speaking staff, here are a few Greek phrases useful for the act of bargaining
- “Afto einai polee akrivo” – this is very expensive.
- “Then mou aresi afto.” – I don’t like this.
- “Polee oraia, alla then boro.” – Very beautiful/nice, but I can’t.
- “Endaxi. Na parate ti Vἰsa?” – Okay. Do you take Visa?
- “O kirios tha plirosi yia ola” – The gentleman will pay for everything.
A piece of advice: even if you’re not able to swing down the price of something you’re crazy over, the odds are you won’t have the chance later. If you really love it, put EGO (a Greek word) aside and just go for it.