Bargaining in London

Travel Tips — By Erin Gallagher Maury on September 10, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Haggle in London? Just asking the question makes my cheeks burn; it’s just so out of the reserved British nature. When I asked a few English women their thoughts on haggling, I received a unanimous response. They recoiled in horror.

West Londoner Amanda Kerr exclaimed, “It’s just not done here!”

Well, they are missing out.

Given the current economic climate and the exchange rate, more businesses are willing to come down slightly on prices. It makes perfect sense then to let go of your inhibitions and give bargaining a try. Just knowing where and how are crucial to haggle effectively in London.

Camden Market

Where to give haggling a try

  • Hotels – instead of begging for a rate reduction ask for breakfast or a bottle of wine to be thrown in with your stay
  • Tours of London – operators may be willing to give group discounts, allow children for free or extended the life of the ticket by a day
  • Souvenirs – ask for 2 for 1 offers or for a smaller item to be thrown in with a larger purchase
  • Markets, antique stores, boot sales – obvious choices for a healthy haggle bearing in mind this is not a souk in Cairo, 20% off is indeed a good deal
  • Theater tickets – haggle only with reputable ticket vendors or use the tkts booth in Leicester  Square for discounted tickets without bartering
  • Luxury items – from cars to couture to jewelry and watches, as in North America the same rules apply

Where not to bother

  • Harrods, Selfridges, other department stores – you’ll end up scuttling away humiliated
  • Museums – most are free anyway and they’re doing their best to keep prices low
  • Restaurants – they’ll glady point you to the next one and if it’s an empty, maybe ought not to eat there anyway
  • Black cabs –  you will be out so fast on your bum before you can say “cor blimey gov’nor”

Bargaining tips

  • Ensure the store is quiet, asking in a crowd will never do
  • Speak softly and keep it friendly
  • A simple, ” Is this the best price?” is sufficient
  • Be prepared for a negative or a snotty response, the shopkeeper may actually find the notion offensive
  • Cash might not make much of a difference unless your bill is £32.50 for example, suggest, “I have £30 cash or would you prefer a credit card?

All the best with your purchases and please do share your shopping success (or embarrassing) stories below.

flickr image: Rob Inh00d

Tags: bargaining London, boot sale, Cairo souk, discounts London, Haggling London, Harrods, London antiques, London markets, London museums, Selfridges, shopping London