Paris: A Haggler’s Paradise

Today was glorious.

David had to go to a different library today (Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal), which required him to take the metro. I decided to go along and explore the surrounding area.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, and I really enjoyed my stroll. I was even asked for directions by a tourist to which I knew the answer!

…Which wasn’t actually that impressive because he was only looking for the Notre Dame, which given our location, you couldn’t actually see beyond the tall apartment buildings. I had just walked past it maybe 30 minutes before, so it wasn’t that difficult. But it made me feel pretty proud of myself, all the same.

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And then I walked by a wonderful outdoor flea market.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of this market, I was so enthralled by it that I didn’t even think about taking out my camera!

But there were cheeses, fresh fruits, jams and wines, and a whole assortment of freshly baked goods. There were also purses, wallets, jewelry, baby clothes, shoes, rugs, plants, very oddly shaped lamps, and, what I’ve learned to love, scarves.

There were so many stalls, I sauntered past all of them, stopping here and there to check out the many different items.

I just couldn’t get over the variety in scarves. Silk, cashmere, cotton, wool, alpaca, and linen.

I was drawn to the silk scarves right away. So soft and vibrant. But 50 euros! That just wouldn’t do.

And so my friends, it was haggling time.

There are a few things you should know about haggling before you start. First, never look entirely interested (even if you want it very badly). It only caught your eye for a moment, right?

Whenever you’re haggling, ensure the merchant makes the first offer! This is very important. It doesn’t hurt to look shocked and/or offended when the merchant tells you the price. Seriously. Theatrics are part of haggling in Paris. Plus, it’s just plain fun.

I saw the price on the little homemade sign, “50 €.” He saw me eyeing them half interestedly.

“I’ll make a deal for you.”

He dropped the price to 30 euros. Heh. Now I knew he was more than willing to drop his price (dropping the price by 20 € to start is indicative that he not only wants a sale, but that they were, indeed, very overpriced).

He left it at that.

I remained silent, with a few “hmms” here and there for effect. Other customers came by, to which he offered the same deal. One of whom was a North American woman with her mother. They were so happy by this “deal” that they immediately bought one.

I said “merci, au revoir” and left the stall and strolled through the rest of the market again, thinking about my strategy (yes, there’s a strategy involved!). When you start haggling, it’s always important to ask yourself beforehand what the item is worth to you. What’s your goal? How much are you willing to spend? Don’t let yourself go over that amount. I was willing to walk away with nothing, which to me is always a bit more fun because you can take risks. If you really want it, and don’t want to chance walking away with nothing, your strategy will be a bit different.

I was aiming to purchase two scarves for 35 €, so I took out my wallet, and got the exact change in my hand. This was part of my strategy, you’ll see later. I strolled back to the stall after about 10 minutes.

The sign had said 50 €, but you don’t start haggling off that price. At least I didn’t. He reminded me that he was happy to sell for 30 €, and so the real haggling began.

Another rule: counter with no more than half as much as their first offer. Don’t worry, the merchant will act horribly offended, even angry. He might even mutter under his breath (really!). It’s all part of the game, and both you and he know it. Be confident and don’t let yourself be phased.  Confidence is key to haggling.

I countered his 30 with 15. He seemed outraged. “This is 100% silk! This is not cheap!”

He came down to 25 €.

Now here’s where you can, but shouldn’t always, point out a flaw. This back-and-forth needs to be done with care so you don’t actually offend the merchant and cause the haggling to end abruptly.

In the case of these scarves, I pointed out that the ones I was interested in were quite a bit smaller in width than similar scarves, made of the same material, at a similar price. Why should I pay the same price for a smaller scarf?

He sighed seemingly irritated, nodded, and lowered the price to 20 euros.

Let me tell you, inside I was jumping for joy. But I kept a straight face. I knew what the other stalls were selling and this stall had the best. But I wanted two scarves. I looked at him, seemingly considering his offer. (I wasn’t really, I was just trying to look like I hadn’t decided).

He waited patiently.

“I’ll give you 35 €” – to which I held up the cash in my hand, holding it slightly in front of me so he had a better view; he eyed the money hungrily – “but I want two. Final offer.”

He looked back at me thoughtfully, then flicked back to the cash in my hands. This was it. If he didn’t accept the deal, the haggling was over. I could walk away with nothing, or with two beautiful scarves.

And then he broke out in a smile.

“Done.”

Done, indeed.

Have a look at my loot!

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Both scarves are reversible. The red one above is beautifully vibrant. On the other side, though, you see greenish-grey.

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This was the scarf that initially caught my eye. Purple is my favourite colour, and this scarf is just stunning. It’s a deep, regal purple on one side, with complimenting blues, greens and even oranges. The reverse is a much paler purple, but equally beautiful.IMG_6839

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I walked back to the Seine to sit down with my Kobo and read before I met David for lunch.

All in all, not a bad day, if I do say so myself.

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