Bargaining is a part of market life for most Thais, so, before you stock up on all those souvenirs and handicraft goodies, you need a little practice. Consider this conversation…
You: “Sawadee krap/ka, nee tao rai na krap/ka?” (Hello, how much is this?). Your opening gambit should always be in Thai, this way they take you for a local ex-pat and assume you are less gullible; their opening gambit will almost certainly be more realistic. So, learn this phrase by heart (remember guys say ‘krap’ and girls say ‘ka’).
Them: Two hundred baht.
You: Two hundred baht, you’re kidding, is this one from Bangkok? In Bangkok, I pay two hundred baht for much better quality. Maybe you drive all way to Bangkok buy this one, you get bad price, yes? (Thais love a bit of humour).
Them: (laughing) This one good quality sure, I buy from factory one hundred and fifty baht. Not buy Bangkok, Bangkok more expensive, maybe three hundred baht.
You: Three hundred baht? Where? Maybe you buy three hundred in Phuket, tourist in Phuket have too much money, Chiang Mai very cheap, I ask lady over there how much, she say one hundred baht. Maybe this one made with gold for two hundred baht sure!
Them: (laughing) Yes made gold sure, two hundred good price sure. You want? How many you buy, can make good price for you.
You: I buy already in Bangkok, I get good price, only fifty baht sure!
Them: (laughing in disbelief) Ah, cannot, fifty baht not enough, buy from factory more than one hundred baht.
You: Okay, I go factory tomorrow. Less than one hundred baht for sure. Here velly expensive. I like to buy from you, you very beautiful/handsome/friendly/whatever (Thais love flattery).
Them: Okay, one hundred fifty baht, special for you. You take five I give for six hundred baht all.
You: How about twenty, what price, nine hundred baht?
Them: (laughing) Aaeeeii, no can do. Five, six hundred baht. Buy for wife, children, all. You have wife/husband? (You get this question often).
You: Have wife many, too many, give headache, must buy for all but not enough money (Again, Thais love humour, it softens them up).
Them: (laughing) Many wife! You butterfly. Okay, I give you five hundred baht, five, special price for you.
You: Thank you, only need three, how much three, three hundred baht?
Them: Ah, cannot, three hundred too little. Please mister/miss, must feed baby (a popular imaginary accessory), work here every night, now foreigner few, no business (reverse psychology, softening you up).
You: Okay, this shop I buy many thing, shirt, book, souvenir, all together, then you give good price okay.
Them: I have many thing, you like this velly cheap… (this is where they try offloading their whole stall on you, suddenly getting wildly optimistic and excited).
You: (deliver coup de grace, suddenly change your mind, say no thanks and abruptly walk away slowly)
Them: (come running after you with original product) Okay, mister/miss, I give you eighty baht, best price, please, nowhere cheaper.
You: Eighty baht? Seventy.
Them: (no longer laughing, looking at you with killer emotional blackmail expression). Eighty.
You: Okay, eighty baht, I take three.
(At this point you become altruistic and use your leverage to tip them nicely, give him/her ninety or a hundred baht for each one, they appreciate the gesture, all smiles, everyone happy.)
*She probably bought it for fifty baht, but these people make very little, be kind, a hundred baht is no more than a couple of bucks.