With inflation in the Philippines reaching a 14-year high in November 2022, it’s no surprise that many Filipinos are scrambling to create more income streams, save money at every turn, and maximize value with every purchase.
They do this in different ways—like collecting coupons and vouchers, using rewards cards to redeem perks, and buying items at discounted prices. Many are also relearning how to bargain at bazaars in order to stretch their budget and make the most of their income.
If you’re also concerned about the impact of inflation on your finances, you can try money-saving hacks like haggling at tiangges and bazaars to manage your spending.
Haggling and Tawad Culture in the Philippines
“Why pay the full price when you can get a discount?” This is the mindset of many Pinoys who have mastered the art of negotiation. They know how to haggle their way to awesome deals that those who make upfront payments completely miss out on.
Haggling is a practice that’s prevalent in the Philippines. Go to any bazaar, and you’ll find two different kinds of shoppers: those who are reluctant to haggle the price for fear of offending the vendor or embarrassing themselves, and those who don’t think twice about asking for better deals. The latter understand that they can’t get what they don’t ask for.
So how does the tawad culture work? It’s simple—two parties negotiate the price of an item, exchanging numbers back and forth until they reach an agreement that makes both parties happy. That agreement or common ground should be a price point that still lets the vendor earn a decent profit while allowing the buyer to make decent savings.
Haggling happens everywhere. You see it when people buy cars or shop for items at flea markets. Unlike the type of exchange that happens in restaurants and other commercial establishments, haggling is not a straightforward business transaction. Rather, it’s more informal in nature as both sides use friendly persuasion to tip the scales in their favor.
How to Bargain: Tips and Tricks for Beginners
With the Philippine economy being what it is today, every Filipino can use money-saving tips to get by. If you’re interested in the art of haggling, here are eight tips and tactics to help you become a better negotiator.
Plan Ahead and Come Prepared
Research the item beforehand to know how much it’s really worth, determine its true market value, and identify a fair price point. Also, look around to see who offers the most competitive deals. Gathering all this information can help you create leverage, which you can use to pull the other party closer to your proposed scenario.
It pays to do your homework and have a game plan. Understanding how the market works and who the competing forces are can take you one step closer to taking home an item at your ideal price point.
Show That You’re a Serious and Educated Buyer
The art of haggling begins with you establishing your intent to buy. Vendors are more likely to engage you and entertain your requests if they know you’re ready to make a purchase.
But how do you signal to the vendor that you’re serious about buying? One way is to show interest in the product by asking substantial questions. Another is to flip the script and offer specific knowledge about the product to show that you know exactly what you’re looking for and are now hoping to get it at the right price.
Giving the vendor a signal that you’re a serious and educated buyer will make them less likely to play tricks with you. It’s a good way to show that you have no time to dawdle and are here for actual business.
Be Courteous but Firm
One of the important things to remember about how to bargain correctly is to keep your cool. Whichever way the negotiation goes, remember it’s nothing personal. You may engage in a tug-of-war with the vendor, but at the end of the day, what’s important is that you’re able to amicably reach a compromise that works for both parties.
It’s also worth noting that being amicable also doesn’t equate to being a pushover. When haggling, be courteous and respectful—but also make sure to stand your ground. Don’t let yourself be swayed, especially when you know you can strike a better deal.
Identify Your Threshold
The key to mastering how to haggle effectively is to know how to play your cards right. How much are you ultimately willing to pay? You should know the answer to that question, although you don’t necessarily have to offer that answer upfront.
Instead, use that information to determine your bidding increments and negotiate strategically. Setting a threshold or a ceiling will also help you stay on budget.
When negotiating, you also don’t want to make an unreasonably low offer. Educate yourself about fair pricing to ensure that your offers are realistic. Remember that there’s a difference between being frugal vs. being cheap.
It’s a waste of time to try to lowball a vendor. Be willing to at least meet them halfway.
Use Silence as a Bargaining Tool
Silence can be uncomfortable. It can throw people off their game and leave them scrambling to fill that aural void. But silence can be used as a powerful negotiation tool in the art of haggling, particularly in defusing anchors.
An anchor is simply the first number offered on the table. It’s the starting point of the negotiation. Typically, it’s the vendor who gives this first number and makes the first offer by setting a price. This gives them the upper hand because you, the buyer, can now only bid around that number.
However, if you play your other cards right—like showing the vendor that you’re a serious buyer—silence may work on them to defuse anchors. Your silence may send a louder signal of disapproval than any verbal protest, causing the vendor to offer a more competitive deal to gain your favor.
Push for a Win-Win Outcome
Successful negotiations result in mutual gain. It’s not enough that you walk out feeling good—the other party must also feel more or less the same.
In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a quick reminder about how to bargain properly: Don’t be obsessed about who gets the bigger prize. Haggling is not about you winning and the other party losing—it’s about both parties taking home a win.
One incentive you can offer a vendor is your loyalty. For example, you can assure them that you’ll come back if they give you a discount. Let them know that if their business is satisfactory, you’ll bring your family and friends over and encourage them to patronize the product, too.
Doing so will open up doors for you to get better deals in the future while providing an opportunity for the vendor to gain long-term customers and boost their repeat sales.
Learn to Walk Away
Don’t be afraid to walk away if the negotiation seems to be going nowhere. Sometimes, it’s only when you leave that the bargaining scale starts to tip in your favor. Preparing to walk away is a clear signal that you know your number and you’ll stand by it.
Just like silence, this tactic can work in forcing a vendor to reveal their last price just to clinch a deal with you once and for all. But if the vendor really can’t meet you at your ideal price point, remember that it’s okay to move on. Mastering the art of haggling includes knowing when it’s a lost cause.
Know When to Take a Good Deal
A game plan will serve as your direction on how to bargain effectively. It will help you navigate the nuances of the process. Preparing for possible scenarios is important, but make sure not to lock yourself up in the box you’ve made.
If a relatively great option presents itself, don’t blow it trying to look for the perfect deal. Odds are that the latter doesn't even exist. Recognize how dynamic the negotiation process is. Learn to be flexible and give yourself wiggle room so you can close a deal that, if not the most ideal, is at least still value-adding.
Haggling is arguably an inherent part of Filipino shopping culture. Most Pinoys learn how to bargain at some point in their lives. It’s a skill that’s clearly indispensable today given the current economic climate in the country, so don’t hesitate to try your hand at it as long as you do it in the appropriate context.
Yes—there are scenarios when haggling is inappropriate, so don’t forget to be mindful of social cues. Also, if the other party seems hesitant to negotiate, don’t push it. Know your limits and respect the other person’s stance.
Otherwise, feel free to take a shot. There’s no harm in trying out your luck and flexing your negotiation muscles every now and then.
-  Philippine inflation rate hits 14-year high of 8% in November 2022 (Rappler, 2022)
-  Haggling (Corporate Finance Institute, 2022)
-  Dear Negotiation Coach: When Silence in Negotiation is Golden (Harvard Law School, 2022)