I am horrible at haggling.
It’s true. The rule of thumb in Guatemala, if the guidebooks have it right, is: Ask a price, offer something at half that amount, wait to hear what they offer in return, go from there, and be gracious, always realizing that the goods in the markets are often those the merchant or her family has made, and from which they make their livelihood.
It also assumes one has basic math skills. And can figure out the exchange rate of Quetzals to dollars (about 8:1, or 6:1 after you get ripped off by the airport currency exchange), AND isn’t trying to think through all this while translating the conversation from Spanish to English for the benefit of her ten year old.
This is how things went down earlier today:
Me: Quanto questo? (How much?)
Girl: Cinquenta (50)
Me: Quetzals o dollores?
At this point, I should be thinking that 50 Quetzals is about 6 dollars, or 8 if you happened to exchange your cash in the airport. Except I was visualizing the 100 Quetzal note that I had in my pocket. Which would have been cien Quetzals. And I was negotiating how much allowance we owe Colin, and pointing out that if he was going to get a teeny carved marble statue for one friend, he should get one for the other.
Me (still thinking about the cien Quetzal note in my pocket): Quanto questo por los dos? Cien y ochento? (How much for the two? One hundred eighty Quetzals?)
Girl: Por supuesto! (Of course!)
I know, this makes no sense. Neither does my math, ever. But I was in the middle of a mental fist pump at getting the girl to agree to my price of a full 80 Quetzals over what she was asking, when Colin insisted he only wanted the one marble statuette.
When she handed me the change for my 100Q my mental fist pump turned into a facepalm.
So now we have a new strategy: walk away if we’re not wanting to pay full price. We actually were able to get a carved Nativity set and mask for 230Q or about $40, down from an original 450Q from a guy who didn’t have anything better to do than quote us a new price for every step we took away from his both.
Pretty sophisticated for a bunch of gringos, I’d say.