Culture Shock: Negotiating In Singapore
Singapore has no concept of MRP, that much I think I have mentioned. You can bargain to your hearts content over here, especially if you're in an area like Chinatown, or some of the other less westernised areas of town. However, bargaining comes with it's own set of protocols and local customs, as I discovered about a month ago, when I bought my cellphone. Allow me to elaborate.
If you are bargaining in India, or Thailand (the only other place I've haggled), it's a pretty straightfoward procedure(Unless of course it's with an Autowallah in which case you must abuse him soundly). You bid, keep taking the price down, and ask him for his best price. If it finally pleases you, you purchase, and if it doesn't, or you want to look around you walk off, possibly with a promise to return.
Herein lies the key difference in Singapore, as I found out when I put the question to my entirely singaporean Leadership & Teambuilding class. For this is what happened. I bargained. I brought the price down. I asked the man for the best price he would give, I said I would check around, and the proceeded to attempt to assault me for not purchasing the phone.
Here is why. If you ask for best price in Singapore, you are by honour obliged to purchase the item. Bargain all you like, but once you say those magic words, YOU MUST BUY. This is indeed a strange custom, because one is used to it being an open market, where one is king. One does not, under any circumstances, expect to have a lamp raised to one's head, and be threatened with quick and sudden retaliation.
Luckily, I managed to placate the man, and walked off. I also managed to get a better deal on the phone somewhere else, however I pretty much purchased it immediately, for fear of life. This is not a good way to attract customers.
But local customs differ, and thus I have learnt and will continue to practice the art of negotiating without ever mentioning the words "Best Price". As for the not so nice cellphone salesman, in the words of a wiser man, May Barbarians Invade His Personal Space.