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Punta Cana shopping and the barter system in Punta Cana

Punta Cana shopping and the barter system (haggling) go hand in hand. If you have not traveled to countries where vendors use the barter system of negotiation, you may find this to be a bit of a culture shock. Vendors in Punta Cana shopping areas want to haggle over prices with you. In fact, if you just pay them the listed price, while they will be happy to have the extra money, they may be peeved that you didn’t barter the price with them.

Bartering is a very strange practice for North Americans – we are used to walking into a store and paying whatever is on the price tag. If we don’t like the price, we don’t buy it. As soon as you walk into (or near) a Dominican shop the salesperson is bartering with you – part of this bartering process is just getting you into the shop to look at their wares. For most Westerners this practice seems very aggressive, but is commonplace in other parts of the world.

The easiest thing to do if you’re not interested is to tell the salesperson that you have no money on you and that you will come back later. Remember to be polite (but firm), they are not being rude – this is their culture. I’ve seen many tourists freak out and yell at salespeople in the Dominican Republic – not a good idea!

When you are ready to go Punta Cana shopping, here’s a little crash course on the bartering system.

If you are a couple – figure out which of you is better suited to bartering and have one person carry out the haggling.

My wife, Nancy, is the worst haggler in the world. If she is in a shop when I’m bartering she immediately becomes the shopkeeper’s attorney and makes comments such as “that’s true Peter, he does have children to feed.” This is somewhat counter-productive to good bartering! If one of you does not have it in you to barter – decide what you want to buy then have someone else determine the price for you.

As a general rule, around 60% of the listed price is a good place to start your offer and you should usually settle at around 75% of the price. Of course this can move up or down depending on how the merchant has priced their goods.

Bartering for something that costs ten dollars is a lot easier to do when you only have 10 bucks in your pocket. Don’t go shopping with a big wad of cash – subdivide money in your pockets so that you can pull out the purchase price.

Remember the two keys to good bartering: polite and firm. Never get angry when you’re Punta Cana shopping, even if you find the process frustrating – there is nothing personal about bartering in Punta Cana. Saying that something is too expensive and walking toward the door is perfectly acceptable, in fact it’s expected, it’s a sign to the merchant to call you back and make a counter-offer.

If you are unable to come to a price that you’re willing to pay – tell the merchant that you are going to think about it and will come back in awhile.

We tend to be a very competitive people and don’t enjoy doing anything unless we feel that we are winning. I have seen many tourists not buy something on vacation just because they didn’t feel that they had won the bartering process. If you are looking at a painting that you really want and the vendor won’t come down another two dollars – try to be objective and remember that it’s only 2 bucks. Throw in the towel and enjoy the painting.

What it boils down to is: you don’t want to get ripped off but at the same time remember that your regular pay check might be your salesperson’s annual salary. Don’t try to rip them off either, just play the game. Man, Nancy is starting to rub off on me.

One other thing to watch out for when Punta Cana shopping is pick-pockets. Keep you money in a closed purse or pocket that can’t be reached into.

The barter system in Punta Cana can be a fun experience if you don’t take it too seriously. In fact, I hate shopping at home and actually like Punta Cana shopping. The whole process is a neat cultural experience.


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