I am curious about haggling. As an american this practice is foreign to me and I don't feel very comfortable with the idea of 1. appearing rude to crafters/artisans and 2. being overcharged because I don't want to haggle.
Is it considered polite to haggle with vendors selling local handiworks?
Whether you are in America or abroad, you should only pay what you think something is worth. If a vendor in Jamaica is trying to sell you something for $10 and you wouldn't pay more than $7 you offer them $7. It's always up to the seller to accept your offer.
If you call it negotiating instead of haggling, it sounds a lot less rude. If you're buying furniture or a car in America you do the same thing and the money saved is probably coming out of the salesman's commission so it's no different than handmade crafts in Jamaica...everyone's trying to earn a living and price negotiations have ALWAYS been a part of sales in any country.
I usually go for the volume discount, for example say if a tee shirt was selling for ten dollars I'd offer them 15 for two. Just remember to be polite and treat everyone with respect. Smile and make eye contact with them. Don't flash a lot of cash, you'll weaken your bargaining stance. I always keep a few spare bucks in my "vendor pocket" for random encounters. And if you are simply not interested in buying or can't strike up a good deal, just be firm but friendly and tell them no thanks. They are hard working people who are just trying to make a meager living.
Just set in your mind what you think an item is worth to you. It is no different than walking into a store and looking at the price. If it is more than you are willing to pay, you don't buy it.
As for getting the very best deal possible, you have the means to vacation in Jamaica. If you settle on a price that is $1, $2 or even $10 higher than the seller's lowest price, so what? You have already established what the item was worth to you, and you, and the extra few bucks probably mean more to the seller than it does to you.
We have always found that if you barter with a smile it is part of the game for the vendors. They do not generally expect you to pay full price and thus inflate the starting price, believe me they will never sell it to you for a loss despite what they may say to you.
There is such a thing as karma.. funny story...
We were in Jamaica last year and saw a vendor selling paintings at the resort we were at. Later in the day, I purchased one from the guy and got him down to $50. Yes it was a lot, but I loved the picture and I knew that when I got it home I would frame it and display it. Later on my sister in law went to get one. I was pretty bummed when she told me she got him down to $30. Told him to take it or leave it and she said he looked really ticked, but let it go for that. Once we got home, framed and displayed it. My sister in laws pic, that she had gotten him down so low? The paint cracked in two or three spots while in the luggage and was useless. Even she says it was karma! lol
We've never really found it neccesary to barter with the vendors .... I can never make up my mind right off so while I'm standing there trying to decide, they keep dropping their price thinking it's that we're wanting to get the price down when we don't really have a problem with the price. We don't want to pay more than something is worth but at the same time, $10 or $20 to us is not the same as it is to person that we're buying from. If we do anything, we offer to pay full price for 2 things & they throw in the least expensive 3rd thing. I want to feel like we both got a fair deal, not that we got a great deal. They have to make a living. Barter with respect for that.
I had to laugh Maxernie when I read your post. I'm the same way. I remember our first trip to CSA, we were taking our first walk down the beach and stopped to look at some walking sticks. I was being my usual indecisive self and the price kept dropping, I ended up buying 2 sticks AND made sure to pay him more than his final price. lol
One way to get an idea of a "fair price" is to see what things cost in the gift shop or one of the stores in times square. Often the vendors will have very similar items. Many of the carvings etc.. are not really "hand made". At least not by the person selling them. lol If you do some browsing you'll end up seeing much of the same thing everywhere. There are some real artists and carvers that do really amazing work, and for one of their pieces,if i really like it,I'll pay close to what the asking price is. For the mass produced stuff.. I no longer have a problem "haggling" All depends on if I"m looking for "souvenirs" or Jamaican Art.The problem is sometimes it's hard for a first time visitor to know the difference. I did some research before my second trip and got the names of some respected artists and carvers and sought them out.