Are men better at bartering?

I pride myself on being able to strike a bargain, make a deal and barter with the best of ’em.

But braving the Marrakesh markets with my boyfriend in tow made me think twice about my bargaining prowess.


Like most women I’ll buy anything – if it’s cheap enough.  Left to my own devices in the Marrakesh markets bulging with soft leather handbags, gypsy-style slippers, silk pashminas, sunset-striped throws, Moroccan lanterns, strings of glass beads, and gorgeous pottery, I’d attempt to take a few stalls-full home.

But stringent luggage restrictions and my new commitment to buy less left me realing.  Where to begin? How to prioritise? What to bargain for? So many pretty things…

My boyfriend suffered no such confusion.  After hours of following me from stall to stall, watching me scour over every item and scurry away when approached by a seller for fear of instinctively striking a bargain over something I didn’t need – he struck.

He spotted a whopping wooden salad bowl beautifully carved from one piece of olive tree. 

“How much?” he asked the friendly merchant

“Mmmmm… this bowl is special.  It’s made from olive wood, you know?  Very good quality.  650 Dirham.”

Laughing, my boyfriend smiled and said, “You must be joking!”

“No, no if you pick the lemon wood, this is cheaper.  How much you want to pay?”

“200 Dirham,” said my boyfriend firmly. 

And so the happy banter went.

A few minutes later they settled on 250 (£15).

“You know,” my boyfriend said, gloating over his new purchase, “I think this type of shopping suits men far more than women.”

Sadly I had to agree.  Still, I soldiered on and managed to pick up a brown leather handbag, a scarf, one blanket, some bits of brightly coloured pottery and a few pairs of earrings – the most conservative haul of all my travels to date.

I also picked up a few bargaining tips for the thrifty and discerning traveller:

  • If you’re in a country where bartering is the rule, never, ever accept the first price.  If you’re too tired to bargain, you’re too tired to shop – buy a pint instead.
  • Spread your shopping over a minimum of two days.  One day for inventory and prioritising what you like and the next for securing it.
  • If you like the merchant, deal with him or her.  You might save a few pennies, but there’s no point in quibbling with a miserable chap when you can have a laugh with someone who’s keen for your business.
  • Don’t start bargaining for something unless you know you want it.  These guys are desperate and if you start walking away they’ll likely come down to your first price, forcing you to buy it.
  • Once you make a deal never go back, it’s considered almost sacrilegious in many countries.
  • Finally picture how this beautiful “Marrakeshi” piece is going to fit in at home.  Can you really pull off the white linen tunic at the pub on Saturday?  Will the rustic, day-glow throw look garish on your sofa?  Did you ever wear that string of beads you bought on your last holiday?

Ladies – asking these questions takes a bit of fun out of shopping, but it also stops us wasting time and money on trinkets we’ll never use and gives us a slight appreciation for that ever mysterious creature: the male shopper.

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Filed under cheap fun, thrifty, travel

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