10 Bargaining Tips when Shopping Overseas


Shopping is one of the most popular past-times of Singaporeans. With this high frequency, it is thus of little surprise that many of us make the effort to bargain when shopping, especially when shopping in other countries. SG Club interviews two shopaholics who know ways of maxmising every shopping dollar. Read on to find out their shopping experiences. (P/S: bring this story along with you on your next trip)
Jerraine Lim and Venetia Ngin, both in their mid-twenties, shop often online and in regular shops, and more often than not, they enjoy shopping overseas.

Jerraine says that she goes on overseas trips to “stock up” on clothes at least 3 times a year, most of the time within Asia, such as Bangkok and Taiwan. She spends at least $S500 in Bangkok, and about S$800 to S$1000 in Taiwan.

Product manager Jerraine Lim returns from yet another victorious shopping trip from overseas

As for Venetia, she shops online every other day, and at the malls once every fortnight, or when something caught her fancy when she passes by the shop windows, spending an average of S$30 to S$50 when shopping online, and an average of $90-150 when shopping at malls.

Venetia Ngin, a marketing executive, shopping along the streets of Guangzhou in China

When quizzed on their cheapest or steepest bargain that they have encountered while shopping thus far, both Jerraine amd Venetia had interesting stories to share. Venetia said, “When I was in Guangzhou, I was at one of the giant buildings that sold clothes in bulk (most online shop owners will go there on their buying trips). I wanted to get this really gorgeous denim pant overalls.

“However, they refused to sell just one piece to me, and told me their minimum quantity was 6 pieces, and wanted to charge me S$35 if I were to buy only one piece. Of course I knew that I could get it much cheaper. Hence I stayed there and spoke to her for half an hour! In the end she gave in and sold it to me for S$12! Furthermore, the material of that overall was good!”

As for Jerraine, her experience had another twist to it. She had bought a few work dresses from Bangkok for about SGD S$20 – S$25, and had considered that to be relatively pricier than her usual casual wear, which is normally around S$10-S$15. However, she had a pleasant surprise when she came back to Singapore after her trip and saw the same dresses (even the brand tags were the same) in boutiques retailing for almost triple the price!

10 Tips on how to bargain

As most of the local retailers practise fixed pricing, hence there is barely a chance to ask for a discount, Jerraine and Venetia shared some of their overseas bargaining tips.

1)    Go early, especially to the wholesale markets. The shop owners there believe that they must close the first deal of the day in order to set the pace right. That would already make it easier to bargain!

2)    VIP rule: Always enter the store with a smile or greeting. This makes bargaining easier. Remember to SMILE and ask nicely when bargaining for a better price.

3)    The crucial thing to do would be to assess the situation in the shop. Look out for signs of warmth or rudeness from the store owner or staff.

4)    If you are treated warmly, use the soft approach: Talk to them nicely for a period of time – make conversations while shopping as if the staff members were your best friends.

5)    Buy more than one piece from a shop – they don’t have to be of the same design. Hence, try to scour through the racks to see if anything else catches your eye. Go with your girlfriends because everyone can chalk up the numbers!

6)    Cut down the retail price by at least half and then proceed to mention the proposed price over and over again (increase your bid if needed).

7)    Bargain in their native language – for instance, use their foreign numerals and numbers when speaking. Even though they know you’re a foreigner, it helps when you communicate a little in their language.

8)    Engage a third party – preferably even more. With a few people bargaining in their sweetest voices, it would be easier to sway the shopkeeper’s decision.

9)    Tell them you don’t have enough of their currency with you.

10)  If the above still fail, pretend to “walk away” from their shop. However, if you were being treated rudely in the first place, just walk away without hesitation!

Writer: Grace Wong




  1. Also, after making your purchase, don’t bother staying around. Because if you see something else interesting and want to buy it, you can be sure the shopkeeper will start the bargaining at a much higher price to anticipate your bargaining.

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