We all know not to try to bargain in the supermarket, but youd be surprised how many people think that everything else in Cancun is negotiable. Some things are sometimes, but not always. To avoid embarrassment, think this way: Does this place look like the bank or the flea market? Most stores in established malls and shopping centers and on main thoroughfares have fixed prices, but it is not considered boorish to politely ask if there might not be a discount available on the ticket price. This will often produce a 10 percent reduction. Sometimes, if you are dealing with the owner of the establishment, you can push a little harder.
Bargaining is mandatory, however, in the following situations:
Bargaining in Cancun descends from two main roots, the native Mayan (mixed with other styles), and the Latin (which is decidedly Middle Eastern). Both the Mayan and Latin resemble each other more than they differ. The best treatise on bargaining in markets and bazaars was written by State Department anthropologist Dr. Edward T. Hall, who said that Americans generally ask, What percentage of the asking price shall I give as my first answer? This is naive, he seems to feel. An experienced bazaar merchant has as many prices as an Eskimo has words for snow.
Basically, the market price is determined by some set of circumstances known to both parties, he wrote in The Silent Language. If they are not known, it is assumed they could be. More than that, bargaining is a celebration of communication, in which each step has a meaning.
As Dr. Hall pointed out in Horizon magazine, its not so much the purchase that counts, but the process of buying and selling. According to this analysis, its more like a game of chess than a slot machine. He analyzed traditional marketplace activity and came up with what might be called a bargain meter, in which the negotiations pivot on the market price, and each degree of declination on either side of the pivot has a specific meaning.
Let's look at trying to get the best price on a blanket:
If this seems a little complicated for bargain seekers who have little knowledge of the Spanish language, you can get a good idea of the market price of the blanket by snooping around in the fixed-price stores that have their wares boldly marked.
Its fun, but dont expect to outwit Cancuns wily vendors, descendants of the fabled Maya traders.
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