Shopping and Haggling

Shopping in Vietnam can be so much fun and so many bargains can be made. You can also be ripped off blind by the dishonest seller, however, those are a tiny minority.

Haggling over price in Vietnam is almost expected and readily accepted. Very few markets and street vendors will have any prices marked. There is perhaps some truth to the often quoted phrase, "They make up the price based on how much they think you can afford".
You ask the price and the answer will be given after a pause. (perhaps they are considering how much you can afford).


WALK AWAY - Ask the price, if too high or you think you can get them to come down, say it is "too much" or the local word pronounced "new- wah", the slowly walk away. If a similar product is at a market stall nearby, pause there. Often, the market seller will call you back with a new discounted price.

COUNTER OFFER - If for example, the price asked is 250,000 dong, suggest a much lower price of say 150,000. Commonly, they will answer that your offer is too low. They will then suggest another price, but only marginally below the price first asked, maybe at 230,000 dong. Make a counter offer of say 180,000 dong. The goal price you want to pay here might be 200,000 dong. If they come back with another discounted price, you are now in the ball park. Just  take turns haggling back and forth until you get to the price you want, or at least close to it.

MULTIPLE PURCHASE REVERSAL - Let us say you are looking at shirts. Let's say they are asking for 100,000 dong each. Ask what price each if you were to buy 6 shirts. In this instance, they will always come down very significantly in price.  The price they drop to will obviously be a price for each shirt that is acceptable to them, still making a profit. Agree to the price, but then only make the purchase on the lesser amount of shirts you want, and normally they will agree or mark up the price each just a whisker since you have reduced your purchase from 6 shirts to 2.

THE EMPTY WALLET - Find the item you want, figure in your head how much you want to pay and then remove all cash from your wallet except that amount. Go up, ask the price, but open your wallet to them to show them the near empty wallet.  Almost always they will be content in emptying your wallet to make the sale at a lesser price.


I am not alone in giving praise to the workmanship of many Vietnamese people. They have an amazing capacity of replicating anything, and in most cases, to produce them in high quality.  Where else in the world can you buy a genuine authentic replica Rolex watch for $2 ?  In Hoi An, (famous for quality hand made shoes and clothing), tailors can take your measurements, look at the picture from the magazine and in just two days, the quality made product is complete and near identical to the brand name suit. Some even have boxes of labels to chose from to have stitched inside... Pierre Carden, Gucci and others to make the replica appear even more identical to the real thing. Image having a correctly fitting tailor made suit for under $80, that is an accurate replication of the brand name suit valued in the thousands.
Equally, the quality in workmanship in leather goods is very apparent. Stamped or embossed with famous brand names, almost identical to the original for a fraction of the price.
Many a person has told me of buying a Vietnamese replica Zippo Lighter for $2 or less, only to have it go faulty in a few days or a few weeks. The replica is so remarkably  good, that Zippo themselves have honored the warranty with a genuine replacement.
Name brand sunglasses are a different story. Gucci and Raybans are available on the street for as little as a dollar or two a pair after haggling. They are replicas. However, this is your eyes we are talking about. Most are not sunglasses at all, but mere tinted plastic or perspex and not filtering the harmful UV rays.
Travel guide books like Lonely Planet are sold by street vendors right across the country. Not a single one is a genuine publication, but are all scanned reproductions. The price they ask is way below the suggested retail price on the back of the book. That price however, is way above what the book is actually worth. Apart from the text being fuzzy and sometimes illegible due to the scanned reproduction, but within a few days, the pages will start falling out. The actual cost of production of each replicated book would barely be 50 cents, however, they will be asking for up to $10 each.
Almost all CD's and DVD's sold in Vietnam are pirated copies. This is not just the street vendors, but stall holders in upmarket department stores in the cities. Supposedly in 2009, the Vietnamese Government started coming down on the pirates, but thus far, the CD/DVD retailers are not concerned. Some DVD's are quality copies from original master DVD's, others are copies of rentals, some are recorded from television and others are from the poor quality digital camera recording within a cinema - bobbing heads, coughing and audience conversations provided at no extra charge. That being said, for as little as a dollar or less each you can pick up latest release music albums and DVD movies.  A bit of trivia, the last of the Star Wars movies was being sold on the streets in Vietnam before the movie had been released at cinemas anywhere in the world. Those copies were pirated from a master tape supposed stolen from the film producers.


In  my home country is Australia, I had my prescription glasses replaced. It cost me almost $300 for one pair. In Vietnam, I had an eye exam and obtained two pairs of quality glasses for a total of $80. So if you need to soon be replacing your glasses, when in Vietnam, get them there. Same quality and professional optometrist at a fraction of the price.
I had a root canal done recently. It cost me almost $2000. In Vietnam, quality dental service is available for a fraction of the price. Price advertised for a root canal was a mere $300. That being said, be careful that you go to a competent dentist with a good reputation. There are some bad ones.  Just ask the foreigners who now live in Vietnam. They will point you towards the good ones.

Shoe repairs and re-soles for a couple dollars.
Hang Ten and Quicksilver clothing. - genuine articles, manufactured in Vietnam and Cambodia. Sold in Vietnam at a fraction of the price you would pay at home.
Levis jeans - genuine article that are factory seconds. Some with extremely minor imperfections like a belt loop not stitched at a perfect right angle on the waist. Buy them for as little as $6
Watch repairs. If you are lucky enough to own an expensive watch that stopped ticking, your watchmaker at home will charge you an arm and a leg to fix it. A competent watchmaker in Vietnam will do the same for just a few dollars. A word of warning, heard a story of a man with a Rolex that took it to a watchmaker in Hanoi to be repaired. When he went to collect it a week later, the watch maker showed to him the half dozen or so replicas he made by way of copying the original. The man said he could not pick the difference between any of them and was hoping that the watch he was given back, was in fact his original.

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