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Price negotiation in France

My wife and I are planning to go to France and Italy this coming fall. We have been in Mexico and China and in those countries it is not uncommon to haggle over the price for souvenirs and other things (but never food or things sold inside a store). In Canada, like the USA, there is no negotiation.

What's the story with France and Italy? Negotiate or no?

I am also posting this in the Italy forum.

Posted by
54 posts

Street markets and flea markets, haggling ok. Farmers markets, probably not.

Posted by
8293 posts

As I wrote in your duplicate post, you will need to speak the local language to haggle (in most cases).

Posted by
23411 posts

My answer is the same as your other question.

Posted by
9429 posts

What Helen said including souvenir stores.

Posted by
3766 posts

I'll preface this by saying that I am not generally a haggler even when I am in countries with that culture but I would say that France is not a haggling culture in the same way that the US is not a haggling culture. It could, however, be a negotiation and good judgment culture like what happened to me at an independently owned gallery in Le Marais when I was able to buy two pieces of art for a discount on the stated price because I was buying two at the same time. I simply told the salesman that I was torn between the two and could not afford to buy both but was wondering if there was a discount of multiple purchases and lo and behold there was.

Posted by
3196 posts

Not in the USA? My late wife would haggle successfully with doctors, dentists, department stores. It shocked me how much money was able to save.

Posted by
9765 posts

My husband haggled with the jewelry store in the mall (in the States) about my engagement and wedding rings!! (I thought it was pointless, but he figured he had nothing to lose by asking -- and he was right!) That showed me!

Posted by
408 posts

In France, if it's at a vide-grenier,* brocante,** or marché aux puces*** it's quite common to haggle. And you don't need much language to do it. If you're looking at something that's being offered for 25 €, you can look it over, then look the vendor in the eye and say "15?" You'll probably get it for 15 or 20.

It's not uncommon for a vendor to saunter over while you're looking at something and offer a discount without being asked. My wife and I were at a vide-grenier this last weekend and picked up a pigeon lamp, converted to electricity, for 8 €. The vendor had it marked at 15 € but offered it for 10 with no prompting. The drop to 8 came just by looking at him and asking "Huit, monsieur?".

*Vide-grenier -- literally, empty the attic; kind of like a big garage sale with many dozens up to a hundred or more tables where private citizens and some professionals sell their stuff. Quite common spring through fall throughout France.

**Brocante -- a business in a fixed location where the owner is a professional who buys old items, fixes them up if necessary, and offers them for re-sale.

***Marché aux puces -- a flea market with vendors, generally professionals, who temporarily set up along a street or other designated location, often on a fixed schedule.

And if you're curious, a pigeon lamp is a type of gasoline-fueled lamp that was widely sold in the pre-electricity days in France.

Posted by
4010 posts

France is not a haggling culture in the same way that the US is not a
haggling culture

The US can't be pigeon-holed like that. You can negotiate a bottle of water or gyro from the ubiquitous vendor carts in midtown and downtown Manhattan let alone bottles of ginseng or cell phone cases in Chinatown, Flushing, or street fairs in any of the boroughs. It's a game.

Posted by
12172 posts

I'm not much of a shopper, let alone buyer of things off the street.

As a general rule, I'd say if it's in an open air market or street vendor you can haggle as much as you would at a swap meet in the US.

If you go into a boutique, department store or grocery store, however, attempts at haggling would be comical. You might ask the price then say it's "trop cher" to see if they counter? A store owner might offer a better price but I doubt an employee would.

Posted by
3766 posts

Generally speaking, the US is not a haggling culture no matter that you can negotiate the price in New York City and other places within the country. Most jewelry stores that I have been to other than places like Cartier in the US will negotiate prices, sure but I consider a haggling culture a country where just about every price everywhere is negotiable and almost nothing is sold at the initially stated price. I was born in such a culture and lived there until I was 11 and go back quite often and believe me when you are in a haggling culture, shopping feels totally different than it does in the US and France because you must bargain about the price for just about everything.

Posted by
4535 posts

I think some people misunderstand what a "haggling culture" is. The US is most definitely not one. Nor is Canada or Western Europe.

That doesn't mean you can't sometimes negotiate discounts for special circumstances, or that certain things aren't typically negotiated (like cars). Or at flea markets or from street vendors. It means that almost everything you buy commercially is per a quoted price.

In a haggling culture, prices are almost always negotiable and it would be a great shock if people didn't negotiate on just about everything. These tend to be places where retail stores are less common and people tend to buy most things from private vendors.

To answer the OP's question more directly, if you are buying souvenir from a street vendor, which often are not regulated, you can likely negotiate. Street food vendors, like gelato or crepes, are highly regulated and most likely not for haggling. Like in the US, you might be able to negotiate a discount on specialty goods/crafts that cater to tourists (like a leather shop in Italy), if you buy enough or make it worthwhile to the store.

Posted by
14580 posts

I would not do this in France but if you do engage in haggling, it is best do it in the local language. There have been times when I had a fluent French speaker with me and at farmers markets talking the French in the same manner as the vendor is most effective.

Posted by
473 posts

We haggle with the cable company and direct tv all the time. Hotels too. If you don’t ask for a discount you will never get one.

Posted by
10287 posts

Asking for a discount is not haggling. It's a yes/no question.
Haggling is going back and forth about the price.
Vendors from North African cultures may haggle but those from French culture may give you a nasty response. The thing is you probably can't tell the two groups apart in an open-air market, except for the people selling North African products.

Posted by
7059 posts

I'm not surprised by some people's posts about 'haggling' in the US. Certain items with high markups have always been open to bargaining. Automobiles come to mind, in addition to quality jewelry, hotel rooms (off season), craft items and artwork (when dealing with the artist/crafter). So to say the US is not a haggling culture, it all depends on who, what, where and when you are trying to bargain over/with. The same goes for France, Italy, and probably all other countries.

Posted by
7209 posts

We had great fine haggling at the flea markets in Lucerne and Zurich on Saturday mornings...and came away with some real treasures.

Posted by
153 posts

The only places I have successfully haggled in France has been at flea markets with the vendors or open air art markets with the artist. At the market a simple, "C'est tres cher, Monsieur", will bring back either a counter offer or an elegant French shrug that says, "Take it or leave it, buddy." At the artists booth the only thing that has worked for me is asking for a discount if I love the work so much I would like to buy more than one. Nobody will be offended in those venues.

OTOH, my Mother-in-Law, originally from Poland would haggle with anyone, anytime. In the middle of the most exclusive shops she would demand to see the manager to get a discount because, "-- this button is loose ---". I would not enter a shop with her, and my Wife would go and hide with embarrassment. It was amazing, however, how often she really did get her price cuts.