Shopping, Malaysian Style



Pasar Besar, Kota Bharu
Di Pasar Besar, Kota Bharu, nak hargha bagus, kena kechek loghat Kelanteh.
(If you want a good price at Pasar Besar, Kota Bharu, use the Kelantanese dialect.)

Let's face it. In Malaysia if you don't bargain when you buy something, you're being conned. From Pasar Malam to Kedai Runcit and taxi fares, few people pay the price they see on the price tag, except of course, at department stores. But even when there are gigantic signs that read "Fixed Price Only", Malaysians still try with a "No discount-lah?".

Here's a peep at bargain-hunting, Malaysian style:

    Where should you never shop?

  • Tourist areas (anything on a Tourism Malaysia brochure).
  • "High class" areas (where people live in massive houses, everyone drives a Mercedes and speaks with fake British/American accents).

    What if you can only get what you really want from there?

  • Make sure they know you're local - speak their lingo, spit if you can (lesson can be learned from watching Titanic).
  • If you're not local, bring a local along with you (locals can be hired by the hour or suitably bribed).
  • Try being more innovative (in thinking of substitutes and substitute shopping areas).
  • Bring friends who are well-known stooges with you when you go back.

Jalan Petaling, KL
For AAA rated bargain-hunters only, anyone who conquers Petaling Street in KL can conquer the world!

    What is the most effective body language when bargaining?

  • Look disinterested, as if you just happened to pass by that item; never reveal that you really, really want it, even if you do.
  • Avoid eye-contact and speech until you're ready to start negotiating.
  • Finger an item then put it down and look at something else - do this a few times to show just the right amount of interest.
  • Start drifting away if they refuse to come down to your price - but be careful that they know you are interested enough, so that they will yell out to you and give in; if they don't, you've lost out buddy, and if you can't get that item elsewhere, you're gonna have to crawl back and beg.
    What angles should you aim for?

  • Try running down the item - quality, size, colour, defects,.. go on, be creative (remember, you don't really want it, right?).
  • Buy in bulk or buy something else (think Christmas or birthday gift); if someone's with you, force them to buy something too.
  • Tell the seller you come from the same kampung and soften them up with old times you never shared (but do it before they do it to you).
    How low can you go?

  • Depending on what you're buying, from 10% to 70% the quoted price at the more notorious tourist traps.
  • Always "open" lower than what you're willing to pay; then gradually go up and they'll go down - give them room to be "gracious" and you can firmly get into the down and dirty over how they don't really need that last RM2.
  • Try rounding it to the nearest Ringgit.
  • Get them to throw something else in.


Central Market, KL
At KL's Central Market, just chill, man; only fools will pay double for something worth half the value.
    How long should you haggle for?

  • Never rush this; the seller has all the time in the world, but can sense when the buyer is interested, so persevere.
    When is it too late to go back to the first stall you bargained at?

  • When you'd stuck your nose up at them, saying that you can get it cheaper elsewhere when you hadn't done your homework yet - and then find that you can't.
    When is it too late not to buy what you've bargained for?

  • When you start to walk away and they throw loud Cantonese curses upon your mother's head until after you until you're two roads down - and they're not even Cantonese.