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Selling Lottery Tickets

Vietnamese Markets

It should be odd that a communist country would have the most amazing capitalists I've ever seen.

It should be odd that communists would be such enthusiastic negotiators.

It should be odd that these people are interested in the price of everything. What did you pay for your shoes? Your hotel? Your soda?

But it's not odd. Not after a day or two in Vietnam. It becomes normal. The markets are stuffed with things to buy, and the prices are anything but fixed.

Yes, in Vietnam, capitalism is king.  Or at least comrade.

I have often read about this market or that market being the biggest in the world.  Usually, they are big.  But now I've seen the biggest.  It's called Vietnam.
The whole country is a market. And everything is for sale.  If you like shopping, you'll love Vietnam.

Fish for Sale
Fish, Get Your Fish!

It helps if you brush up on your French a little.  Many people here, especially in the north, speak more French than English.

One time in Hue, we were looking for cheese to eat on our train journey to Hanoi.  No one knew what cheese was.  Suddenly, out of the dark 6th grade recesses of my brain, a solitary French word sprang.
"Fromage?", I tentatively muttered (I failed French).
"Fromage!", she echoed, grabbing us by the hands and leading us to a stack of cheese, as I made a mental note not to make fun of the French for at least a week (advice to you, pay attention in French class!).

Snake Meat for Sale
Fresh Snake Meat

Even if you don't like to shop, you must go to the markets to watch people and take pictures.  The people enjoy having their pictures taken, and there are a lot of characters to take pictures of.

In Vietnam, everything is for sale, and every price is negotiable.  The price you pay for something is considered to be a measure of what kind of person you are.

It puts the tourist in a difficult position. 
If you pay too much, you look stupid.  Plus, you deprive the seller of his hobby, religion, and favorite sport; bargaining.
If you bargain too hard, you look like a cheapskate.

The best advice I saw was in a Moon guide:
Bargain like hell, but have fun with it.  Once you get your lowest price, pay a little more. You show you can bargain, but you also acknowledge that you're not trying to screw the locals (you are, after all, rich in their eyes).

I did this a number of times. 

When a group of women would want say, 2000 dong for a bottled water I knew was 1500 at most, I'd offer 1000.  They'd say no, and I'd walk away.  Eventually, some woman would run up and accept the 1000, at which point, I'd give 1500.
The reaction to this is amazing, in every case.  They open up a conversation and become really friendly, talking long after the sale is closed.

I've done this in many countries since.  Find the one guy or lady who's willing to earn a modest profit, then give them something closer to what the rest were asking.

The biggest problem is deciding what to buy, and who to buy from.   Which one of these people would you buy your cloth from?

Cloth for Sale
Do You Want that in Blue?

Remember, though, buying doesn't close the issue.  It only shows you have money to spend.  Other sellers will try to get you to buy more for every person you know.

Happy Shopping!