Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Asia Travel: 3 Ways to Counter Dishonest Salespeople

Honest shopkeepers abound in Asia. But like elsewhere, there are always a few dishonest vendors who try to over-charge unsuspecting tourists. Find out how to spot such ones and counter their sales tactics.

Many travelers shop in Asia because they often find better bargains there. It is true that honest salespeople abound in Asia. But like elsewhere, there will always be a few 'sales-predators' who try to overcharge misinformed tourists.

If you paid $5 for a $2-scarf, your only damage would probably be some teasing from your travel companions. But if you were to pay $600 for a $300-camera, would you still remember your Asian vacation fondly?

Here are 3 steps to identify a sales-predator and counter his sales tactics. These are especially useful if you plan on getting big ticket items.

1. Create a list of desired models, and check their prices back home.

Just how does one get ripped off while shopping in Asia? Well, simply turn up without knowing the specific items you want, or their market prices. Unethical salespeople love tourists who walk into their shops and ask vague questions like:

a. "Do you have a point-and-shoot camera that is ...?" or

b. "Could you recommend a portable hard-disk ...?"

Sales-predators know they could mark up prices on these customers, who are unlikely to know if they are being overcharged. So knowing what you want and the market prices helps. Do your homework. Before arriving in Asia, check the prices of items online or at your neighborhood store.

2. Bargain on your territory, not on the salesperson's.

The moment a sales-predator knows that you have done your research, his next strategy is to take the 'battle into his territory'. How does he do this? He will say something like, "Well, we have finished selling that model, but let me show you something much better ...!"

At this point, you 'enter his territory' because you may not know the market price of the item he is going to show you. And if you like the item enough, he might just quote you a price to his advantage.

To counter this, go down your checklist and ask if he sells the next item on your list. If he repeatedly says he doesn't have the items you want, it is time to leave the shop. There is always another shop down the road. So don't feel the pressure to say 'yes' too quickly.

3. Identify the 'upsell' strategy and don't fall for it.

Often, after a price has been agreed and the payment imminent, the sales-predator will try to 'increase his margin'. "You know, we've got a fantastic pair of woofer speakers that go superbly with your MP3 player," he would say. "Let me show you how nice they sound." He whips up some audio equipment, mutes all other devices in his shop and plays a hypnotic tune using the device you have just agreed to buy.

If you really, really like the add-on, by all means buy it. But take it from me: the add-on is likely a brand you have never heard of and marked up quite substantially. Beware of this upsell tactic. If the item is truly that great, nobody will need to try so hard to sell it.

I have been burnt before and I know that dishonest salespeople are capable of doing the things mentioned above. But now that you have got the inside story, go and beat those sales-predators at their own game. Then pay it forward by sharing your wisdom at online forums. Whether you are visiting the quaint markets in Vietnam or the glitzy malls in Singapore, you can make shopping in Asia a wonderful experience. For yourself and for those visiting after you.

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