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Bargaining in the Philippines


In the Philippines, there are many bargains; you just need to know how and where. The first rule of advice is sending your Filipina wife or girlfriend to go alone. If they see a foreigner, the price might actually go up.

The worst places to ask is in the department stores or the chain mall shops. You might be able to get a small discount, but most store managers to not have the freedom to give any decent discounts.

In Davao and in most of the cities there are street side stalls and others that rent spaces on sidewalls or even parking areas in the larger parking lots. There are also locations in some of the cheaper or older malls where one store area is divided with small individual stalls. Also there are areas called Ukay Ukay. These are outdoor shops along the streets. Some are covered, some with just a tarp. There are used clothes and also you can find new items, sometimes with the labels still on them. In these shops, stalls or sidewalk stands you can find clothes, cell phones, Chinese pottery and most everything. These are the places to bargain.
If you have never bargained before, let me give you a little hint; start low. If an item is priced 100 pesos, offer 20. They will say no, and drop to maybe 80 pesos. Keep bargaining until they will not go lower and then tell them no and start to walk away. You can then get it lower. When I first came to Davao, I needed to go to a wedding. I needed a pair of black dress shoes. I had shoes in my shipment of things and since I knew I would rarely need dress shoes living here, I was not going to sukay-ukay-4pend a lot of money for a decent pair of shoes. One day we were downtown and near one of the big Ukay Ukay areas, we decided to look. Form me; especially here in the Philippines, it is hard to find my size. I wear a size 12 E width, and I had enough trouble finding them in stock in America. Well, the second stall we looked in, they had a pair of Florsheim black wingtips size 12 E and the soles were still smooth and no scratches. They were never worn. I asked the girl the price and was told 100 pesos; that is about $2.00 USD. Those shoes would be over $100 in the States. I looked at the girl and said 20 pesos. She smiled as she shook her head and replied 80 pesos. I then offered 40 pesos and she said 70. As I shook my head and stared to walk away, she said, ok, 40 pesos. That is about $0.80 USD.

There are many stalls and even people walking around selling fruit, cheap little kids toys and even pirated DVD’s in cases looking like originals. I do not remember what they sell for, but if your persistent, or if you offer to buy more than one, you can get them for about ¾ of their price, maybe less.

dscn2764In the parking lot at one of the malls there is a few stalls selling Chinese porcelain vases, big ginger jars and framed art with raised jade looking carvings. Elena wanted to buy the tall vases about 4 feet tall. While I was talking to friends in the mall, Elena went over to check the prices. She was told 7000 pesos ($145 USD) for one she liked. She offered 3000 ($62 USD) and eventually was told, if the boss lady walked away, they would sell it for the price. Elena mentioned she needed to ask her husband and left. I told her we should get 2 and place one on each side of our entertainment center. We went back later in the afternoon and I parked away from the area. Elena offered 5000 pesos for 2 of them. They first told her 7000, then 6000 and then the lowest they would go was 5800. Elena said no and started to walk away and they finally agreed and she bought the two for 5000 pesos ($103 USD)

Do not be nasty, just persistent and friendly. For higher price objects like the vases, just say your low price is all the money you have. Even workers you hire, you can bargain the price. Especially if you’re a foreigner discussing the deal, they have already raised the price with the “Foreigner tax.” Be strong but friendly and they will lower their price. Never take the first discount they give you. Once you have worked with them before, you can haggle a little, but do not go to crazy.

12 Responses to “Bargaining in the Philippines”

  1. Neal in RI says:


    Haggling for a price can turn out to be a adventure there for sure.
    1983 Me and the Mrs to be was at a outdoor vendor, I was haggling on a pair of Shorts but no real place to try them on.
    I just dropped trow right there in her stall and the sales girl held up a piece of material as I tried on the shorts. something like “Hoy Nako” was the response from her but I got the Shorts cheep enough.

  2. jan says:

    Hi Bruce,
    Nice post, it is true taht if us, foreigners come to a stall the prices are going up with sometimes 100%. That is the so called white skin tax.
    I also always send the mrs to go and see firts and have her asked for their lowest price. Even the lowest price can still be bargained.
    Pirated DVD’s can be bought here for 30 pesos, 4 pieces for 100 (2 US$). I haven’t tried one yet to see the quality, but I will try soon.
    The same goes for computer software. All kind of (latest) programs can be bought for less than 100 pesos.

    • Bruce says:

      Yes, the White Skin or Foreigner tax can be excessive. It took me a while to convince my construction friends to realize, charge the same price, no matter foreigner or Filipino and the foreigners will recommend their friends. If they charge higher prices to Foreigners, they will never be used again.

  3. Ken Harmes says:

    I tried some ‘pirate’ discs a while back. Very cheap and almost un-watchable,very poor quality.

  4. Tom says:

    Yes I wouldn’t take those pirated ones if they were free. Complete junk in my opinion.

    At least 30% don’t work at all. Most of the rest the quality is so poor it’s really not worth wasting your time watching them. My friend got one once. Really good picture quality except the last 10 minutes of the movie is missing.

    • Bruce says:

      Some of the stores will let you preview the disc at their store and a few will even exchange discs you have purchased if they do not work.

      • Tom says:

        Yes but pirated ones by defination don’t come with a warranty. I haven’t had problems with movies purchased in stores.

        I’m not that good of a barganer myself but I have known some who were. They could get a good local price every time. One key to that is you have to know what it is actually worth before you start. Or you don’t know if you got a good deal or not.

        • Bruce says:

          Yes the quality varies with the pirated DVD’s. That is why some friends buy from the same store that has a player to test the movie and will exchange ones that do not work.

  5. Per says:

    As for workers… When I was in China and rented an apartment, it was really really dirty!!! The dealer called in some cleaners and gave me a price. When they where done, I actually paid them more, because it was cheap and worth it for me and – as I told them – they had done a very good job and where worth more than they asked. It wasnt much more, but enough to make them very happy. I could see they where hard-struggling people and could use a nice break for once.

    In another instance, when I had bought some trousers and asked a local seamstress to put them up for me, I knew she charged me much more than it should cost. But I had prepared myself… I had asked the hotel personal to translate for me and write on a note that I showed the seamstress as I paid: “I know you overcharge me because I am a stupid foreigner, but you did a good job and I accept it.” She smiled and looked away, having lost face. I never went to her again.

    Im not good at bargaining. But I succeeded in an open market in China with the same technique you mention: give a low number and then walk slowly away… she followed me, bring down the price and I just ignored her until she was close to what I wanted to give… she had first asked 250 RMB and I offered 20…. she followed me and said 200, 180. 150, 120, 100…. when she was down to 50 I stopped, looked her in the eye and held up a 20 and said “No. 20”. I got my item for my price. 😀
    I should add that the reason I was so hard in this bargain is that I had bought some hand died cloths from her first, and not bargained… I felt that her price was worth it. But this item was something she had not made, but found.

    • Bruce says:

      Once here and develop a friendly relationship with the local vendors, they will take good care of you. On hard goods, if you ask for a bigger discount if you buy a second item, you can get a further discount. You need to realize, the Filipinos bargan too. You will need to work harder since at first they have added the “Foreigner” or “White man” tax.

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