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Why are you overcharged in Viet Nam?

Vietnam is a beautiful country that has been blessed by Mother Nature with amazing sceneries, hospitable people and exotically tropical climate. Every year, we welcome millions and millions of international arrivals and Tourism has become one of the most important components of the modern Vietnamese economy. However, statistical reports about the return of tourists that once visited Vietnam are sadly down by 70% annually.

What’s the matter? You may ask, and for us who work in this industry, it’s also one of the biggest concerns.

The answer is quite simple, actually. It’s the sense of being ripped off while you travelling and shopping things in Viet Nam. It happens everywhere, can be very daunting and get your trip ruining very fast. But, have you ever wondered why it happens in Viet Nam?

1. Tourist stereotype
Being a guide, I often go with my guest to the market to either browsing or shopping. Usually I tried to do a slight bargain for them and more than once, I heard:
“Why do you do that? They have money, don’t they?”
Tourists in the Vietnamese’s mind are wealthy people. And most venders also have that thoughts, they just want to make as much profit as they can.
Most of the venders in Vietnam come from the countryside and usually their education isn’t completed because of some reasons. They are not fully aware of serving tourists for long-term will bring more money than short-term. Instead, they either look at tourists or outsiders as profits temporarily; hence, they can be pretty ruthless when it comes to selling goods. Also, tourists tend to not knowing the true value of the items being sold and that creates opportunities for the venders to trick their guests into believing the price they pay is worth it.

2. Business System
Even inside of the market, the business system among venders isn’t different from their modern counterpart. Not only they have to take full advantage of their sells, but also they have to maintain the high of their competition. Because of that, they can’t lower their prices to their liking; they have to follow the pricing system that’s already existed, or else, other venders have to either follow the new (properly lower) price or ‘eliminate’ it.
That’s being said; bargaining is not also a bad thing.

Local market in Vietnam

3. Cultural bargaining
It’s the venders’ job to make profits so it is only natural for vendors to ‘go all out’ and see how much they can get with the products, doesn’t matter the guests are foreign or local. Also, in Vietnam business tradition, if they have a higher price in the first try with the first guest, they will have a lucky day. And if they don’t, they won’t lose anything, just a trying
Don't take it personally that all venders are out to overcharge foreigners, not all of them are bad. It’s the Vietnamese’s habit to be overcharged and then do bargaining. Less or more, it happens in other places as well.

Cultural Bargaining

4. The inside struggle
A trader will always try to sell as much as they can, usually because they don't earn much from the original price and they can have some extra money when marking up the price. Most tourists arrive in Vietnam with higher amounts of money in Vietnamese terms because of the difference in currency, and benefit from the low cost of food, accommodation and stuffs.

Genuinely, the idea of haggling is still new to a lot of Westerners when they come to Asian country, yet they want to try, so how to do it effectively? Don’t worry, that’s why we are here to help you. Read more on our next article to know “How to get successful bargain in Viet Nam” next Wednesday, 31 August.

By Yen Ha

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