Price Haggling and Negotiation Norms in Chile
Shopping in South America can be like a Mecca for bargain hunters through a little negotiation on the price offered and haggling your way to a better deal. The act of bartering is not usually an accepted practice in large department stores as they trade through set prices and may take offence if you attempt to offer less than the asking price.
Whatever you are on the lookout for in Chile, whether it is leather goods, gold, silver or other precious stones you can get some bargain prices in the smaller shops or market stalls. Other items you may be able to purchase for less than you expected to pay for them include rugs, sweaters and a rich assortment of hand crafted goods. In many locations they will accept US dollars and this may get you a better rate than the local currency. It is best to always use cash and not try to negotiate a price then offer to pay by cheque or credit cards, in most instances these payment methods are only acceptable in larger stores and for fixed price items.
Spanish is the official language of Chile although there are also many more local languages spoken in specific areas of the country. If you can speak a few words of Spanish to the trader it may help you to achieve a better price with a little small talk before the negotiations begin. The family is very important to most Chileans and many small businesses are family orientated and sometimes the sole source of income for a family unit. A trader may try to play this on you by claiming you will starve his family if they accept too low a price, this is all part of a guilt trip and the trader will never sell an item at a loss, if your offer is too low then the negotiations will cease and you should then walk away. This could work to your advantage as you may then receive an offer lower than the trader was previously willing to accept, if not look for a similar item elsewhere.
During price negotiations try to maintain eye contact as this is seen as important within the business protocol and etiquette, it shows trust, interest and sincerity. If a deal is agreed shake hands and this is then a way of binding the deal to show you have both come to an amicable agreement. Always remain friendly and smile during these procedures. Some women particularly amongst the older generations will not shake hands with men, although younger Chilean women will have no reservations about shaking your hand. Chileans may stand very close during the negotiation process, it is not their intention to make you feel uncomfortable if they appear to be within your personal space, just the way they conduct business. Another way that many Chileans will show their friendliness towards you is by placing their hand on your shoulder when in conversation with you, if you want a successful outcome to your price haggling or negotiations you should not step away or look uncomfortable at this lack of distance or intrusion into your personal space.
Gestures to avoid are slapping your right fist into the open palm of your left hand as this is taken as an obscene gesture in the country while showing an open palm with your fingers separated means you think that person is stupid.