Haggling Our Way to a Prada Bag

I take every Thursday to share a brief story from the road. No message, no lesson, no direction in particular, just a fun little anecdote about our travels.

Today’s story comes from the streets of Rome where Marla haggled her way to her very own “Prada” bag.

Street Vendors

As I’ve mentioned before street vendors are all over the touristy areas of Europe. The thing about them is that they really know how to play the game. On the Spanish steps, for example, you can sit there all day watching Middle Eastern gentlemen handing roses to women walking up the steps.

That’s nice of them. Well until they follow the woman a few steps and demand money for the flower. Everyone knows that nothing comes for free but the number of women who actually took a rose can attest to the fact that someone placing in this case a rose into your hand makes it tough to refuse.

Being desensitized by the “toll collectors” from the streets of Chicago gave us a bit of an advantage in playing their games.

Bags, Bags, Everywhere are Bags

After arriving in Italy we started to see lots of people selling knock off handbags on the street, but instead of jumping at the first opportunity to check them out Marla played it cool.

Right away she told me that she wanted to get one, but was going to wait to strike until she found the one. So she played it cool slightly glancing at bed sheet after bed sheet of purses without showing that she had any interest in them at all.

That is until a couple days into our time in Rome. We walk past another row of sellers, they were literally everywhere you would look, and Marla turns to me and says that she likes the black one on the last sheet. She was ready to strike.

So we approach the purses and the seller instantly goes into selling mode, asking if she likes this one or that one and Marla points out the one that she likes.

Sticking to Her Guns

He comes in close and tells her 60€. Marla of course said no thanks and was ready to walk when he says, “wait, wait.” He comes in tight again and says, “what’s the most you’re willing to pay?” Marla thinks and says 20€.

He’s like “oh no I can’t go that low, how about 45€?” Marla says no thanks and we start to walk again.

“Wait, wait, what’s the most you’ll pay?” he repeats. “20€” Marla says once again and he says, “the lowest I can go is 35€” At this point I’m thinking that he’s about right being that a typical markup is around 200%, but Marla sticks to her guns, “20€”

Him: “I can do 35€”

Marla: “20€”

Him: “35€”

Marla: “Nope”

And we start to walk away as he again stops us.

Him: “Wait wait, I can do 30€”

Marla: “No thanks.”

And then it happens, he leans in, whispers “Ok, 20€”. As Marla nods he calls over a fellow seller to bag up the purse (apparently they all work together) and Marla hands him a 50€ and we wait for the change.

At this point I half expected the “cashier” to take the money and run but he made change for us and we were on our way. Marla with her Prada bag and me proud of how she got the bag. The only question that I was left wondering was how much do the sellers actually pay for those bags? They definitely pay less than 20€ but I’m curious how much of a profit he actually made off of us. It had to be something, but I’m sure it wasn’t very much. 🙂

Sometimes the experience is more rewarding than the actual purchase, what type of haggling experiences have you had in the past? Let us know in the comments


4 responses to “Haggling Our Way to a Prada Bag”

  1. James Chartrand - Men with Pens Avatar

    Oh god, where to start? I worked in Purchasing for several years, which meant I got to sit behind a desk and act pretentious and benevolent while I listened to all sorts of salesmen pitch me and let them schmooze me with swag. (I got a lot of nice swag. A lot.)

    And I learned from the best – my boss was an arrogant wheeler and dealer, who would lean back, steeple his fingers and give a small, “I’m humoring you,” sort of smile. He would look disinterested at the right moment, flat out refuse at others, or change direction and ask about another product completely to distract the salesperson.

    It was beautiful. And he taught me that it’s all just a game.

    It can be a really, really fun game, too, for everyone involved. (Marla knows that, I bet – that “win” moment is a great feeling.)

    I also used to hang out at auctions – now there was a trip. One caller, one item, and a bunch of people, all your potential competition. But that’s another story for another day. 🙂

    1. Jeff Sarris Avatar

      Oh it was totally a game and seeing the look of defeat on the guy’s face when he called over his friend was priceless. It went straight from *smiles*, how about this price, how about that price, to ok 20 *straight face*. 🙂

      1. Marla Avatar

        And not just *straight face* but, who’s the next victim! 😀

  2. Lou Cannata Avatar
    Lou Cannata

    Way to go Marla, for sticking to your guns 🙂