Shopping for handicrafts, a pair of shoes, a car or computer software?
Whatever, there are a number of things to remember when making a purchase
to avoid frustrations - and the potential pitfall of offending your vendor
and losing a good deal altogether.
Many items on sale in Chiangmai, particularly in the stalls and market
areas, are sold at non-fixed prices. A little knowledge of Thai can help
considerably in obtaining a good price! Chiangmai is the main handicraft
centre of Thailand and an excellent place - not only to shop - but to see
handicrafts being made and to learn a little about the ethnic cultures
of the north which are in most cases integral to these items.
Almost anything can be purchased here from cheap 'brand replica' clothing,
accessories and souvenirs to up-market furniture, designer clothing, silks,
silverware, jewellery and wood carving, weaving, textiles, rattan items,
ceramics, pottery, and lacquerware.
For items in the stalls and markets the rule is fairly simply - bargain
ruthlessly but patiently and politely. Not every stall holder is trying
to rip you off - but to sell at a reasonable price so they can make a living.
It means listening to the stall holder and agreeing to compromise. Be friendly
but firm, and if the stall holder speaks English, engage in light conversation
to put him or her at their ease - to show that you are not an arrogant
westerner who thinks every market trader is trying to rip you off! Thai
people, as well as many hilltribe people who work on the market stalls,
do not like to lose face. It is best to avoid telling people you don't
like the quality of their products or that the price is too high. Instead,
tell a little white lie. Say you are just checking out the prices - and
may come back tomorrow!
It's a done deal!
The same is true when shopping for everyday items like food - with the
added disadvantage that many shopholders will speak little or no English.
If you are searching for anything slightly unusual, a water-resistant paint
which is fungal-protected for instance, then it might be better to take
a Thai interpreter with you! Shop prices are always fixed, so there will
be no bargaining involved.
JUST LIKE THE REAL THING?
Click for larger photograph
Almost! This metal bas relief of a Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero-Sen actually
represents an aircraft of the 64th Sentai, wich was stationed here at Chiangmai.
Framed in dark Thai timber, each piece is numbered and only 1000 pieces
will ever be produced. Made by Thai craftsmen with care.
Returning to obtain a refund for faulty goods might pose a particular
difficulty. Never be angry at the shop assistant if you are not receiving
customer satisfaction. You will not be respected and are unlikely to be
successful. One foreigner tells the story of returning to a particular
shop on many occasions with an expensive, faulty, product. Each time he
was given a different reason why the item could not be repaired or replaced.
Although it took 6 months, the item was eventually replaced with a brand
new, better quality, model! The relationship between the customer and the
shop became so good hearted that every time he returned, he was greeted
like a friend rather than with sour looks. As the Thai people say constantly,
keep jye yen yen (a cool heart), have patience and you will usually
How much is this?
Can you help me?
Chuay duay or chuay dai mai?
Do you have?
Mee …. Mai
No, (we) do not have
Yes, we do have
Can I have a discount?
Lot dai mai?
That is expensive
That is very expensive
Keep a cool heart
Jye yen yen
Never mind, it does not matter
Mai pen rai
What time does the shop open/close?
Rhan beurt/pbid meurai
I will come back tomorrow
Rhan kor sang
Rhan Upakorn Korsang
Rhaan khai yaa
Rhan Seua pa
Where is the … shop
Rhaan … tee nai?
Remember: Women always add 'ka'
to the end of each phrase spoken and men say 'khap'