Korean vendors don’t generally like to haggle with foreign customers. Saving face is sometimes more important than making a sale. In fact, if a merchant feels he/she has been insulted by a too low offer, he/she may refuse the sale, even at the original price – albeit this is a relatively rare occurrence. Market or street vendors are not necessarily consistent with their prices either. Westerners generally pay more than Koreans, or other Asians or ex-pats who speak fluent Korean.
The basic rule of thumb is to offer a price about 20% less than that quoted and see what happens or to ask for a discount. If the merchant asks what you’d like to pay and you offer a price that he/she agrees to, you must buy the item. Quite often, merchants selling the same item in a given area will be offering it at the same price. The negotiations are usually conducted with the use of a calculator, as many merchants speak little or no English (but that is changing).
- Department store salesclerks will often follow you closely. This is considered polite and is not an indication of mistrust. The same may happen in markets.
- In markets and small shops, it is also important to avoid touching items or pointing at them (pointing can be interpreted as a wish to buy).
- It is usually possible to return an item, however try to avoid doing shortly after the merchant opens for business.
- Small shops and vendors may start working anywhere between 10 a.m. and Noon, or even later, regardless of the hours posted.
- If you’ve made a large purchase or you’re a regular customer, a vendor (not department or discount stores, though) may give you ‘service’ – this means something for free, not a lower price. Even if you don’t want the item, it is best to smile and accept it.
- Most department stores, antique stores/warehouses as well as supermarkets, among others, will deliver, often free of charge.
- It is also possible to call in your order to the stores that cater to expats and have it delivered.
- More and more Koreans purchase just about everything they need/want through the Internet. It is currently difficult for expats to do so because their ID numbers do not match Korean ones. But a solution is upcoming.