For many Indonesians, bargaining is a
way of life and getting a fair or cheap
price is regarded as a challenge. Sometimes vendors name a price based on
the customer’s perceived ability to pay,
rather than the actual cost of the item.
This makes it more difficult for foreigners, who will usually be quoted a higher
price. Some people consider bargaining
to be time-consuming and frustrating,
but it is also a game and if you know the
rules it can be fun.
- Do not try to bargain in shopping
malls and stores with fixed prices. You
are expected to bargain in road-side
stalls, such as those selling plants and flowers, traditional markets and “tourist
areas” such as Jalan Surabaya, Pasar Seni
Ancol, and the various “antique” shops
in Jalan Ciputat Raya and Jalan Kemang
Timur, or in the Puncak area.
- In some shops, particularly in “tourist
areas”, you will immediately be offered a
discount or “special price”, because you
are the first or last customer of the day or
to encourage you to come again. This is
an indication that the vendor is open to
- Do not commence bargaining if you
have no intention of purchasing – this is
considered “bad form”.
- It helps a lot if you have some knowledge of the item’s actual price. Do some
surveying first at fixed price stores or ask
friends what they paid for certain items
that you are interested in.
- To start the bargaining process, first
ask the vendor the price of the item that
you are interested in. Then ask if the
price can be reduced (Boleh kurang?).
If the answer is “Yes” (Boleh) or “Yes, a
little” (Boleh, sedikit), you begin negotiations.
- As a general rule you can offer to pay
one quarter to one half of the first asking
price, with the vendor and purchaser
making counter offers until a suitable
median price is reached. You may then
expect to pay about one half to two
thirds of the initial asking price.
- In some traditional markets the prices
offered are already low and vendors may
take offense at a very low first price offer, therefore you should only ask for a
discount (Minta diskon).
- If you are purchasing more than one
item you should be able to negotiate a
- Even though you really like something, try to keep calm and poker faced,
as the vendor will stick to his higher
price if he thinks you will pay it.
- If, after some negotiations, you
consider that the vendor’s price is still
too high you can leave the shop or stall
and move on to the next, which will
probably be offering similar items. This
often does the trick and the vendor will
rush after you accepting your last offered
price. If this does not happen, you know
that your price was still too high and the
vendor would have suffered a loss.
- When you and the vendor have
agreed on the price you are obliged to
complete the purchase.
- Build up a relationship with a vendor
at a store where you shop frequently.
You can remind the vendor that you
have shopped there previously and as
he recognizes you his “first price” will
- In shops that allow bargaining you
should be aware that it is unlikely that you would be able to get a refund or after
- Bargaining is a skill that can be developed with practice and you will be proud
of the “bargains” you have acquired.
There will be times when you discover
later that you paid “too much”, but the
prices in general are very affordable, and the experience of bargaining is enjoyable
- Patience and good humor are vital for
successful bargaining. If you are not in
the mood for bargaining, then shop in
stores where prices are fixed
Enjoy your bargaining experiences in Indonesia!
Our thanks to Colliers
International for their generous
contribution of this article!