Fixed prices are the norm in department stores and a number of shops in Bangkok, but at most other places bargaining is acceptable and expected. Generally you can obtain a final figure of between 10 to 40 percent lower than the original asking price.
There are no hard-and-fast rules for bargaining, and much depends on your skills and the shopkeeper’s mood. But remember Thais appreciate god manners and a sense of humor, and they are put off by loud voices and loss of temper. With patience and a broad smile you will not only get a better price, you’ll also enjoy shopping as an art.
Generally, shopping in Thailand is easy, fun and very rewarding, but the following advice is useful especially when making gem and jewelry purchases :
• Never let a tout or a newfound friend take you shopping. Stores give commissions to these people and that cost is reflected in the price you pay.
• Choose a shop carefully. With gems, for example, make sure it is a specialist in that field and not simply a general souvenir store.
• Shops in hotel arcades pay high rents and accordingly prices tend to be higher than at street shops. On the other hand, hotel arcades are very convenient if you have little time for shopping. Moreover, prestigious hotels generally attract quality shops.
• Shop around to compare prices, though be sure to make comparisons between like items– this is especially important with gems and jewelry.
• Assess the sales assistants. Do they appear knowledgeable? Are they willing to discuss an item’s bad as well as good points.
• Take your time, never let a shop assistant pressure you into a purchase.
• Reputable shops will give a written agreement to a full refund on any goods returned within 90 days. If a shop refuses to do this, go elsewhere.
• Obtain a receipt for goods bought and check it is correct before leaving the shop.
• Ultimately, your best guide is what you like. Don’t for example, buy gems or jewelry for the purpose of re-sale or investment. They may have such appreciation potential, but there are no guarantees. Shop for pleasure not for profit.
PACKING AND SHIPPING
With shopping as one of Thailand’s major attractions, most shops are experienced in packing and shipping goods, as well as in arranging insurance, customs permits and any other necessary documentation.
The Central Post Office also offers a parcel-wrapping service for those who want to make small shipments themselves. For larger items or bulk shipments, there are several Bangkok companies who specialize in such matters.