How to shop while on an LSA or FSP

By Carinna Arvizo | 10/29/12 6:00am

When you’re on your LSA or FSP, you probably want to save as much money as possible. But the reality is: traveling is expensive. And sadly, shopping is one of the most expensive things to do when traveling abroad. But there are some easy ways to save money when you’re studying abroad or simply traveling.

  1. Negotiating is the only way to shop. In the United States we don’t typically negotiate whenever we go shopping, but it’s expected once you leave the country. At first, you might feel a little awkward. But once you find out that your friend paid less for those cute earrings, you’ll get upset at how much they ripped you off. You will soon learn that you have to be aggressive but friendly when bargaining. And remember you can make bargain for almost anything: taxi rides, clothing stores and especially tourist shops.
  2. Check currency value everyday. A lot of stores or vendors accept American currency at their own rate. It’s usually at your disadvantage, but it should be within the same range as the exchange rate. This is perhaps one of the most common ways tourists get ripped off. In the past I have managed to negotiate the exchange rate. It was tricky, and it involved me walking away a couple of times. Which brings me to my next point...
  3. WALK AWAY! The best thing you can do sometimes is to walk away. Whenever you’re negotiating, you can always walk away. The vendor won’t want to lose a customer and will almost always call you back with a better deal. A friend of mine used this technique when buying a leather jacket in Florence. It was originally marked 400 Euros, but she only paid 100. The guy at the store was upset when she left, but she happily walked away with her beautiful leather jacket.
  4. The vendor will always make a profit. A friend once told me, ”If the vendor is happy as you’re walking away, you got screwed over. If they’re mad, you got a pretty good deal. You just have to remember that at the end of the day, they will always make money.”
  5. Ask your host family where to buy certain things. According to Jillian Mayer ’14, “the best advice you can get is from your host family or friends you meet on your LSA or FSP. Be sure to be specific as to what you’re looking for when you ask.” This is extremely helpful because some areas of the city are known for selling very specific things, meaning you can negotiate with multiple vendors for the same item. Be sure to walk away!
  6. Lying isn’t always bad. Let’s say you’re trying to buy some bracelets that are made from golden grass — which is, in fact a real plant found only in the Amazons — and you wants $3 dollars per bracelet. You simply tell him/her that you saw someone else selling it for $2. The odds are you will probably pay less than $2.
  7. Don't pretend you know the language. At least try to learn some phrases and numbers. In Italy, an American tourist bargained with the vendor at the market for “cinco” Euros for some earrings, instead of cinque. The word cinco is Spanish for five, and cinque is five in Italian. Needless to say he did not pay five Euros because the vendor was slightly insulted. How do I know the vendor was insulted? I managed to pay only three Euros for the exact same earrings. Self- call? Perhaps.
  8. Never pay retail. Erin Tomalonis ’14, who went to Paris for the FSP, recommends to “join the email lists for newsletters of whatever brands and stores you want to shop at. “Once she figured that trick out, she never paid full price for any of her favorite stores again. Erin simply waited for the 30 percent store discount announcement to arrive in her inbox.
  9. Have exact change! In Italy, I managed to negotiate a purse from 20 Euros to one. My smallest bill was a five. The vendor took my five and said, “Bye-bye.” I took my five Euros back and left empty handed. If they know you have more money, they will want more money! So be sure to give exact change.
  10. Talk to the shop owner! Whenever I speak to the shop owner, they almost always give me a great deal. For example, I had been looking all over Rome for this specific wallet my sister wanted and finally found it in Florence. And it was on sale! I ran out of time and had to leave. But when I came back the following week to buy it, the wallets were no longer on sale. When Anna, the shop owner, asked me if I was going to buy it, I explained to her what had happened. After telling me that the wallet had gone out of season, she was kind enough to sell me a wallet from the new collection for the same sale price. Acts of kindness like these have happened to me on numerous occasions with many shop owners. They are almost always willing to help because they want customers to return.
  11. Not all vendors are willing to haggle. Jillian Mayer ’14 explains that from her experiences in India and Argentina were very different when it came to bargaining. “In India bargaining was the way to go. But in Argentina, they are used to tourists and resisted negotiating.” Be aware that some places are more open to the idea of negotiating, others aren’t. You still shouldn’t be afraid to bargain because you never know.

Carinna Arvizo