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Haggling in Israel – A Guide to Shopping for New Olim After Making Aliyah

Israel is a captivating fusion of Western modernity and Middle Eastern traditions. One of these traditions deeply woven into the fabric of Israeli society is the age-old practice of haggling. However, many Israelis would use another word instead of practice – art.

The art of haggling is on full display daily all throughout Israel, from local shuks (markets) to taxi vehicles. Think of it this way – it (almost) never hurts to try. 

Of course, this means that you’ll also have to work on your haggling skills if you want to truly savor the essence of the Israeli shopping experience and, let’s be honest, avoid being ripped off. If you’ve made Aliyah from a Western country like the U.S. or the U.K., this certainly won’t come easy, as negotiating prices will be a culture shock. But don’t worry; this guide is all you need to unlock the secrets of successful haggling in Israel and overcome that shock in no time.

Haggling in Israel 101

Haggling in Israel 101

Here’s everything you need to know to haggle like a true Israeli.

Which Goods and Services Can You Haggle Over in Israel?

Which Goods and Services Can You Haggle Over in Israel?

OK, the introduction of this guide states that you can haggle over almost everything in Israel. But beware – “almost” is the key word here. There are still some places where haggling is considered highly inappropriate. To help you navigate these uncharted territories, we’ll make a cheat sheet of when to haggle without hesitation, when to try at least, and when to refrain entirely.

The first category covers items like:

  • Market and bazaar products
  • Private shop products (e.g., souvenirs, jewelry, furniture, etc.)
  • House appliances (and even houses themselves!)

As for the services, you can always try to negotiate standard home services like plumbing, carpeting, and general repairs. Even movers transporting your belongings into your new home will probably be open to discussing their rates.

The second category primarily includes private shops where prices are labeled on products. You can politely ask for a discount in these stores, but you might not get it.

The third category, the “do not try” group, encompasses the following items:

  • Food in restaurants and food stands
  • Products in large chain stores, malls, and supermarkets 
  • Public transportation fares

A good rule of thumb to remember is – if you’re the only one arguing over the price, it’s likely not the place for haggling.

Where Are the Best Places for Haggling in Israel?

Where Are the Best Places for Haggling in Israel?

If you want to work on your haggling skills, there’s only one place to visit – Israeli shuks. Shuks are outdoor markets brimming with energy and a plethora of goods waiting for your skilled negotiations. There are the three shuks you can’t miss if haggling is your goal. Coincidentally, they are all in Tel Aviv.

  • Shuk HaCarmel (The Carmel Market). This is the biggest shuk in Tel Aviv, and it’s absolutely packed with stalls. The shuk is divided into two parts – the northern and southern. The southern is reserved exclusively for food, while the northern part houses virtually any goods you can think of, from fashion to electronics. 
  • Shuk Levinsky (The Levinsky Market). The Levinsky Market is highly popular among locals who deem it a gourmet’s paradise. Go to this market if you need to buy spices and other culinary delights. 
  • Shuk Hapishpishim (The Jaffa Flea Market) The Jaffa Flea Market is the top spot for vintage treasures and eclectic finds, from colorful kilim rugs to obscure musical instruments. Head to this market early in the morning to beat the crowds.

But be careful – there are also some more upscale markets where not all vendors will be receptive to haggling, such as the Sarona Market.

How to Haggle in Israel: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Haggle in Israel: A Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you know where to haggle and what to haggle over, there’s only the small matter of actually doing the haggling. Get it wrong, and you’re looking at one of two scenarios. One, you’ll be saddled with a knick-knack whose price will make your wallet weep. Or two, you’ll get shooed away in embarrassment. 

Since none of these options sound particularly appealing, let’s teach you to navigate the spirited tradition of haggling in Israel step by step.

Step 1 – Identify Your Desired Item

Don’t go into haggling mindlessly. Instead, take a moment to observe the market dynamics and the product offerings. Eventually, you’ll find something you like, and the haggling can begin.

Step 2 – Inquire About the Price

The first question you ask should pertain to the price of your desired item. Once you hear the price, you have two options – play the numbers game or take a narrative approach. 

However, the second option might not be doable for Olim Chadashim struggling with Hebrew, as it entails telling (and selling) a believable story of why you can’t afford the desired item. So, let’s focus on the first option.

Step 3 – Give a Counter Offer

When you hear the stall owner’s price, counter it with a lower number. But be careful; going too low will immediately diminish your credibility and probably end the negotiation process. Most pro hagglers suggest offering half the item’s price. If the seller responds with a different figure – mazel tov, they’re willing to negotiate!

Step 4 – Feel Out Your Opponent (aka the Stall Owner)

The success of your haggling technique will primarily depend on the stall owner’s disposition and willingness to negotiate. So, start slowly and politely and proceed based on the owner’s reaction. 

You’ll quickly see how much the owner is willing to compromise, and you can adjust your offer accordingly. 

Once they start bending toward your target price, hold firm.

Step 5 – Walk Away

In some cases, you’ll get the price you want without needing the dramatics. But if you realize that the owner isn’t budging from a specific price, don’t be afraid to start walking away. Since no vendor is satisfied with losing a potential sale, they’ll often chase after you and beg you to reconsider, agreeing to your target price.

However, you should also be prepared to accept the vendor’s price or lose out on your desired item in these situations. Why? If the stall owner starts repeating a specific price with increasing forcefulness, the haggling is over, and no walking away will help.

Step 6 – Enjoy the Goods

Hopefully, by Step 6, you’ve achieved your goal of securing a favorable deal. Now, there’s nothing left to do but to revel in your success and enjoy your newfound treasures.

How to Master Haggling in Israel: Useful Tips

How to Master Haggling in Israel: Useful Tips

After reading our step-by-step guide on haggling in Israel, you’ll probably feel the process is a breeze. But the truth is that the art of haggling requires a lot of practice and some finesse. Here are some valuable tips to help you master this skill as soon as possible:

  • Always ask for the item’s price in shekels. Otherwise, you might end up with a higher quote in a foreign currency like the dollar.
  • Get to the point quickly. Israelis don’t like to wait around.
  • Be direct and confident, but maintain a respectful tone. Shouting will get you nowhere.
  • Never take anything said or done during haggling personally.
  • Learn basic Hebrew phrases for smoother communication. For example, start with “Kama?” meaning “How much?” Then, move to “Yakar!” meaning “Expensive!” or “Pachot?” to say “Less?” Of course, don’t forget to say “Todah!” in the end.
  • Visit shuks before closing, as sellers will be willing to compromise more.
  • Avoid trying again if the stall owner refuses to lower the price the first time. 

Telecom TCS: No Haggling Needed

Telecom TCS: No Haggling Needed

There will be plenty of occasions when you’ll try to negotiate in Israel and fail, either due to your haggling or Hebrew skills. With TCS Telecom, you don’t need any of these skills. Why? 

First, you’re already getting the best prices and incredible bundle deals. Secondly, all your interactions with this telecom provider will be in English, so there’s no need to worry about language barriers. Get in touch with our friendly reps to set up your telecommunication needs and take a breather from the excitement (and stress) of haggling. 

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