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How to Find Deals in the Shuk

June 23, 2016 | by David Kilimnick

Want to shop in the ancient Israeli marketplace but don’t know where to start? Allow me to enlighten you.

Shuks age great, especially in Israel. For those who are unaware, a ‘shuk’ is an outdoor market, commonly found in Israel and commonly spelled ‘souk’ but that just feels plain wrong so I’m going with ‘shuk’. Some people feel like they have to haggle at the shuk, but they don’t know where to start. Never fear, David’s here with his handy tips on ways to save money in Israel’s most ancient marketplace:

Do Not Be Scared by The People Shouting at You

The number one sales method used with tourists is the scare method.

The first time the guy screamed his prices at me, I was shocked, I ended up giving him 200 shekels and apologized. If you want to show you are not scared, scream right back at the guy. He yells, ‘Two shekels.’ You yell right back at him, ‘One and a half shekels.’ If you yell loud enough and you instill fear in him, he will give you that price.

The polite response has also worked for me in the past. As he is yelling at you, let him know, ‘I like apples too, but please stop yelling at me.’ You might draw some empathy - and maybe even a tear.

Shop When They Close

Prices drop 80% fifteen minutes before the shuk closes. At that point, food is less valuable. At 5pm it is 30 shekels. At 5:15pm it is 8. There are many theories for the price cut…It is late in the day and by that time, the number of people who have brushed up against the rugalach is incalculable.

When Shabbat is coming in, the shuk has already been packed all Friday and everything has been touched by the community. That means ‘deal.’ If you can hold off that extra minute, right before the shuk closes, which is two hours before Shabbat, you can get great deals. Do not let people with a shofar, screaming ‘Shabbis’ at you, throw you off. Embrace the shofar sound as the messianic call for sales that it is.

If they are about to throw it out, you are in for a deal. Better yet, if they have left the stand, it is free.

Equip Yourself with some Haggling Techniques

-Always respond with one-third of whatever price the vendor says. Some people say half, but I think that’s very poor methodology. Half is where you want to end the negotiation. He says 30 shekels, you say 10. 6, you say 2. He says 100, you say 33.3333333. The product isn’t important. He says, ‘Loquats are 200.’ You say, ’66.6666666.’ You might be overpaying, as you do not know the going rate for tiny citrus fruit, but you are getting a deal. Remember, it is a mindset.

-The walkaway: This is a great way to get a deal. Just walk away. This allows for the vendor to haggle with himself. Shuk vendors are excellent at haggling. Do not get involved in the negotiation. He can even bring himself down to 0 shekels. No vendor is satisfied with not making the sale. He will follow you through the shuk and abandon his store for you. By the time you are at your car, he will be placing the nuts in your trunk at no charge.

-The product you do not want method: For this to work you have to not want the product. The greatest way to get a deal is to get something you have no use for. This method has been overlooked by too many people. The best way to haggle is to go shopping for stuff that is useless to you. You will always come out a winner. This is the next step in the walkaway method. Here, you are walking away and saying, ‘I do not want it.’ If you use this method correctly, they will pay you for the product. This is the reason I always go shopping for paddle balls that have the attached rubber ball. I don’t like the game, don’t want the paddle and only get frustrated when I use it.

-You name the price method: Show up at the store and tell them how much it costs. This technique is a lot of fun, as you the customer decide the price. If you decide on the price, what can they say? Nothing. Exactly. Disregard any markings. You want to pick out a new shirt with Beitar Jerusalem’s logo on it, you don’t like the price, tell him ’20 shekels.’ You feel there should be a sale? 50% off on the 20 shekels, you are only paying 10. It is up to you.

Work on Your Haggling Skill Set

Yes, you must have technique. Even so, haggling comes with practice. It is not just a skillset. It is a mindset. Haggling is a way of life.

I am a haggling savant. Nothing will stop me from getting a better deal. I have gone into the manager’s office at Macy’s and sat down to discuss how I did not like the price tags. To keep myself in practice and ready for the shuk vendors, I have haggled with candy machines. It is hard to get a decent deal on the Snyder’s sourdough pretzels.

I have used my haggling skills in America, and I have gotten deals. Sometimes it is a shocker. The pizza shop guy did not see it coming. He said the slice was $2.75. I told him there was no way I was paying $2.75 for the last slice of pizza on that pie. I told him, ‘$1.50.’ Remember, you decide the price. That was the first time in my life that I got a slice of pizza for free. He said, ‘Please take this slice of pizza and never come back.’

You see, haggling works everywhere. Just keep your skills fresh.

Know When They Are Lying to You

-When they tell you that they will give you 200% off and you end up paying, they are probably not telling the truth. If they are not giving you money at that point, they are lying.

-Know the exchange rate. I realized I was getting ripped off when I went to the 5 shekel ‘1 Dollar Store’ because I knew that the dollar did not go up over a shekel in one day. It should have been called the ‘$1.33 Store with Extra Tax Store.’

-When the guy is having a going out of business sale for more than 3 years, he might be lying.

-When he charges you 5 shekel for one Hershey’s bar and 18 shekel for three Hershey’s bars and then calling it a deal, he might be lying.

-When there is one slice of pizza left on the counter and he says that all of the slices on that pie were the exact same size, he might be lying.

I like this ‘He might be lying’ thing. I think I might have come up with the tagline for the next Blue Collar Comedy Tour. It is almost as good as ‘You might be a redneck.’ We are all sharing a moment here.

Happy shuk bargain hunting!

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