Tourists, especially the Pinoy kind, love to buy stuff from the places they travel to and bring them home either to keep as personal souvenir (snowglobes, Starbucks mugs, t-shirts, etc) or as pasalubong for family and friends. A self-evident fact, this pasalubong concept is actually one of the economic pillars of the tourism industry, alongside lodging and other related services. Almost all of us has been a tourist at one point or another, and many of us have been tricked or coerced into buying expensive trinkets peddled to us by shrewd merchants. I remember a long time ago in Nairobi, my colleagues and I ventured out to see the Masai market and I ended up bringing home a boxful of overpriced trinkets just because I couldn’t say no to the aggressive intimidation by the peddlers!
The souvenir trade isn’t going away and as a tourist, you should learn how to watch out for your own interests (your wallet’s contents, primarily. Here are simple tips to follow so you won’t end up shafted (or worse).
Do. Not. Get. Sales-talked. Street/bazaar/market peddlers have plenty of years ahead of you in the sales talk department. They’ve been trained to spot your sweet spot and press on it until you cave. Don’t be the gullible sort of tourist by believing everything they say. When something sounds too good to be true (rare artefact, heirloom of someone very famous in the past, has magical properties, etc.), it usually is. If you must, buy something for its craftsmanship and the material it is made of and how closely it represents the history or culture of the place you’ve just visited. When in doubt, just stick with the t-shirt and fridge magnet formula. Always works!
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Haggle like a pro. We’re Pinoys and this should come to us naturally, right? But sometimes, even the best of us tend to get shy in trying to get the price down, even when we know we’re being taken for a ride. I say, get over it and haggle. It’s part of the fun of being a tourist, so indulge in haggling, trading, and negotiation! But in some cases, you just feel somewhat generous and don’t really mind helping the independent merchants and that’s pretty awesome, too. Generosity, after all, goes a long way!
Know the country’s laws on souvenir peddling and buying. We don’t expect you to memorise everything by heart but just be aware of the repercussions of picking up some weird or exotic items. Being caught red-handed with certain objects can get you fined pretty heftily or worse, get you behind bars. Items such as corals, starfish, and other endangered marine life aren’t supposed to be purchased and taken out of certain countries (those that are aware that these resources are precious and few) and you should know better than to risk it. Body parts of endangered animals are generally contraband wherever you are, too.
There you go. Three simple things to set you off on a good start with your with your souvenir shopping. Oh, and watch carefully your belongings and surroundings for pickpockets and other scammers as well. Other than that, have fun being a tourist!
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