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Shopping Etiquette/Culture


Shopping Etiquette/Culture

Haggling
Korean vendors don’t generally like to haggle with foreign customers. Saving face is sometimes more important than making a sale. In fact, if a merchant feels he/she has been insulted by a too low offer, he/she may refuse the sale, even at the original price – albeit this is a relatively rare occurrence. Market or street vendors are not necessarily consistent with their prices either. Westerners generally pay more than Koreans, or other Asians or ex-pats who speak fluent Korean.

Final Price
The basic rule of thumb is to offer a price about 20% less than that quoted and see what happens or to ask for a discount. If the merchant asks what you’d like to pay and you offer a price that he/she agrees to, you must buy the item. Quite often, merchants selling the same item in a given area will be offering it at the same price. The negotiations are usually conducted with the use of a calculator, as many merchants speak little or no English (but that is changing).

Shopping culture  

  1.  Department store salesclerks will often follow you closely. This is considered polite and is not an indication of mistrust. The same may happen in markets.
  2. In markets and small shops, it is also important to avoid touching items or pointing at them (pointing can be interpreted as a wish to buy).
  3. It is usually possible to return an item, however try to avoid doing shortly after the merchant opens for business.
  4. Small shops and vendors may start working anywhere between 10 a.m. and Noon, or even later, regardless of the hours posted.
  5. If you’ve made a large purchase or you’re a regular customer, a vendor (not department or discount stores, though) may give you ‘service’ – this means something for free, not a lower price. Even if you don’t want the item, it is best to smile and accept it.
  6. Most department stores, antique stores/warehouses as well as supermarkets, among others, will deliver, often free of charge.
  7. It is also possible to call in your order to the stores that cater to expats and have it delivered.
  8. More and more Koreans purchase just about everything they need/want through the Internet. It is currently difficult for expats to do so because their ID numbers do not match Korean ones. But a solution is upcoming.
     

Last Updated on 2020-09-01


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