It is important to haggle over purchases made in local markets in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, otherwise the stallholder may 'shave your head', the local vernacular for 'rip you off. Bargaining is the rule in markets, when arranging share taxis and pick-ups and in cheaper guesthouses. The Khmers are not ruthless hagglers, so care should be taken to not come on too strong. A persuasive smile and a little friendly quibbling is usually enough to get a good price. Try to remember that the aim is not to get the lowest possible price, but a price that is acceptable to both you and the seller. Remember back home, we pay astronomical sums for items, especially clothes, that have been made in poorer countries for next to nothing, and we don't even get the chance to bargain for them, just the opportunity to contribute to a corporate director's retirement fund. At least there is room for discussion in Cambodia, so try not to abuse the situation. And remember, in many cases a few hundred riel is more important to a Cambodian with a family to support than to a traveller on an extended vacation. After all, no-one bargains over a beer in a busy backpacker bar, so why bargain so hard over a cheap bottle of water?
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