We love shopping at the mercados here in Cuenca, and have recently gotten some great deals from the Feria Libre mercado. You can get wonderful prices at the other mercados too. The prices are amazing:
This GIGANTIC papaya (see photo) along with 10 beautiful oranges was only $3. I wanted to give you a sense of the huge size of the papaya so included some other fruit in the photo along with the dollar bill so you can see the comparison.
This HUGE bunch of green onions (see photo) was $0.50. We cut them up and froze them!
The 6 DELICIOUS mangoes were $1.
The SUPER BIG 3 cauliflower heads and 2 SUPER BIG broccoli bunches were only $2.
A MASSIVE bunch of bananas was only $1.
A LARGE pineapple was only $1.50.
A BUCKET of tomatoes was $1.00.
Two "cubetos" or 60 (30*2) large eggs were $6.60 (Yes, we eat a lot of eggs)
1. Greet the vendors first with: Cómo estás. Buenos días. This is the way business is done in Cuenca and it is so nice to make that personal connection first!
2. Know your numbers in Spanish - makes it so much easier to recognize what they are telling you and when you are attempting to bargain back.
3. When bargaining, whenever possible, ADD to what is being offered, rather than offering less. For example, instead of 4 mangoes or avocados, add 1 or 2 to the group, and offer the same amount.
4. When bargaining, buy more than one item from the same vendor, for example bargaining for both cauliflower and broccoli with the same vendor. Another example: the gigantic papaya was priced at $2.50 and the oranges were 8/$1 - we bargained for both asking for the papaya at $2 and 10 (not 8) oranges for the $1.
5. Always with a pleasant smile on your face and a small frown when you hear that first price. Remember that "por favor" and "gracias" works wonders.
4. Have your money out, preferably exact change, and be ready to pay. (A bird in the hand...)
6. Go to several vendors, and find out what their going prices are. Often you will see other transactions happening so pay attention to what is being offered. Don't be afraid to experiment.
7. Be prepared to walk away if you feel the price is not right. There are many vendors offering the same thing. They will often call after you if they are willing to accept your offer.
8. Be fair, but also remember they won't sell you items for less than they wish to.
9. When you find a wonderful vendor, ask them their name, "¿Cómo te llamas?" Usually they respond so sweetly and will ask you your name too. Most likely, then you will enjoy engaging in some other friendly conversation with them. And remember where they are and go back to them!
10. Have fun!
I'm sure others will have even more helpful hints. We enjoy our mercado shopping excursions, and try to do as much of our shopping at the mercados as possible.