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Do you haggle at the farmers market?


Kent Wang
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In China, haggling is assumed. One can often get the price down by around 20%. Is it acceptable to haggle at farmers markets in America and other parts of the world? I certainly have never seen anyone haggle at the markets in Austin.

I rather enjoy haggling. It's a psychological game that keeps one's negotiation skills sharp.

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I rather enjoy haggling. It's a psychological game that keeps one's negotiation skills sharp.

Me too. But not at the farmers' market. I don't even like to pay a reduced price for what we used to call "salsa tomatoes." I guess haggling would be acceptable if you were buying in quantities -- and then it would be a qty. discount, not a haggle.

It just seems disrespectful to me. Negotiating for a new car? Yeah. For an ear of corn? No.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Maybe if you get there just before closing time and they're trying to get rid of stuff. In the Union Square farmers' market in Manhattan, some vendors cut prices themselves in order to get the inventory off their hands.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I totally haggle at the farmers market. Who's to say what that one ear of corn is worth at that very moment? The farmer! I find that this person to person interaction is what's most valuable about the farmers market. I don't find it a sign of disrespect, as long as the other person is interested..you can usually tell. If someone tells me they won't come down on the price at all I can tell they're not interested in haggling and thus I either choose to buy their product at full price or not at all--like in a supermarket. If they budge-- it's open season. Even if I just get a few cents off on some cherries or something I feel like it solidifies the bond between me and the farmer (me- someone who cares about the pricing to quality ratio of the products I chose to buy) and (the farmer- someone who understands that such an equasion exists)

Unless fruit is completely impeccible I rarely buy it for full price at the market, I also negotiate deep discounts for bruised fruits.

I think it's also a cultural thing, in certain places you would never consider NOT haggling, people would consider you a dupe. In some markets the products are deliberately overpriced in order to encourage haggling.

My Dad used to refer to the "pretty girl discount" when my sister and I would come home with our free or cheap goodies- if people were giving out cars- I doubt he would have been so lighthearted...

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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You never know until you try. Everyone loves to makes that sale, and everyone wants a cheeper price... =p

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I may be in the gutter, but I am still staring at the stars.

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:sad: Haggling is one of the reasons I do not like to set up at a farmers market.

I am a farmer/artist - that is my occupation, my calling if you will, to work quietly, independently and artistically with nature on our farm.

But just like everyone else in the U.S. I am working to earn a living wage, put money away for the future, pay taxes, put my kids through school, pay insurance, medical and dental, make repairs or replace items around the home and business, you name the bill, I have one too.

I set my prices for a liveable income and that is it.

So for a soft spoken farmer/artist such as myself a farmers market where haggling is going on is a nightmare.

But that is just me, my artistic side feels rejected by people poking at things I have created from the earth, in an attempt to shame me into a lower price, I would rather just pack up and go home and eat the veggies and eggs myself.

But at the same time there are some farmers out there that are born to be entertaining salesmen and welcome the chance to engage in a friendly haggling session, that is their calling.

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With no disrespect to other cultures where haggling is expected and normal, I cringe any time I see someone trying to get a discount from a farmer. They work so hard for so little and generally price their wares very fairly, since they are also taking valuable time away from tending their crops to drive to the city and hope to sell out each week. Most of them throw in an extra pepper or piece of fruit for their regulars or someone who has bought a good amount from them anyway. And don't forget gas prices hurt them, too, since they almost have to drive trucks rather than hybrid cars to haul produce.

If I thought the hagglers were genuinely in need of a break, I guess I would feel differently. They're generally well-dressed, with hands that show no sign of hard manual labor, and often sporting a golf tan. I've actually overheard such people bragging about getting "a steal" from a farmer and it takes all of my self control not to belittle them loudly and publically.

I should add that most of my farmer friends are more like blue_egg_farmer - quiet, artistic and not the type who enjoy sport-haggling, so that probably colors my judgement.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Having spent more than a few years at Farmers' Markets, I'd say it depends whether it's appropriate.

If it's the end of the day and the items have a short shelf life, or you are buying a big quantity--it's fine to ask for something off--quite often the vendor will throw something in.

I sold soap and body care products, so I didn't have a spoilage factor, but I would usually offer a quantity discount or throw in something--but if someone aggressively tried to get my prices down I wouldn't sell to them at all.

And I would watch with amazement as customers from countries where haggling is an art would run the gentler farmers right into the ground to get deals--but i also know a few farmers who are a match for anybody.

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I hate haggling. I would never think of doing it at the Farmer's Market. I find the prices are fair and the food so much better than "store bought" that it's worth any difference.

I even bought my car at a no-haggle dealer.

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I agree with Judy:

With no disrespect to other cultures where haggling is expected and normal, I cringe any time I see someone trying to get a discount from a farmer.  They work so hard for so little and generally price their wares very fairly, since they are also taking valuable time away from tending their crops to drive to the city and hope to sell out each week.  Most of them throw in an extra pepper or piece of fruit for their regulars or someone who has bought a good amount from them anyway.  And don't forget gas prices hurt them, too, since they almost have to drive trucks rather than hybrid cars to haul produce.

I've haggled in other parts of the world, but here in New England, especially after a disastrously rainy spring, the last people in the world whom I want to give a hard time are the people who work so hard to bring such good food to my kitchen and table.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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No, I don't haggle at the farmers market. I've yet to see them offer an unfair price for a product. Besides, I want to see farmers make as much money as they can, it's not exactly the most lucrative career, yet such an important one. When growing up I would hang out on my grandparents' farm every summer, they worked so hard just to scrape out a living (most city folk would be appalled at how they lived). I'll gladly sacrifice a bit of my own money for these guys. I have recieved discounts before for buying in quantity, but have never once asked for a discount.

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I don't haggle at the Farmers Market. I appreciate what the farmers are doing and that they're trying to make a living, and I always pay the posted price. I too find that when I buy a large amount of something they usually throw something in, an in turn I always try to thank them with my return business.

But - I do haggle almost everywhere else in life. (One example is those 'pushcarts' that they have in the center as you walk through most Malls -I haggle like mad in those, and always get lower prices. But then again, these people aren't up at daybreak plowing fields for whatever profit they make on string beans.)

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Kent: It's interesting that you mention cultural differences in your very first thread. I hope more members who go to markets outside of North America respond.

Unless there is one farm that offers a unique or particularly superior item that I know I want that week, I make a trip around the entire market first to compare prices. While most farmers seem to conform to a given number, there is usually one stand that sells X for 50 cents less than anyone else and often someone who decides to charge a little more. And always, if you stick around to the very end, bargains are cried out by farmers packing up if there's a surfeit; prices are not lowered if nobody else has corn and there is only half a barrel left. You should also take the weather into account. If it's a tough growing season, I'd lower my expectations for deals.

Most farmers post special prices for large quantities, just like grocery stores. Colored peppers are just making their appearance, for example, and the farm run by Nina Planck's family has some of the best. $1.50 for a single tapered yellow pepper is an awful lot. However, you get 3 for $3, gosh, why not spend more to get 1 free! Sometimes when I want more than one of an item that is very expensive because its season is brief, if I ask about the price, a discount is offered without further prompting.

If it isn't, I don't haggle. I agree with the other posters who cite respect for farmers, especially since the farmer's market is the one place where growers get to cut out the middleman. I figure they are pricing items lower for restaurants and places like Whole Foods. Elsewhere on eGullet, I mentioned how one farmer from Maryland was charging more in D.C. than in Baltimore due to perceived differences in demographics (cost of living, etc.).

Volunteering is one way to lower the amount you spend at the market. Some farmers offer automatic discounts to you on the days you're helping out, the large operations, substantial ones; some don't and you find that out the first time you ask and don't press matters. More importantly, you get to know one another and get treated like a regular.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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like pontormo, i make a market walk before i buy anything too. but i look almost entirely at quality. i rarely find a substantial difference in cost. if there is one, and if the quality is equal or almost equal, then i'll probably go with the cheaper product, unless its a farmer i really like (though i never haggle ... too protestant). otherwise, buying the cheaper product only gets you right back into the commodity agriculture game of settling for a lesser product because of a slight savings.

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I prefer to avoid haggling. I do tend to visit the Farmer's Market towards the end of the day though, so I often receive discounts from vendors who don't want to haul their inventory back to the farm.

If I find a particular item to be overpriced, I simply choose to visit another stall, or the grocery.

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I don't like haggling, but that said, When the peaches are tiny, tomatoes, overpriced and over the hill and the corn wormy and far from the field etc.. I will haggle, in a heartbeat.

Ah! so you shop at the New York greenmarkets too? I'm sorry, but the prices at New York city greenmarkets are obscene compared to the prices at the supermarkets. In some places going to the greenmarket at all is a deal. Not so in New York. I don't feel like the farmers are getting off scoot free but still...

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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I'm sorry, but the prices at New York city greenmarkets are obscene compared to the prices at the supermarkets. In some places going to the greenmarket at all is a deal. Not so in New York. I don't feel like the farmers are getting off scoot free but still...

this gets to a really good point: why do we shop at farmers markets to begin with? some people do go there for bargains (direct from the factory discount!). some people go for quality (shaky at times). there's another reason, which is more philosophical: if you want the farmers to be there during the good times, you ought to support them during the bad (farming is not manufacturing and sometimes shit--weather, bugs, bad luck--happens). i admit that i'm not very good at this. i just can't bring myself to buy stuff that's not very good. but i do have my favorite farmers and i make a point of buying something from them every market--hopefully the best that they have on any given day

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Where I live, the alternative to the farmers markets is Whole Foods or the international markets. The prices at the farmers markets are nearly always better, as is the quality and selection. I'm not about to hasten the demise of someone like the local cherry farmer. (These people are a treasure. I can't even get sour cherries at WF or the fresh markets.) So I gladly pay full price. They will quite often knock the price down for quantity or say, "You know what, just take the rest of the squash before it wilts." I make sure to buy from that person again the next time.

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In Malaysia, we don't haggle when buying vegetables or meat unless of course if you're buying plenty , in which case they give you a discount. When you're buying fake handbags or anything else on the other hand... haggle haggle haggle (sometimes you can even get an 80% discount!)

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To Russ' point up-thread, it is true that one's motivation for shopping at the market to begin with undoubtedly affects the interaction with the farmers.

I've done CSAs in the past and the main reason I'm not in one at present is that I am traveling a lot this summer (plus I just enjoy going to markets and end up with too much food if I do both). When you're in a CSA you partner with the grower and share the risk - since you pay up-front, regardless of how things turn out. One year our growers were hit by a late-spring hail storm which bascially wiped out everything. They were desperate and heartbroken and feeling terrible for their customers. Fortunately everyone was understanding, other area farmers all chipped in transplants they had intended to sell at market, some even went to help replant. We got off to a late start but we got our full 20 weeks of produce and we all came away with a heightened respect for the vicissitudes of farming.

So when I go to the market, I feel the same sense of "we're all in it together." If the peaches aren't as perfect this year as they were last, I still buy some so they'll be there next year and the year after. If instead I left the market and went to the grocery to buy the mass-produced version that has been trucked across the country, they might be larger, less misshapen and spot-free, but they still wouldn't have the flavor of the local ones since they were selectively cultivated to look and travel well, rather than to taste good.

I went to a couple of green markets in NYC back in May and was surprised that they weren't any pricier than ours here in KC. Since the cost of most other things there are higher than here, it seemed oddly reasonable. Maybe just a different perspective, again, but given the acres of arable land around here versus in the NE, I would expect market prices to reflect a similar % mark-up as other goods and services.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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No no no. Even in Hawaii where the majority of the population is of Asian descent, I don't haggle -- and have obvserved very little haggling -- at farmers markets. Vendors often discount produce at the end of the day, or throw in some free stuff (ripe bananas, new items they'd like you to try) for regular customers, but it's their call.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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I don't haggle, it is just not part of my dispostion, but I find that regular customers often get a small discount or a little extra thrown in at the local markets.

Like some others have said, I usually do a quick walk through first to see what is available and looks good. I don't have a problem paying a premium for great quality. Sometimes I'll decide not buy something because the prices just seem too high, but usually I find something to buy. There's so much fantastic produce available right now that it is really a case of wanting to buy more than I can reasonably use.

Aside from the quality of products, I go to the markets because I like the atmosphere and style of shopping so price is not really the predominant factor for me.

Cheers,

Anne

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In India, haggling is a way of life for everything including produce. So yes, I have haggled at a wholesellers market (sabzi mandi) for sacks of oranges, cartons of pricey mangoes, and the first crop of cherries, or quibbled at the high prices the daily hawkers quote for tomatoes in the summer. Many a times, you can get quoted three times the price if you don't watch out. That said, I don't recall ever running a vendor/farmer into the ground for a freebie. The cart sellers who come around each morning (deliver to my doorstep) are such a convenience, and have such fresh produce that I gladly paid that extra amount for the time it saves me. But in India the prices also vary by neighborhood literally. So if you live in an upscale area, the prices are going to match. There are also bazaars held on different days in different neighborhoods where you can get anything under the sun for your household. Where I lived, I recall we had a "thursday bazaar" where you could find in-season vegetables and fruits for much cheaper. A final note, most vendors throw in a customary bunch of fresh coriander, tiny green chillis, and even a bunch or two of mint with your purchase (usually only in the winters or cooler months when coriander grows rampantly...it's expensive in the summer).

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