Nickel and dimed to death: A master's class in haggling

When I was in sixth grade, my parents took me to a conference in Mexico City. Wandering through the markets and buying things from street vendors, I was amazed to discover that prices weren't always set in stone. Unlike salespeople in department stores, street vendors expected me to bargain, to demand a better deal. I took to haggling like a fish in water.

Having gone shopping with some world-class hagglers, I won't claim to be anything but a rank amateur. Still, every so often, when I find myself in an open-air market, I like to try my hand at horse trading. Although I'm not all that good at it, haggling is one of those things that, if it goes well, makes you feel like you've won a little victory. Even if you've only shaved a dollar or two off the price of an item, the hard-fought battle makes it a little more dear.

Recently, I visited Tijuana Mexico for the first time and received a master's class in haggling, which is a nice way of saying that I ended up a little black and blue. Used to the relatively restrained tactics of Eastern European or South Asian vendors, I wasn't ready for the hard-knock, balls-to-the-wall methods of Tijuana's salespeople. To put it mildly, wheeling and dealing in Tijuana is a bloodsport. That having been said, I emerged with my skin (more or less) intact, along with a renewed respect for some of the basic rules of haggling: