To live a full experience in Latin America, you have to learn to bargain! Regatear is how we say ‘to bargain’ in Spanish, and it’s a very common practice in these countries (including Colombia, of course).
To bargain “regatear” is part of the entrepreneurial spirit of Latin Americans. If you get the opportunity to travel here, you will be able to discover this phenomenon in all small and informal markets: the lady talking to the fruit seller trying to persuade him for a higher discount, in the next corner, an older gentleman saying that elsewhere he saw the same product cheaper, or the guy persuading a handcraft salesman to give him that lovely necklace to celebrate his girlfriend’s birthday with the promise that if he gets a discount he will return to that same store to buy crafts for his mom. This is part of us, this is part of our culture!
If we go back to the etymological origin, we find that the word comes from the Latin verb captare which means to catch, take, capture. According to scholars, evolution went to the verb recaptare.
Something curious in the context of sales in Latin America (small and informal markets) is some vocabulary; for example, the sellers can call you love, king, prince, queen, (amor, rey, principe, reina) and many others you will find different and funny. This is part of the culture of making you feel closer to them; they will make you feel at home! I remember an experience in “El Hueco” (set of warehouses located in the center of downtown Medellín) during the crazy shopping period before Christmas, where a foreigner was confused at the bombardment of compliments in a clothing store; something so new to him, that we were able to see it in his eyes. With this information, I want to prepare you so you can enjoy the real experience in Colombian and Latin markets. Now, without further addition, we will check some useful sentences to learn how to bargain “regatear” and sound like an expert.
The first thing we need to understand is the basic phrases we use in a market:
- ¿Cuánto cuesta?
- ¿Cuánto vale?
- ¿Cuánto es?
Three different ways of expressing the same: how much does it cost? Then, for expressing if something is expensive or cheap you say: es caro or es barato.
Another important word you need to know is veci. This is an expression we use for the sellers and sometimes they use it with the clients. In Latin American, it’s a cool way of making you feel comfortable, and try to create a closer relationship.
After knowing this and once you know the price, you can start to bargain! Some useful expressions are:
- ¿Y en cuánto me lo va a dejar? This expression is to persuade the seller to make a discount and works better when you are buying more than one article.
- Veci ¿Y cuál es la rebaja? This one is similar to the previous one
- No veci, no me alcanza: With this expression you are saying you don’t have enough money for buying the item, it’s a good way to persuade the seller to make a discount or special offer.
- En otro lugar lo ví más barato: You are expressing you saw the same article in another place but with a cheaper price, which is a good strategy to convince the seller to make a good offer.
- Veci, hagame un descuento para volver: This is a very powerful phrase to convince the seller because you’re saying that if you get a discount you’ll come back, and for the seller, it’s always very important to have new clients coming back.
Another two useful words you can easily hear in a market that you can use for expressing more emotion and sound like a native, are: ‘una ganga’ (this means a very good price, when something is a ganga, it’s very cheap), ‘un robo’ (you can hear this expression in this context when someone wants to express something is crazy expensive).
A very useful tip or recommendation when talking about informal markets like Paloqueamado (a huge market square located in Bogotá, where you can find anything) is to arrive early. For one, you will find fresh products, and two, you will be one of the first customers of the day and due to this, it will be more able to “regatear” and obtain discounts on your favorite products.
Trivia – Crosswords
- 1. Set of warehouses located in the center of Medellin
- 3. From what Latin word comes the term meaning “to bargain”
- 4. Informal way to express something is very cheap
- 6. Informal way to express something is crazy expensive
- 2. Informal way to express something is crazy expensive
- 5. Large market located in Bogotá
- 6. A way in which sellers call customers which is also the superior male position in a kingdom
Audio to practice
You might want to check our article Shopping in Spanish: paying in stores, supermarkets, and restaurants as it will help you with your shopping too.
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Written by Lorena, professor at Whee.