Bargain is not common in some countries, but in Vietnam it really is. In Vietnam, bargaining is always worthwhile. Yet, it is not always due to the fact that the local have a great deal of time and very little money. Bargaining is part of Vietnamese culture as through bargaining people communicate with others, create and build up their relationship, not to mention a form of entertainment.
Why You Should Bargain
There are a few good arguments for engaging in epic arguments over prices, though the most pragmatic one might be a simple case study in economics.
In Vietnam, there is no social taboo against asking directly how much something cost. This is cultural standard, and if you pay too much someone will tell you.
When And Where To Bargain
Not every price is negotiable. Many legitimate taxi companies will only charge metered fares, and it would be in poor taste to try and talk your waiter into giving you a better price at a restaurant. So when and where do you start haggling?
A good rule of thumb is that if something has a price tag on it, the cost is non-negotiable. This includes restaurants, where prices are usually listed on menus or signs. Brick and mortar stores (as opposed to market stall) also typically have fixed prices.
Bargaining is a game, not a fight to the death
You should always enter into negotiations in a good frame of mind and a with a sense of humour. If an offer is too high, laugh it off, don't get furious. Make a joke and counter offer; if in turn you are being unreasonable the trader will try to push you in the right direction. Feel free to try again, raising your bid, but keep in mind the real change in value - at the end of the day there is little point negotiating over less than a dollar.
Bargain in Vietnam
Don't take it personally
A market trader's job is to maximise profits, and fixed prices don't always exist in Vietnam outside supermarkets. It is only natural for a trader to 'have a go' and see what they can get, and it is in no way an affront to you. The attitude in Vietnam is that if you take a higher price they've had a lucky day, and if they take the correct price they didn't lose anything in trying - there is nothing personal about it.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that everyone is out to overcharge foreigners, either - Vietnamese people are just as likely to be overcharged, at least initially, and some local people can't stand haggling either.
Consider the real value of an item
A trader will always try to sell for as much as they can get, usually because they don't earn a great deal and could use the extra money. Most travellers arrive in Vietnam with significant amounts of money in Vietnamese terms, and benefit from the low cost of food, hotels and souvenirs in the country. Take a moment to consider how lucky you are.
Remember that even if a product is 'overpriced' it is still generally cheaper than at home; indeed this may be your only chance to buy it - if you pay a few dollars more than the next man, will you really worry about it in years to come? If the product means something to you and the trader won't budge, perhaps you should just buy it rather than regretting it later. If you don't need it that badly then just walk away.
Walking away is one of the most powerful tools a shopper has when bargaining, and the market trader's reaction speaks volumes. If you have offered a fair price and been rejected the trader will normally call you back and agree - if they couldn't care less then it is probably you that is being unreasonable. If you realise you were pushing too hard, don't feel too proud to come back either, there is no shame in paying the correct price!
Know when to quit
If you are quibbling over less than 10,000 VND, stop. If you are beginning to lose your rag, stop. If you are thirsty, go get a drink and come back refreshed. If the trader is obviously just particularly stubborn, walk away - you are bound to find another person selling the same thing not far away.
Avoid it all together?
Bargaining is a game and should be fun for both parties. If you're not enjoying it, stop. If you can't bargain without losing your temper, don't - just pay the price requested. Most travellers will have saved $1,000s to visit Vietnam, and yet some will let one disagreement over less than $1 for a motorbike ride ruin their day - a complete waste of their limited time in the country. Pay the price asked - your trip will still be cheap compared to travelling anywhere outside Asia, and you will enjoy yourself an awful lot more.