My friend Jake called me up yesterday, giddy as a schoolgirl as he tends to get, to tell me that he just had a “win” with Cebu Pacific Airlines over a fare discrepency. I asked him the story and it clearly was a win as Jake just simply beat the agent down with relentless banter to the point where the guy just couldn’t take it anymore and gave in-a trick he clearly learned from me. A win is a term that we have deemed for any success that you have in negotiating or getting your way to save money related to or when traveling. A win could be anything, from haggling down the price of a souvenier to the price of a rental car or saving money on an airline when they tried to screw you. A win feels good and sometimes it is all you have to keep sanity in remote places as sometimes numbers are the only English that native people may speak because it relates to their business. Even if a win requires you squabbling over what is in reality insignificant pennies, it is still a win, and you’ve fulfilled your touristic duties.

I like to think that I am pretty good at winning. In fact, I love to win. I don’t really care what it is I just like to bargain and haggle and win-even if just a little. I’ve gone entire trips just winning. Jake and I took a long trip in Central America and literally everyday we won. We won with taxi drivers, with hotels, hostels, bars, restaurants and anything else that you could possibly haggle over. These confrontations are usually very quick too. They don’t last long because you have all the power in the negotiation. However, I can think of one notable times where we didn’t win on that trip.

First, we had just taken a bus from Copan Ruinas, Honduras through a little bit of Guatemala to the El Salvador border and our goal was to get to San Salvador that night so we could actually get some sleep and be in a somewhat civilized place. I don’t remember the name of the border town but it wasn’t the most pleasant of places and there was only one taxi driver. Naturally I stepped up and tried to bargain him down from his demand of $50 to drive us 2 hours to the capital. I was talking because I speak Spanish. There were also no busses available.

I tried my hardest with this guy and he wouldn’t budge. We even tried the walking away technique which worked to no avail because there were no other options. He just kept sitting there and telling me that there were no other drivers and he was the only option with this wry smile on his face. That of course infuriated me and I kept trying. At this point it wasn’t even about the money but moreso I needed to win. To make a long and painful story short, I lost. I remember Jake laughing at me because that was the first time I can recall ever losing and I was a little bummed about it-clearly I’ve gotten over it since, haha. However, that loss was a reminder that winning can only happen when you are in a position of power and we had none in that situation.

This is why Jakes win yesterday with an airline was so impressive. Getting an agent to give him a published internet fare that he couldn’t purchase online because the Philippines doesn’t work like normal places when purchasing online is extremely gratifying and is very unusual because the airline has all the power. What is he going to do, swim to Boracay-no he has to fly and would have been forced to pay what they were demanding but somehow he pulled it out-good job.

Winning makes the world go round. Whether it be in your everyday life or certainly when traveling, it feels good to save a little and in fact win. Haggling goes all the way back to the beginning of time and if you are good at it and certainly persistent, you can save a lot of money and actually start to enjoy it. In certain areas of the less developed world, it is the only language that people understand and a way of life and business. Remember, you wouldn’t buy a house or a car without haggling a little, and when you’ve gotten that price lowered you feel like you’ve gotten a good deal. Whether you have or not doesn’t actually matter, it’s the illusion of winning that makes you feel OK about it.

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  1. gotta love the WIN, even if i do get giddy as a school girl

  2. I found recently that booking domestic Philippines air tickets is a pain because the online sites will not accept a US-issued credit card. I called the Philippine Tourist Office, on Fifth Avenue, and they put me in touch with a NY-based travel agency, specializing in Philippine travel, and they booked the tickets (no surcharge).

  3. Michael, did that travel agency honor the rates you saw on the internet?

  4. Yes, the tickets (Manila -> Davao -> Cebu -> Manila) were very cheap, but remember that the rates quoted on Cebu Pacific’s website are pre-tax, which can quadruple the fare.

  5. For sure Michael, even with taxes, Cebu Pacific is much much cheapers than the other airlines. I am looking at purchasing a ticket from Taipei to Manila, it’s about $80usd after taxes one-way on Cebu Pacific and the next cheapest is PAL at $195usd…. What is the phone # of the travel agency? Did you get paper tickets or e-tickets?

  6. btw Lee, nice pic! haha

  7. Thx, only pic I could find of people bargaining that fit

  8. Excellent story today, I have been reading your site for a while now and this is the first time I’ve commented. Thats a funny story you told from El Salvador and I admire how you admitted you got had by that taxi driver and good for him-I’m sure he needed the money more than you did. I also like the term “win” and can really relate to it as I travel quite a bit myself and it does always feel good when you “win”! Also, good for Jake because I hate the airlines as I know most people do.

  9. Brilliant story, I completely agree

  10. I love this article, I travel a lot and couldn’t agree more about feeling good about a win!

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