By Ana Valenzuela, InterAksyon.com · Tuesday, September 4, 2012 · 8:42 am
One of the best places to hit for wholesale or bulk shopping at very affordable prices is Divisoria, the bargain shopping district in Manila. Old-timers say that September is the best time to drop by for your early holiday preparations as October is when the early Christmas crowd really starts to throng the streets everyday till December.
Not to worry, there are several gift-worthy items even as early as September. If you intend to do some baking—fruitcake, anyone?—walk towards Sto. Cristo Street for baking materials and items, including flour, butter, margarine, even dried fruits by the bulk. For wholesale t-shirts, wrapping paper, ribbons, shoes, Christmas decor—practically everything—just stroll along the length of Juan Luna Street. If you’re looking for native crafts to give away or as part of your holiday packages, Tabora Street is the go-to place.
Of course, if you still prefer the comforts of an air-conditioned mall, Divisoria has establishments such as 168, Tutuban Mall, Divisoria Mall, Cluster Mall, and Prime Block. You can still haggle in these malls’ shops though merchandise here is sold at a slightly higher price than the one you’d find on Divisoria’s streets.
But, it is not just money you’ll need: some preparation and a sense of adventure are also key to enjoying the experience despite the huge crowd occupying the streets and its main malls.
Have a game plan. The thought of braving crowded Divisoria might discourage you to return for a second time. So be sure to accomplish everything you want during your shopping trip. Prepare a list. Who are on your gifts list this year? Jot down what you want to get for them and where to source their presents in Divisoria. Plan your route, check the Internet for maps and articles on the shopping district.
Keep safe and secure. Divisoria is not just the stomping ground of bargain shopper but it’s also a favorite spot for pickpockets. Leave that signature bag at home and drop the urge to look like an artista. Wear simple, comfortable clothes. Bring a simple, plain bag instead, preferably a big one with easy compartments for the items you’ll be shopping for. Bring an extra foldable tote.
Wear your bag in front of you. Remember, you’ll be transacting your purchases using money and not with a credit card, so be sure to keep your wallet close to your body. Don’t put your bag on the floor even for a minute and if you have to dine in a restaurant, always put your bag on the table and never underneath it.
For car owners, whether parked on the street or in a mall, put your shopping bags inside the trunk where it’s not exposed to bystanders.
Check the quality. Yes, Divisoria is bargain haven but it also pays to check the quality of the item before making your actual purchase. Don’t buy from the fist store you see. Go through other stores to compare the quality of items and prices.
For instance, items like plates or figurines could be cheaper than others because of factory defects. Check if a dress is made of sturdy fabric and its buttons are all in place. See how the soles of a stylish pair of shoes are fastened to the upper part of the footwear.
Do the haggle. Anytime you’re in Divisoria, it isn’t just your eyes at work, but also your gift of tongue as you would need to bargain for the right price. Don’t haggle immediately, make a connection with the vendor first. Remain polite but definite when negotiating.
Once, I found a pair of shoes worth P150, the lowest price the shop owner can offer is P120. I said “P80?” A few minutes later, I was able to convince her to sell the item at the price that I was willing to pay for.
When haggling, the best person to strike a deal with would always be the owner. According to a stall owner in Prime Block Building, “Kasi yung may-ari ng stall yung nakakaalam kung hanggang magkano. Kahit na yung sales ladyalam nila na yun na yung last price, pag sobrang tumal, pwede pang bawasan para magkabenta lang, babawasan.”
Know your boundaries. Finally, and obviously, when a street peddler waves a sign that screams, “Tapat na po,” don’t push it—it just means move on.