Bartering is very much a part of shopping here but there are rules. Start low, perhaps at half the asking price. Say you are buying a shawl and you see one you like. Look at a variety of shawls, careful to not let on that you really like that deep purple wool wrap. Then justify your price: there are loose threads, this color is a little faded, the stitching is uneven. You go back and forth until "Last price." Shrug, walk away. Say, "It is too much." They'll call you back. "When they start to wrap your purchase," Joie explained, "you can be sure they'll sell it for your price."
The first time I really bartered was in Delhi with an old woman selling dusty old tapestries. A blue design caught my eye. I got hot and sweaty trying to convert rupees to dollars to dinars to decide whether or not I really wanted to pay that much for a dusty old tapestry. A woman overheard the asking price and unleashed a stream of Hindi reprimanding the old woman for trying to rob me. Finally, my brother rescued me and pulled me away. He and Joie gave me a few tips and I returned, shaking my head, asking to see more, shrugging, adding another (slightly less dusty and old) tapestry to the deal, and paying a price that was still probably a little too high. But then again, the old woman followed me down the sidewalk, saying, "You are happy, you are happy" and I looked at her two rotting teeth and thought So what if I could whittle this down another two hundred rupees? and bought the two pieces.