India Travel Safety

How to Avoid the 3 Most Common Shopping Scams in India

Being overcharged, given wrong change, and high-pressure sales tactics are the 3 most common shopping scams for tourists to India. The first two I still deal with every week being a foreigner living in India. Here’s how to avoid these scams.

Being Overcharged

When I first worked this scam out, I realised that two stores I frequented daily were overcharging me! One of them was a small shop at the end of a lane in Karol Bagh, New Delhi. I’d go there and buy a bunch of small food items and the cashier was scanning the products into the computer and then rounding up the bill by 20 or 30 rupees and never giving me a receipt, so I never saw the real amount.

I cottoned onto this scam when I only bought 2 items that I knew the prices of and realised he was adding more to the bill. You have to know the price of everything you’re buying and roughly add it up in your head, so you know roughly what the total will be. Luckily, that’s easy thanks to a consumer protection in India called Maximum Retail Price (MRP).

Maximum Retail Price (MRP) highlighted in red on a drink bottle and back box of sweets.
Maximum Retail Price (MRP) highlighted in red on a drink bottle and back box of sweets.

Every packaged product in India must, by law, have an MRP printed on it. It’s illegal for a shopkeeper to charge more than the MRP. Always check the MRP before paying to make sure they’re not overcharging you. If they are, point to the MRP – they all know the MRP laws. This law does not apply to items sold loosely, without packaging, such as fruit.

Wrong Change

A Mother Dairy store in New Delhi. Photo by Alan Morgan.
A Mother Dairy store in New Delhi. Photo by Alan Morgan.

The Mother Dairy store on that same street in Karol Bagh was also scamming me. I’d buy sweet lassi and milk from this little hole in the wall dairy and the cashier would never give me change. After I learnt about MRP, I realised he was only scamming me out of 10 or so rupees each time, but it’s the principle – he thought it was ok to shortchange foreigners.

Always know, at least roughly, how much change you should be receiving.

High-Pressure Sale Tactics

Certain stores, usually ones strangers and taxi drivers will take you to because they earn a fat commission, employ high-pressure sales tactics which can be very intimidating. The salesman will start bringing you lots of different products to look at and asking you constantly if you like them. Sometimes they’ll offer you chai and biscuits too. They make you seem very welcome until you decide not to buy something. Then they put the pressure on, “Madame, you must buy something.” They’ll even raise their voices and put a furious look on their faces.

Do not be threatened by these crooks and their high-pressure tactics. Tell them “No thank-you” and leave immediately, you are not obliged to buy anything – especially at the massively inflated prices these scam shops charge.

One skill you must have before shopping in India is bargaining, and it’s not as hard as you think. My India Survival Guide (Quick-Start Survival Guide) breaks it down into 3 simple steps, allowing you to surprise everyone and make massive savings.

Note: the ladies in this article’s feature image have nothing to do with scams, it’s just a beautiful photo of a local Sari store in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.

By Karl Rock

Karl Rock, is a Hindi speaking Kiwi ex-pat who take viewers behind the scenes of incredible India and its neighbours. He has visited every state and union territory in India, and its culturally similar neighbours – Pakistan and Bangladesh, and aims to make others fall in love with India and the subcontinent.

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