My friends and I stumbled on the concept of sport bargaining, or catch-and-release haggling recently while lording it over the natives in Bali, Indonesia.

After bargaining for the required half hour, it is entirely possible to get a Balinese merchant to agree to a third or so of his asking price, especially if he has not yet made a sale that day (this is the famous "morning price," given as a loss leader so that the seller will enjoy good luck for the rest of the day).

When the money is actually exchanged, simply give the seller his next-to-last asking price or a little more, with a big smile, and tell him that the rest is to ensure your own luck. No-one is insulted, everyone is happy.

Granted, this practice smacks of noblesse oblige, and is not particularly enlightened in a western economic hegemony sense, but it takes a bit of the sting out of the encounter. It also allows one to bargain hard, which is expected in Bali. If you insist on your first offer, you are being insulting, but if you pay the first asking price, you are unworthy of respect.

The marketplace conveys tremendous power on the buyer in Bali, because almost anything you can buy there can be bought from a dozen other stalls within sight. It makes no difference to you, whereas to the seller it means food and petrol for him as opposed to food and petrol for the seller at that other store; he is 100% invested in your buying from him. Time and again I saw this power inspire ugliness in tourists, who will stalk away in a rage from a man who dares to ask $20 for a month’s work when they suspect they can get it for $18 next door. Sometimes this tourist was me.

My own shame is that it didn't occur to me until I had returned that the sums I had paid for my mahogany and ebony wood carvings went, at least in part, to reward someone who had taken a chainsaw to the rainforest in nearby Borneo. Asia is a moral minefield.