I would have to disagree.
For one thing, I dislike how this advice perpetuates a me vs. them mentality. It's almost as if it would lead the traveler to think that all the locals are out to cheat him, so he needs to protect himself and his wallet at all times.
For example, we wouldn't expect to bargain for bangles in my town.
Tourists come in, knowing very little of Malaysian culture, but they realize that everything is "cheap" according to their standards, and because they've read that they need to bargain, they do, and try to get everything even cheaper. Clumsily and horribly and not according to any Malaysian rules of bargaining I've ever heard of.
You know how to get good deals in Malaysia? Relationships. Relationships are far more important than any of your so-called bargaining skills. While you may save 3 RM here and 8 RM there by some hard bargaining at the night market, you lose any possibility of building a relationship with the vendor. At certain types of shops, you don't bargain. There's a set price, and you pay that price. You don't frustrate the shopkeeper and teach him to disdain you by asking for a discount when there's none to be had. You don't bargain for fried rice, I guarantee you that. At other types of shops, when you're buying something a little pricier, or when you're buying something in bulk, you can ask, "Best price?" They may give you a better price than the one on the sticker, or they may say no discounts allowed, depending on the shop's policy. If you can't afford that price, you walk away. Loyalty is very important. My family has been buying their groceries from the same families for years. These days, the lady selling fruit always slips an extra apple or an orange into the bag. That's the loyal customer privilege, you see. The average tourist coming in from the street, who doesn't know her by name or recognize her family members is not going to get 10 apples for the price of 9. My family always goes to the same silver jewelry store. All we have to do is walk inside and we're immediately recognized and offered a 15% discount. My Auntie has been taking me to the same sari shop for nearly a decade, and she's been taking her own family there for a few decades before me--we don't pay sticker price there. Auntie doesn't because she's built a relationship with that shop over many years, and I don't because I'm part of Auntie's family.
Angel's beloved pewter cup was discounted because the shop owner apparently loves my dad.
So, what's the traveler who neither wants to throw away money nor alienate all the local people to do?
1. Keep your hands where your money is. Do this no matter what country you're in (including your own). Don't be an easy target for thieves.
2. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. I've noticed tourists usually want to buy some sort of locally made art or handicrafts. Some of these are reproduction, cheap knick-knacks and it's pretty obvious that they are by looking at them--they should be priced accordingly. But, if you'd ever seen the beautiful, time-consuming, difficult process that goes into creating a well-done handpainted batik, you'd stop haggling over the price of that scarf or tablecloth and pay the price that it's worth.
3. Be aware of your surroundings. If the 3 people checking out ahead of you were locals who didn't bargain, don't be silly and start bargaining.
4. Build relationships. There often is a "friends and family" price, but let me tell you--if you aren't "friends and family," you don't deserve the price. Think about it. In your home country, a small business owner may well charge her sister less for her services than she'd charge the random stranger. But as a random stranger, you don't think you deserve the sister price, do you? Ask friends who know the area what prices to expect. There's a taxi driver or two out there who might want to fleece you, but if you know that it ought to cost 15 RM. to get from your hotel to the mall, you're not going to risk exasperating the honest driver who asks for 15 RM with unreasonable bargaining.
I'm not saying that there's no region in the world where you should always in every case involving some kind of expenditure try to drive a hard bargain. I've yet to see such a place, but it could exist. However, consider that it's possible that that's not at all true in the country you're planning to visit, and show some respect to the small family business in a country that's not your home. What if, while you were traveling, it was not your goal to get as much as possible for as little expenditure as possible, but, instead, to be a blessing to the people who live in the country that you're blessed to visit? How could you act in such a way to make them glad you came?
What do you think about this matter of bargaining while traveling?