October 31, 2007


Shopping in India is a very interesting experience. Unless you are in a big mall or a chain store, you are EXPECTED to haggle. Pricing of any product factors in this haggling that all buyers do. So really, there is no face value to anything. Always a hidden cost.

The Seasoned Haggler
This is the one that all sellers beware of. They can sense them from a mile away. They know that on this particular sale, they are not going to make much of a profit. The buy/sell process goes something like this. (Comments in italics are my thoughts as I see this happen).
Buyer: How much?
Seller: 100 rupees.
Buyer: I'll give you nothing more than 20. (HUH!!)
Seller: No way, that doesn't even cover my cost.
Buyer: Yeah, I know how much this costs. These are made in my hometown. (Then why don't you buy them there??) Nothing more than 25, thats my final offer.
Seller: (Sensing no possibility and wanting to end conversation to proceed to next unsuspecting customer agrees) OK, thirty. But I am really making a zero profit on this. (Lies, of course)

The one that thinks he/she is a seasoned haggler
This kind is even more interesting. This sort of thing tends to happen more when people are out in groups and one thinks they can get a good deal for another. I've come across an incident where the buyer ended up paying more than the seller asked for simply due to linguistic issues. They were trying to bargain in a language they were not so familiar with. Numbers are especially hard to remember! And in Hindi, a couple of numbers sound so similar but one is 25 and the other 50. Needless to say, the seller made out on that sale.

The Sitting Duck
This is the kind that I classify myself under. Very bad at haggling, usually pays whatever is asked, might ask for 20 rupees less at best! This kind also, the seller can sense from miles away and will do anything possible to get that customer. I had an interesting experience a long time ago. I was in Chinatown in New York City. There was a street store selling bracelets, very ordinary but it caught my fancy. The guy told me they were 5 for $10. I didn't think they were worth it but wanted it anyway. So with great difficulty I forced myself to ask for half the price. Surprisingly the guy readily agreed and I was quite pleased with my bargaining skills! A few yards down the street, there were many more stores selling the same thing and one of the guys asked me how much I had paid for them ( I liked them so much that I wore them on my hands immediately) and I said a dollar apiece. He actually laughed out loud and said that they sell them for 25 cents a piece! I was so angry, annoyed and most of all terribly embarassed and quickly walked away from there.

I'd like to believe that I've gotten a little better at it now. Especially over the last couple of months since I've had to deal with sellers of various products for our home. There is a thirll that you get when you've got a reduced rate for something. But wouldn't it be easier if people just sold it at the right price in the first place?

Easier for sure, but not as much fun say the seasoned ones.

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