We, the Bargaining Masters

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“If you don’t get what you want, it’s a sign either that you did not seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price”   —Anonymous

As I made my way through the crowded lanes of a nearby market picking up my daily groceries and other tit bits, my eyes rested upon this uptown woman fighting with a local subziwallah for a discount on the vegetables she had picked up. Her well dressed chauffeur held her bags as she made her way into her swanky car grumbling about the over priced vegetables. I then wondered if the vegetables were overpriced or if her Honda Accord was overpriced?

The incident reminded me of yet another stark reality of our lives; bargaining! Bargaining for us has become as essential as the oxygen that we breathe. No matter what our financial status is, what we are buying, or from where we are buying; we are always on a lookout to save at least few bucks. Many times I’ve tried to reason out this behavioural pattern. Time and again I’ve drifted into a thinking mode as to why we all have this bargaining streak within us and we start this practice like pre-instructed robots. Do we enjoy bargaining or is it the fact that we think (or probably they are also) everything is overpriced in our country?

Shopping for accommodation, transportation, groceries and other paraphernalia is an everyday struggle for both consumers and vendors. Shopping is no longer a rejuvenating experience for women or a way for men to impress their girls. It has become a truly heart thumping and a pulse accelerating experience. Considering how much we all bargain these days and the tactics we apply, we have put behind economics and communication gold medallists. As we search for things in various markets and slip into our second personality, we realise that prices can always be negotiated, we just need to try different words and means.

One thing that I’ve realised over the time is that we have become tourists in our own country. The shopkeepers inflate the price, the way they do for our foren atithis such that even after making our throats hoarse, they get the price they had been meaning to charge us anyways. The shopkeepers always know the price of their goods and they know that customers will definitely bargain for prices, hence very slyly they raise the prices and then come down still making a profit. For those with poor or no bargaining skills, every moment spent in a market is nothing less than saving yourself from the prowling werewolves.

The most harrowing experience is trying to catch an autorickshaw or the cycle operated rickshaws. Since these people operate on their own, they think that they can charge anything from the needy customer. Leaving a few exceptions, none of the auto rickshaw-wallahs are willing to run according to meter. Tantrum throwing and charging astronomical fares are everyday phenomena now. They know the worth of their services and the dire need of the poor travellers, so it gives them ample reason to exploit the situation.

Many times I’ve also noticed that if a customer steps out of his car to buy things or is well dressed, the prices become more exorbitant. Believe me when I say that these days I go out shopping for veggies and fruits in my most ordinary clothes and prefer to walk than to take my modest car out, after all I’m just trying to save myself few of my precious notes. Here I would also like to warn the young and the docile, they are considered to be naïve and oblivious of the world so they are direct targets of the cunning hawkers. Even if you do not have any idea about the prices and the like, just don the acting hat for a while and pretend to be a daily and an experienced shopper.

My story doesn’t end here; there is other facet also to this bargaining story. If the customers are haggled by the shopkeepers, then our desi aunties also leave no stones unturned to take their revenge. They have the capability to bring down the price which is below the stipulated one. They go on and on and on much to the chagrin of the shopkeepers and even other customers. These are those people who bargain even at places where the prices are fixed and set. Nothing can satisfy such people who bargain just for the heck of it and is their favourite pastime.

So be it rich class, middle or poor; we all bargain. Bargaining has become an inevitable part of our lives; sometimes wanted and sometimes just out of habit. Shopkeepers and customers may be on different paths but their paths do intersect leaving them at loggerheads with each other at all times. While we all know that there are huge profit margins and hence a scope for bargaining, we must also not forget that even shopkeepers are there to run a business. Hence, even we as customers must respect their space and try not to cross our bargaining limits. So happy shopping you guys and let’s see how much you can save!

Shikha Tandon

[Image courtesy: http://z.about.com/d/gohongkong/1/0/n/0/-/-/3Mongkokresidentialedit.JPG]

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