Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The art of bargaining

"How much does this cost?"

My mom and I were at Pondy Bazaar, one of the main shopping areas in Chennai. We were at a roadside shop, one of many which thrive thanks to the overwhelming crowds there. The article of interest was a foldable magazine holder made of wooden strips. Mom had zeroed in on this, and popped up the question.

"375 rupees" was the reply.

My mom (and most other women) has this ability to judge the value of an article perfectly,by just looking at one. She knew that this would not be worth more than 150 bucks, and braced for a bout of bargaining. It was amazing to watch her play this out :) She looked disappointed and surprised and waved her hand indicating that she was not satisfied. "Why are you quoting such a high price? I can only give 150 for this."

"Ma,am, for your sake, I am reducing the price by 25 rupees. Please pay up 350! Besides, this is imported material; you can see how strong and durable this is". The vendor opened and closed the holder to prove his point. He then went a notch up - he picked up 200 rupees from his pocket, and claimed -
"Ma'am, this was the amount that another lady just paid for a smaller version of this same stuff. This is a larger version and is worth a lot more".
My mom, not to be let down, retorted -
"Such people are those who have money in plenty and who splurge. I can give you only 150". (At this point, I could not help but laugh quietly :) )
"Ma'am, I'm sorry... Your price is not feasible".
"Fine.. Keep it with yourself."

Then she played her trump card - she began to walk away, with me mutely following. Women use this technique so effectively against vendors. I personally don't prefer this, since I'm afraid that I wouldn't get this product elsewhere and won't be called back again by the vendor. But my mom simply knew that the vendor would agree to her price. Sure enough, he called out.
"Ma'am, give 250 and take it."
My mom returned - "No way, I'll settle for nothing more than 150"
"200 maam"
The deal was done. My mom handed over 200 rupees, with a touch of disappointment. She later reaffirmed to me that the holder was not worth more than 150. At almost half the quoted price, an article had been bought.

Men generally hate to bargain, which is why we shop at retail shops and malls where bargaining is pretty much ruled out. What would I have done in such a scenario? At the maximum, I would've bought the article at 20 rupees lesser than the original quoted price. When will we ever learn to bargain effectively? :)