Escape! Malaysia - - Contents -

Learn the art of hag­gling down in In­dia to en­sure the best bang for your buck


It may feel in­tru­sive, ex­ploita­tive or even em­bar­rass­ing to be seen hag­gling over a pur­chase. But for many In­di­ans, and our South East Asian cousins, bar­gain­ing is not so much plea­sure or sport as much as it’s a life skill. Bar­gain­ing is but street-par­lance for an­other, more com­fort­able term – ne­go­ti­at­ing. The skills are the same; only, a suit in a board­room is re­placed by a hawker on a sunny street. To start with, hag­gling is not a hus­tle, it’s an art. It is the sin­gle-minded pur­suit of ex­tract­ing more bang for each buck. Ask any busi­ness­man and he will agree: The true value of an item is what you pay for it. Bar­gain­ing doesn’t stand for driv­ing down prices or rip­ping off a ven­dor. It means ar­riv­ing at a de­ci­sion that keeps both par­ties happy. This holds true for In­dia and its street mar­kets, which sell every­thing from fresh veg­eta­bles to an­tique fur­ni­ture. Vet­eran shop­pers can, and have, fur­nished their homes, wardrobes and fridges from the bazaars of In­dia. Re­mem­ber that prices are of­ten in­flated for you to de­flate. If you plan to spend time in a bazaar (and I hope you do, it is an ex­pe­ri­ence not to be for­got­ten). Here’s my step-by-step guide to steal a deal.

1. Do your re­search be­fore­hand and set your ex­pec­ta­tions straight. Find out (on­line is the eas­i­est way) the cur­rent re­tail and street prices for the things you are shop­ping for. This will help you set your high­est and low­est tar­get price.

2. A note on cloth­ing: In­dia is a man­u­fac­tur­ing hub for many in­ter­na­tional cloth­ing brands that rou­tinely re­ject minute or non-ex­is­tent man­u­fac­tur­ing de­fects, or have a sur­plus of sup­ply to deal with. So the Zara top you find at a road­side stall is prob­a­bly not a fake or a knock off, but an orig­i­nal piece. Our gain!

3. When you find an item you like, get your poker face on. Don’t let the ven­dor see your de­light.

4. This is a golden rule: Let the ven­dor quote a price first, even if it is writ­ten on the prod­uct or hung on a board above. Then counter it with a price semi-to-com­pletely dras­ti­cally lower than your ideal price, de­pend­ing on your appetite for drama. Your re­search, done ear­lier, should come in handy here. (Eg: If a shop­keeper quotes INR500, and you aren’t will­ing to pay no more than INR300, tell him you’re will­ing to pay INR200.)

5. Now comes the in­ter­est­ing part. Vi­su­alise this step as though you and the ven­dor are like two slid­ers on a sin­gle scale. Right now, you’ll seem to be at op­po­site ends. With some work, each slider can inch closer and closer to a mid-point.

6. Upon hear­ing your (pur­posely) low of­fer, the ven­dor will re­act dra­mat­i­cally. En­joy the the­atrics, it’s part and par­cel of the act. Some guys may look crest­fallen, as though you’re tak­ing food off of their ta­ble. (At this point, I don’t blame you for cav­ing in. Many fre­quently do, many some­times should!) Some may feign ir­ri­ta­tion and tell you you’re be­ing un­rea­son­able. Some may mean it, ow­ing their im­pa­tience en­tirely to un­favourable weather. Some may even com­pli­ment your el­e­vated so­cial sta­tus and ques­tion why a per­son like you needs to bar­gain. Sim­ply state your pur­posely-low price again and wait.

7. Very of­ten, your pa­tience will pay off. The ven­dor will grum­ble and whine and ul­ti­mately make you an­other of­fer. For ex­am­ple, against your of­fer of INR200, he might drop his price from INR500 to INR450. This is the be­gin­ning of clinch­ing a deal. One slider has started mov­ing…

8. Now it’s time for some drama from you. In­sist that you sim­ply don’t have that kind of cash, or tell them you know you’re be­ing ripped off. Bet­ter still, do the op­po­site of point no 2 – let the ven­dor know you ap­pre­ci­ate the qual­ity of his prod­uct but you’re look­ing for the best deal. Af­ter some talk­ing on your part, the ven­dor will of­ten ask you to name your next-best of­fer.

9. Name your next-best of­fer. Re­mem­ber, we aren’t at your fi­nal of­fer yet. From your pur­posely-low quote of INR200, tell him you are will­ing to go up to INR250.

10. Steps 6 and 7 will re­peat them­selves.

11. If at this point, you’re won­der­ing whether you’ve made a mis­take, just re­mem­ber this – the sales­per­son has al­ready spent this much time hag­gling with you, he def­i­nitely wants to make the sale. You have the up­per hand here.

12. Now it’s time to close the deal. Look a lit­tle more pleased than ear­lier, but tell the guy your last of­fer (which is ac­tu­ally your ideal price of INR300) and be firm. Let him un­der­stand that you’re at the end of your tether and are not will­ing to dis­cuss it any fur­ther.

13. More than 90% of the time, the seller will give in. Some of them may ask for a to­ken in­crease of 10-20 INR, which of­fers them the dig­nity of the last word and to be fair, prob­a­bly doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket. Re­mem­ber, it’s only worth its value to you.

14. And if you can’t say the fol­low­ing words, then at least em­brace the spirit: Na tera, na mera (nei­ther yours, nor mine’) – be­cause no­body likes to lose face, and ev­ery­body en­joys a fair trade.

Con­grat­u­la­tions, you’ve closed your first suc­cess­ful deal. Happy shop­ping!

THIS PAGE A gar­ment ven­dor in Kolkata, In­dia – Try to keep a straight face when you see some­thing you like and let the ven­dor quote you first

THIS PAGE The hand-made leather shoes sell­ing at night street bazaar

FROM ABOVE A tourist and a ven­dor in the midst of bar­gain­ing Re­mem­ber, if they are still talk­ing to you, they want to close the deal

Rich tex­tile her­itage dis­plays at the shop­ping bazaar

Va­ri­ety of fig­urines found at the street bazaar

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.