Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our Core Competence - Bargaining!

Remembering the days when I had just passed out of the primary school, I was staying at my grand mother's place. Looking back, they were amazing days of life but had it been a fulfillment of just about the daily needs it would  have been a lot better. Anyway, it was a small town, the district headquarters named Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh where my grand parents used to stay. It was very small a place that everyone staying in the colony would know one another well & have time to ask about the whereabouts while passing by one another's homes. I saw the development in & around the colony in terms of numerous apartments coming up & the lanes in between not even spacious enough to let even a Maruti 800 to pass by, let alone bigger vehicles. I hate this part! Otherwise the houses were so spread out that we could see the television in the drawing room of a house at 50 mts distance from ours. The game then between we all kids was to guess the movie being played on that television. I was pretty good at that I must say! (Especially when it was like Akshay Kumar's song 'churaake dil mera, goriya chali' from Main Khiladi Tu Anari :-))

Like in the smaller towns now, there used to be men & women selling different types of vegetables holding that typical basket (actually टोकरी)on their heads usually. Every such woman would stop by our home, just wanting to chat with my grand mother & forcing her to buy something even if she said she didn't want to buy, don't know what pleasure they got when talking to my grand mother. One such woman came & she had about 2.5 kgs of mangoes (it was peak summer & mango season) in her टोकरी. My grand mother called her & asked her for the price. The woman replied about Rs. 35 per kg or so. My grand mother said, 'give me the entire basket for Rs. 30'. The woman started cribbing & yelling saying, 'what amma, blah blah blah blah, do you know how many kgs are there in this basket? You are asking all this for a meaningless price blah blah blah'. My grand mother refused to listen to anything. The woman kept cribbing for a while & finally, helplessly went away when my grand mother didn't accept anything other than the Rs. 30 figure that she arrived at, God only knows what was in that figure! The woman went away, only to come back after 30 minutes. Don't know what guilt they had if they were unable to give anything to my grand mother. She came back & offered a price of Rs. 40 for whatever was there in the entire basket, the quantity was the same as it was earlier. My grand mother still was stuck at Rs. 30. Finally, after 30 minutes of cribbing & so on, she gave everything for Rs. 30 & went away. I didn't see any guilt on my grand mother's face & that woman was having mixed feelings which were very evident :-) I couldn't help!

Bargaining, is our core competence. I always thought it existing in older generation, that of my grand mother's, especially in the lower middle class people. But I see almost everybody around me wanting to bargain, could be for any minimal amount. We feel as if it is a point to put up on our resume? When we go out on vacation with our friends & head for shopping, I see people wanting to bargain for just about any amount they can. Somehow, my father never had this quality & we could never inherit it, but it can be very contagious at times. Apparently, we have to give the shopkeeper lesser than what he quotes as price, for sure. If we give what he asks for, we start feeling that the shopkeeper made a fool out of us! What if he actually has made a fool too? Say for a suit-piece, he quotes Rs. 2000, we don't bargain & give him Rs. 2000. Fine, what's wrong? Are we feeling bad that he has made some money? Don't we make enough money for our living? And it that Rs. 2000 was not affordable, could we have even bought it? Now, we bargain a bit & he gives it for Rs. 1800. If he feels comfortable giving it for Rs. 1800, we still feel guilty that since he has comfortably given it for Rs. 1800, he definitely has made some money & the entire trip, we keep thinking 'had we only bargained a bit more!'. We further bargain, & bargain, & bargain to get the price down to Rs. 1400 where he himself is forced to reveal that he is not making any money. We feel so good at this point when he further reveals that at less than Rs. 1600, he wouldn't make any money. We are then fine with giving Rs. 1400 (mind you, not more than this), knowing that he isn't making any money, he feels depressed, he is probably thinking of the sweets that he had planned to take for his kids in the evening, or the gift that he thought would buy for his daughter! What fun do we have creating such unhappy moments in someone's lives, I don't know! And this gesture is not only in middle class families, where it is still understood. People who earn enough to waste at least 1 kg food everyday, people who earn enough to be able to buy at least 5 things worth Rs. 2000 each day, people whose daily income with no uncertainty is more than that shopkeeper's monthly income which is filled with uncertainties & seasonalities.

I agree, once in a while we are fooled by such shopkeepers & others, but in most cases, we are just trying to show our superiority & being cheap in the process of anticipating cheapness. God help us become wiser, don't know how but wisdom is in a big scarcity in our country!

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