Sunday, June 12, 2005

Big Deal! 

Last week I posted abt bars and as a natural progression I shall now post abt bar-gains.

For starters, I suck at bargaining. I just CAN'T bargain. To make matters worse, I grew up shopping with a mom and sister who somehow thought that bargaining was the national pastime of India. So I've spent many a days hearing newly opened shop owners explaining it to my mom that she couldn't have been a "regular patron for years". My sister has taken the practice to an all new level where she applies psychological techniques to choose her victims. "This guy is young. So I'll try the whole sweet 'hey, I'm buying this with my pocket money' angle" vs. "This guy is older and looks like a lesser scumbag and so I'll call him 'bhaiya' angle" - Pummy has tried to teach me.

Obviously, being a male and fairly expressionless nullifies the appropriateness of either of these approaches for me. So occasionally I just try to sound authoritative and say, "No way. That's way too much!" and wait for some kind of magical discount to be offered. Sometimes this makes the situation even more tricky coz the dealer backfires with "How much are you willing to pay?" Now, if you're like me, you'll have no freaking idea to what a good price for the item is. I was in Bangalore in December and wanted to buy a Santa Claus hat for a friend. The night before I left Bangalore, I spotted this guy selling these hats on the road. So I stopped and asked him, "How much for a hat?"

"Hundred rupees," the guy said.

"That's way too much," I feigned an authoritative tone.

"Aap kitna dengey (How much will you pay)?" he fired back.

Ahaaa! Exactly what I hate. Suddenly the seller and all the other customers were looking at me. From an unsure customer I had become the star of the show and I had to perform. I knew I had to say something and I knew I had to say it fast.

"Seventy five rupees," I finally said, putting on a "been there done that" expression on my face.

"Ok! Take it," the guy said without blinking.

What? Obviously I got duped. Nobody would have sold off a hat without putting up a fight if my quote had been remotely competitive. But I had no idea what an intelligent guess would've been. I'd never bought a Santa Hat for myself. So how was I supposed to know? I couldn't have just fired back with, "Nope! Won't pay you seventy five. How abt fifty then?" Everybody around us who were already convinced that I was idiot would then think that I wore a matching mask of stupidity as well.

As you can see, I haven't forgotten the incident till date. What is more scary is that I haven't learned anything from it either. Does any kind soul reading this have any "quick tips" on the "art of bargaining"?

tsk tsk, you hafta start at half the price or less. That's what its worth.
Ah. just what I was going to say Shub! but here u are Sagnik...two women offering u the same advice. cut the price drastically..even one fourth is acceptable. Follow it up with a confident, "we bought the same thing couple of days back also"

the most bargaining i have done is with delhi auto-wallas. ...gar se college ka raasta hai bhaiya...roz jaate hai bhaiyya (the second line is used even if u r going to a theatre ;))
@shubs + tipsy-topsy - thank you very much for the advice. however, the reverse technique backfired for my dad. Some street guy in Kolkata was trying to sell vegetables to him (I think it was cabbage). Anyway he asked for 10 rupees and dad said "nothing more than 2 rupees" just to drive him away and he agreed. This scared dad coz then he started wondering "what could be the problem with these cabbages" - i think men are just not confident enuff for getting good deals :)
One technique that seems to work pretty consistently is - approach the target with a casual look of general disinterest... and make sure he sees you (Avoid the "finally-found-what-I-was-looking-for-!-And-I-sure-am-not-leaving-without-it!"ish kind of look that gives it all away.)

Narrow down to the item you seek after browsing through a coupla other items he may have to offer.

Finally, after enquiring about the price put on the same look (see above). A hint of disappointment ("ooh-I-came-THIS-close-to-getting-this-stuff"ish look) can also work wonders at this stage. You may watch Wimbledon matches featuring Tim Henmann (may I suggest - sometime around the pre-quarterfinal stage) for more insight into this "look" that I'm talking about.

...and then start moving away from target.

Personal experience has shown that...
/*Geek-speak begins*/
the price quoted as you walk away follows the law of exponential decay. (price reduction vs. distance from target)
/*Geek-speak ends*/

Well its not that men can't bargain , they are stupid enough to pay more price for their purchase , and feel very good about it , as they think its "classy"!
I know,my bro does that !
@ajay - the geek doth speaketh oh so wisely. the formula given by thee shall be reproduced when i get a chance next and i thank thee in advance for the help extended :)

@divya - oh! trust me. in my case it has othing to do with being classy (i gave up that virtue in my early teens) :) however, often it i the case that i just want to get done with shopping and to that i agree to whatever price tey throw at moi :)
I guess if you really want to learn how to bargain, you should spend some time in Chennai fighting with auto-wallahs. (Or Delhi, alternatively, based on Tipsy's comment)

If you don't know how much it costs, you can try "I'll give you two hundred." :)

And then you press on with "I want this thing, but you tell me the right price or I'm out of here."

If it's a street-vendor, you then begin to walk away. He'll follow you with "Seventy-five, sir." "Fifty sir". "Forty, sir".

His rate of price-dropping will give you an idea of the break-even price. Draw a mental graph :D

Of course, if he says "Ninety-Five", laugh at him :)

If you're in a shop, make faces, and get into the "I'm leaving" pose, with your feet pointed away from the guy. Keep asking for the "right" price. And yes, starting with less than half is the First Law of bargaining. I've bought shirts for Rs 70 at fashion street, when the street-vendor started with Rs 250 :) And I still thought I paid too much :)

About the vegetables of course, tell him your wife does all the veggie-shopping. And then tell him you're not married ;)
We men have no business buying veggies. My roomie can't tell the difference between cabbage and cauliflower. Seriously.
And yet another post inspired by you! Read my reply on XXFactor.

In the meantime, you stay as funny as ever...
I'm sorry but I think that you guys will never be good at bargaining for the mere fact that you guys just want any kind of shopping to get over with as soon as possible. You will always be the ones giving in and paying a not so decent price. But its okay.

The best thing to do is always always look not interested and walk away when they not complying...then u'll win
@rajesh - aha - kinda like diminishing retur. i used to stay in Delhi for a while and the autowalas out there are a menace too. my fav is after managing to convince an autowalla for a good deal the guy smiles ad says "par aap log to saab ho. de dona"!!

@ideasmithy - thank you :)

@sara - abso right! i think a lot of women bargain not coz they want to but just because they want to prolong the whole shopping experience. very good point. clap clap :)
Old joke, but I thought it's repeatable in this case -

A man will pay $200 for something that he wants, even if it's only worth $100. A woman will pay $50 for something she doesn't want, if it is worth $100.

i.e. Women would do good business if they actually sold the stuff they bought...
When I was a kid, my parents used to send me to the Sabzi market to get groceries. They would train me, "Agar tujhe louki 2 rupye paav bole, toh 1.5 bolna, agar nahin maane, to aage chal dena" etc.
Well, I would do as told, and then tell my parents. "Look, he was giving it for 2.25/pav, and I got it for 1.75", and keep the remaining 25 paise. Then bargaining was fun. Because it wasn't my money, plus there always a possibility of earning extra pocket-money for comics.

Now it is more fear than fun, as in "Am I being cheated". Which is boring, unnerving. And so buying fixed price items is more comfortable "fixed, price what to do(wring your hands)"
2+vani - reminds me of an older joke:

man 1: my wife can speak for an hr on the phone talking abt nothing.
man 2: my wife can spend an hr on the phone talking to no one :)

@anshul - ahaa - childhood memories come to me too. my parents dint just want to give me pocket money but wanted me to earn it. so i got 10% of the price of anything i would go and buy for the house. so it is easy to see why bargaining was actually a bad policy for me :)
@s'nik - 2+vani? What kinda mathematics you doing with my name man? :)

LOL about the joke :D Shoulda been a headLine :)

And 10% of anything you bought? Now that's just bad business!
@rajesh advani - that was supposed to be "to add vani" :)) 2 bad :)
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