11.04.2009

Fixed Price. No Bargain. No discount.

As a child, walking along beside my mother on our walks every evening, the thing that used to fascinate me a lot was stopping at various sellers and looking at their wares. I had ample time to look and touch because my mom would take her time to haggle for the best price. She, I think, is the world's best bargainer. At her peak she could bargain the cart off a push-cart vegetable seller! I never noticed then that my dad would never be around until the time came to whisk out some money for the purchase. Growing up brought it own woes and one of them was feeling uncool to be seen in public with one's parents in tow. I think every kid goes through this phase of wanting to look cool in front of peers which meant no chaperoning. I still accompanied my mum on those odd shopping trips to the market, but found it extremely embarrassing to be associated in any way with the haggling. I maintained a decent distance enough so that a casual observer would think I am waiting for someone instead of noticing that I am with someone and that someone was trying to go home with the cart and goodies.
I could never pick up the thread of bargaining from my genes and always prefer to pay without protesting. I wizened enough to move away without making a purchase if I thought the price was exorbitant but I couldn't get courage enough to demand an explanation. Super Markets was for me the best place to buy stuff because you dint need to get personal about your purchase. I knew very well that every person in that shop was paying the exact same amount as I was and there was no need to feel jealous or guilty.
Over the years, my mum's passion for bargaining has also decreased owing to the fact that she starts to feel sorry more often for the seller and his family. I think everyone reaches a stage in life where he/she feels philanthropic. They move away from the "i work hard so i need to get value out of every rupee" philosophy to "the other person works equally harder and if one rupee isn't going to pinch my pocket then i might as well give it to him". Now my mom sometimes buys stuff which she absolutely doesn't need only so that those few rupees would help the seller get a meal.
But lately, my bargaining genes have fought their way up. Every morning sees me haggling with auto drivers about the price to bring me to my office. There was a time BV (before V was born) when I abhorred taking an auto who wouldn't take the meter fare and would charge extra (Read). Necessity is the mother of all submission so I have succumbed to the habit and ease of taking an auto to work in the mornings so as to ease my morning rush.
Though Bangalore, by and large has not reached the Chennai limits of fixed fare, we are getting there very slowly with autos charging extra even to drive you to a destination outside the city limits (the auto drivers stick to Kempe Gowda's Bangalore map to determine the limits). So it is that I bargain for every 10 rupees (1 rupee is guffawed at these days) and I must say that I am building up my skills well. Look out vegetable sellers (if there is any in urban India who cares for bargainers)!
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