Shopping in India

November 8, 2009

We knew that we sucked at haggling, and I’ve been fairly warned that Westerners have a harder than average time getting a good price without an Indian to support them, but for some reason I held out hope. After seeing the big smiles on three different wallah’s faces, I knew I had been well and truly bested.

I am totally okay with that though. Shopping in Mysore has been a total joy. “Come in, sit down. I will pour you and your father some tea” sings the merchant in the Silk Museum. “This is your son?”, he asks my father. “Your father has been here 3 times already, we have much respect for him, I will give you special price.” Good Lord, I’m in for it already and I haven’t even looked at the merchandise yet.

So dad and I take a seat and have a really warm conversation with Khan, our new friend. We talk and sip for at least 20 minutes before we start to bring the conversation around to the silks. I mention offhandedly that my wife works with textiles and he insists that I come downstairs to look at their rug loom. Khan proceeds to sit me down on the floor and give me a full demonstration of the loom, along with a short history of the Kashmir people and their rug making process.

Once the demo is over, we poke around downstairs for a bit longer and then head back up to look at saris, the real reason for our visit. Khan and King pull out dozens of saris and describe their various qualities and styles. I keep reminding them “No reds, my wife doesn’t care for red.” “Perhaps this one sir”, King says as he shows me another red one. Finally I’ve selected my favorite and move on to the purchasing. I start at 50% below asking price.

“Oh sir, that wouldn’t cover my cost.”

So I come up a bit,
“No that would be impossible.”
Up a bit more,
“Oh that would leave me no profit. How about something to put a smile on my face”,says Khan as he types a number into his calculator. The number is no more than 10% below the asking price, a number I know to be almost fraudulently high.

The bargaining continues until we arrive at a price that is roughly 60% of the original asking price. Knowing that I am both beat, and still leaving money on the table, I shake Khan’s hands and we begin the wrapping up process. As we make to leave King shows up with a carpet that we had admired before and makes a last desperate attempt to sell it to us… at 50% of the original asking price. “This is the throw away price” he said. Tempting as the deal sounded we weren’t in the market and kindly declined the generous offer.

As we hopped into our rickshaw and zoomed away I turned to my dad and asked “Did you tell Shiva (the driver) where we were going?” Fortunately he had, but as it turned out, Shiva had other plans for us.

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