Sunday, September 13, 2009

it's a steal...

The first time I visit a shop, I’m a regular customer. But the second time I go, I’m royalty. Salespeople come rushing up from every corner of the store, the manager addresses me by name, and I’m assigned an exclusive shop assistant for the duration of my visit. For the longest time, I attributed this special treatment to my charm, but after introspection and several hits to my bank balance, I’ve realised that my lack of bargaining skills are the real reason.

I’ve had the opportunity to watch some prize bargain queens and kings at work. I’ve observed how they plough masterfully towards their targets, and how they let nothing get in the way. And from these observations, I’ve understood that getting an extra tissue on demand at a café does not constitute a good bargain. I also know now that bargaining may be an art, but copying the masters achieves nothing except an unflattering likeness to a simian in a panchatantra story.

If you’re like me, ie the hieroglyphic symbol for loser shopper, here’s the greatest bargain you’re ever likely to get. You can share my failure for free, instead of getting your own at the cost of angst and embarrassment.

One person’s masterstroke could be another person’s stroke: My sister and I were shopping for ethnic totes at a street bazaar in Delhi when my sis pointed at one she liked. The burly XL stall owner quoted a price. My sister named a figure that was low enough to make me squirm. Monster man dropped his price a shade. At this point, my skinny teenaged sis looked straight at him and said “I’m beginning to get angry now”. She said this softly, with a smile on her face, and the stall owner was shocked into nervously looking around for skulking armed men, before he wordlessly handed her the tote.

This is easy, I thought. So I tried it at another street stall in another city. “I’m beginning to get angry now” I said at the right moment, my voice velvety soft and Brandoesque. Almost on cue, things started to happen. The stall owner quickly pushed a chair towards me and gestured for water. “BP patient hai”, he whispered knowingly to his assistant, and handed me a glass crusted with fingerprints. While I pretended to sip the slightly murky water, the man regaled me with stories about his own blood pressure travails. I left after a while, with a recipe for bitter gourd juice (BP ke liye ekdum first class) but sadly, no bargain.

Starting from scratch: When a salesperson tried to convince me to buy the last refrigerator in the store, ie the display one, I decided to capitalise on the bargaining opportunity. I knew what to do, having watched my bargain black belt friends closely. I disdainfully pointed out a near invisible scratch near the door (I think I might have created it while pointing it out) and demanded a discount. The salesman quickly dropped the price and before you could say freeze, I paid for the piece. When the refrigerator was unpacked at home, I realised the scratch was truly invisible, as it was eclipsed by at least 3 dents on the door. The crisper tray looked distinctly French, as the r had been rubbed by enthusiastic shoppers. The egg trays croak ominously every time I open the door, and soon, I should be able to save myself the first step of making omelettes.

Great timing comes at a cost: Yippee, it was sale time! The time of the year when bargain royalty moves in and gets stuff it might need later. Well, I got that bit right; when I swooped down on a brilliantly discounted dishwasher I didn’t need. It arrived in perfect condition, though I can’t say the same about many other things anymore.

My jars have melted into size 0 shapes, which are great for the catwalk but not for storing things. I've had to replace them with dishwasher safe ones (read imported, read expensive). My electricity bills have doubled as have my tea and biscuit expenses. The last two are courtesy my erstwhile human dishwasher, who has no work left and uses my home as a café for her mid morning breaks.

Make a fresh start: Whatever the evidence against it, I’ve started believing in reincarnation. It's my best chance to be brilliant at bargaining. Yes I realise I might be reborn a mosquito, but if I can get a great deal on a repellent-free home, I’ll take my chances.


  1. Hilarious!! Although i consider myself to be a good bargainer... (comes from the lessons in Bargaining 101 at New Market, Kolkata), i totally sympathise with you :)

  2. good to know rahul that i'm not alone on suckerplanet :)
    thanks samudra. sadly, i'm even more hilarious when i'm trying to crack a deal :P

  3. this post has "about me" written all over it ... this is exactly why people dont let me shop :P

  4. funny...loved the description of the invisible scratch....loved that whole para infact....the r that disappeared. ....he he are too funny. please please try and write more often.

  5. same here. just cannot do it.