Wednesday, March 29, 2006

For a few pennies less..


A scene with a vegetable vendor outside one’s house:

That lady with her basket, recounting her already complete shopping list: “So, how much for that half kg of cabbage, one kg of potatoes, one kg of tomatoes and blah blah..”

The already tired vendor awaiting what’s coming his way: “54 rupees amma..”
Lady meditating for a while, “Hmmm…round it up and keep it as 50 rupees..”
The Vendor : “No Amma, this won’t work out..”
Lady, kind of heating up: “What it won’t work out? In the market, it’s so much cheaper..”
In the meantime, Hubby Sir thrusts a 50 rupee note in the vendor’s hands and demands that ‘some little’ coriander leaves and curry patha be dropped into the bag. Free of cost, of course.
The vendor sighs deeply and the couple walk away mumbling about the supposed ‘unreasonableness’ of the vegetable fellow!

Well, that’s how it is and I wonder why it ought to be this way! Why is it that, almost always, we land up crying our throats hoarse over a rupee or two, as if there was an undeniable edict to take the chance and do so every time? This so surprises me; what’s with a vegetable vendor or a flower vendor or any roadside vendor’s face that immediately sends alert signals to the brain and gears it up for further action? Does the jingle of couple of pennies more, bestow such an extraordinary sense of delight to the greedy ears?

Ask that Mr.Hubby, when he walks into a well established showroom to pick up the latest DVD player, if he would bargain for a couple of hundreds less than the “MRP”. Nay, aren’t we the class that shuts up our mouths in an environment that is ordained to see only decent behaviour of the species that walks into it? Forget that, would he even think twice before paying that price as much as he would to pay for a kilo of tomatoes? Our dear lady wouldn’t be any exception. She goes awfully (or awesomely??) silent when inside a silk sari shop with the most exquisite range in terms of saris and price, of course!

It’s a funny game you know. Vendors who are lucky enough to become shopkeepers because they have a modest looking 400 X 400 floor area with four walls and a roof on top, ensure they nail a “Fixed price, no bargain” at a very visible point in the shop. But some of our shoppers are smart enough, that they become selectively blind to ignore such, what they consider hapless moves. They land up bargaining there, getting all worked up, despite a board, screaming in bold white, against a red – “Fixed Price, no bargain”!

Vendors who know not what to do, hike up the price so that it comes down to the actual price after bargaining and some of them openly admit that the rate you ask is the cost price of the thing you want to buy. And we are cool liars, aren’t we? We argue and hold that we have checked out the same stuff in other shops and it’s way cheaper there and we would rather buy it there. Then one employs the next weapon – the act of walking away. We are masters at throwing frosty nosed stares at those chaps and if you are lucky the vendor shouts after you to come back and tries his best for a ten buck profit till the last minute. We meanwhile, stubbornly shake our heads in a most decisive ‘no’ and the packet does land reluctantly in your hands! Be glad with that sense of achievement and party for that wonderful feeling!

Only if your expectations turn the other way round and the vendor politely asks you to get lost citing your unreasonable demand as a reason! You walk away fretting and fuming and cursing the man, achievement and failure all compounding one’s already skewed, out –of-proportion ego! If by any chance, desire wins over ego, we do walk back to claim our dream thingy, at the price he proposes! Oh, why at all?

Yeah, yeah, all that argument about quality, long lasting stuff and brand name and all those Uncle Sam terms are all fine! May be then, you don’t go to those folks down in the streets and haggle with them over a couple of bucks. Well, this isn’t big money anyways. Leaving all logical reasoning aside, it’s more of a humane concern to help them lead their lives. Those guys let you bargain, unlike shops, because they hardly have a choice. After all, they are men who fight for a hand to mouth existence.

So, what do I propose? (Ah well, I almost feel like standing in front of a distinguished scientific fraternity to present a crucial finding that occurred halfway through one’s sleep! :D) I merely say, let’s apply some discretion and employ those grey cells to do a little bit of sensible thinking before we open our mouths to start an (indecent?) proposal! The problem is, we take a chance, toss the coin quite needlessly, most of the time!

15 comments:

ck said...

Its something I always wondered why? I think this trend will change and those hard working small scale vendors get a break, soon.

P/S: Good writing Anu. You and your sis both are gifted writers or did you work hard on this?

Vijay Ramamurthi said...

me agree!!

Parvati said...

My brilliant idea is to pay the "Keeraikaari" at least two rupees more on every "keerai kattu" that we purchase. I mean it.

Anupama Viswanathan said...

Ck, Yup! let's hope things change for the better..:)
PS: Thanks Ck! But I still believe I have a very long way to go..I personally know many people who write very very beautifully..I don't know what you mean by 'did you work hard on this..'..the thing is I keep writing whenever I can and I read a real lot..Thanks for your comment! :)

Vijay Ramamurthi, Ah, the man of few words! Thanks for scribbling a few words..:p

Parvati, :)..Great, if you say so! :)

Manoj said...

No no no. You don't understand. Bargaining is a sweet practice through which we customers get aquainted with sellers. The next time, the bargaining gets easier and the next time, still easier, then we don't have to bargain at all. So we have simultaneously made a new friend and also forced the friend to be righteous. :) And we don't want to make friends with those dumb DVD player sellers thats why we don't bargain. Therez no wrong in bargaining almost all the sellers raise their prices to bargain-proof their business.

Parvati!!! 2 rupis more!? Ya know what? At the market, in bulk, a keerai kattu costs some 50 paise to 1 rupee (mostly 50 paise, i've purchased vegetables, in bulk in coyambedu for a marriage, and the prices pretty shocked me). Okay? 300% profits!? At your rate, keeraikaari gets about 3 rupees for every 1 rupee she invests. Pity DVD player seller gets only 1 or 2% of his investment (not taking into account the money he spent on the shop structure). Hmmm.

Vani Viswanathan said...

Kiddos Korner?

Parvati said...

Aiyaiyo. thadukki vizhundhaa Manojdhan, engapaathaalum Narasimhar madhiri thoonnilum iruppaar thurumbilum irupaar polirukku.

# OUCHOOOPS! 50ps, One rupee?!!!! OH MY GOD! Kadavule, where was this????when was this? I pay Rs 4 per kattu here in this money-fleecing gold-paved city of Bombay. Must shift from this cheaters' paradise at least for this bargain in vegetables, to good-old Madras...

Manoj said...

Parvati : Naan dhaan sonnaenla ... ummachinnu, adhaan engayum iruppaen. 4Rs!!! keera kattu!?!? ingallaam avlo kaettaa, keerakaariya jailla pottuduvoam. Max 2Rs. dhaan. Coyambed Market ponaa max 1Rs only (adhukkaaga daily angallaam poga mudiyaadhu). Ohh! Bombay ivlo mosamaa? Ulagam romba Mosamaayidutthu. Ellaathukkum kaaranam poonai dhaan. Adhungala ozhichhaa ellaam seriyaayidum. Naan sonnaa yaar kaekkaraa. Udhaikka maattaennu vaakku vera koduthuttaen. Hmmmm.

Ramya said...

I agree to ur post but then Kiddos Korner??? Vani ennadhu idhu??

Vani Viswanathan said...

Ramya,
I know!!! :(

And Anu,
un word verfication thangala ya!

rajesh said...

I overheard this at a small grocery shop in bangalore, one aged person to another...
"indha kalathu pasangaluku ellam panathoda arumaye theriya mattengaradhu. office la kottikudukaranu ingayum sonna velaiku vangindu pora. nammallam peram pesina kadaikaran elaikarama pakaran".

Parvati said...

@Manoj: The promise was also to not utter a sliver of a word against any animal or bird or plant, either on paper or in blogs or as comments. So beware of dire consequences for broken promises and live a sinless life...

Sorry Anupama, for usurping space thus. I will stop this dialogue with Ummaachi aka Manoj here...

Anupama Viswanathan said...

Vani and Ramya, :D..Yeah, kiddos, you gotta take this! :))

Rajesh, was that real or made up specifically for this post?? :p

Parvati, :), as long as you reached some logical conclusion!! :D

REFLEX said...

Bargain pannatti silarukku vanginba thirupthi irukkadhu :).

யாத்திரீகன் said...

Naanga Calcutta-la iruntha kaalathulaaaa...

k..k.. lemme cut it short ;-)

during the initial days we used to feel very awkward to ask for a price 1/3rd but later we realized the street price used to be thrice the actual value :-(

and i do hear a lot as rajesh had mentioned...