Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hail The Haggler

An Indian woman is at her orgasmic best with the golgappa walaa (sorry to disappoint you boys). Eyes gleaming, she mutates into an insatiable harridan. Gobbling golgappas at a speed which will put even an F1 driver to shame, ssssing louder than a pressure cooker, she is relentless in her demands. Bhaiya aur...aur....aur...aur paani, aur saunth, thoda aur aloo dena. As if she’s just been let off from a bootcamp in Thar - forced to survive on water sucked from giant cactus. When her kid can’t take the sight of his Mommy’ wide open mouth with its gleaming canines anymore and starts bawling, she coolly instructs - Baby ko doney mein chhole dedo! Most of the times, an annoyed me is waiting her turn, a worried me is wondering if there will be any of the spicy water left for me and an impressed me is thinking how much can a woman ingest! Yes, I have been tempted to give her a nasty shove or even stamp on her magenta footwear embedded with faux-crystals.

At the veggie guy it gets even worse. Arre! Buss itna dhania patta, sharam nahin atee tumhe! Hari mirch kahan hai! Bhindi, bees rupaiye kee? That look of indignation is enough to make even a grown-up man pee in his pants.

As a nation that has bargained it’s way to adulthood, we always expect more for less. We’ll haggle with the rickshaw-walla over 10 Rs, narrow our eyes in contempt when the unshaven chap demands 300 bucks for those flip-flops in pink, divide and subtract with such precision that the vendor surrenders without a whimper of protest. Did you say 300 for one pair, Ha! I walked off with two! Wait till I get brag about it to my friends and neighbours.


Seasoned bargainers have a body language of their own. They swoop down on their victims. Survey the booty with feigned disinterest. Pick up what they like, survey it disdainfully and chortle with disdain when the shopkeeper dares to ask for a price. Like a veteran politician they stage a walkout but not too fast. Their ears are straining to hear the familiar sound of the vendor begging them to come back. The fellow rarely disappoints and they bag a bargain of a lifetime.

For education, beginners should observe college girls in a flea market. They usually hunt in packs and strike with such precision that the salesman has no idea what hit them. These femmes are the original WMD”s (weapons of mass destruction).

For a long time, I lived in a neighbourhood, where the women of the locality greeted each other with “kitne kaa liya”. Every time I came back home with my shopping bags full, I was subjected to intense interrogation by the ladies and dismissed as a novice with Itne kaa liya? Tch tch...After a while, under the husband’s expert guidance I started quoting insanely exorbitant prices just to see them go into a deep shock.

Actually I have always been something of an oddball. I bargain sheepishly, a big question mark plastered on my face. Bhaiyya itne mein doge? The vendor throws me a hurt look. Memsahib, itne kum mein bechoonga to khaoonga kya? I start imagining his emaciated kids surviving on rice gruel. I apologize profusely for having made such an indecent suggestion and end up paying more than expected.

My veggie guy is in love with me. Not only does Madam not bargain, she also throws in a couple of jokes for free. Kitnee sweet aur funny hai! My daughter is distraught that I never haggle over rickshaw fares! But Maa! He’s overcharging you! But they all have a reason that sounds too valid to ignore – escalating rents, a sick mother at home, half a dozen mouths to feed. And if I can over-spend at a posh store in a mall and contribute to some tycoon’s fat bank-balance, why not him? Does he not need my money more than anyone else?

How often do we tip the taxi chap who drives through relentless traffic, switches off Kumar Sanu howling for his lost love on the radio for your sake and entertains you with non-stop chatter! The home-delivery boy who has been working non-stop for nearly ten hours! Leave alone a tip, how often do we smile at the waiter who serves us at the local bistro, makes sure our coffee is served hot and makes our meal memorable? Instead I have seen diners throw attitude and treat them like their minions.

Like I always say, the best way to gauge a person is to observe how he treats people beneath his station.

But I am at my aggressive best when I am shopping for electronics and appliances. I don’t flinch from demanding a good deal and slyly ask if the store is willing to throw in a few freebies. They usually don’t disappoint and I can go back home safe with the knowledge that the hefty discount I wrangled, will not make the vendor bankrupt.

Last week I visited him after six months. And this time I was unstoppable. By the time I finished, my face was a glowing red and I was panting hard. Yes, three extra bowls of golgappa paani never felt this good.

Oh! Was that you waiting impatiently behind my back? Don’t worry I left enough for you.



113 comments:

  1. Somehow I have never been able to bargain. And I have seen my friends buy a backpack from Palika Bazaar, priced at Rs900 for a 100 bucks.
    Agree with the line "the best way to gauge a person is to observe how he treats people beneath his station"
    And unlike you I have never ever asked for freebies at electronic stores. I feel too shy to ask for freebies or discounts. :-/
    Funny post Auntius, especially the innuendos. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bargaining on the MRP is your birthright! Never shy of asking for a discount. All you have to do us ask, isn't it?

      Delete
  2. Loved reading your post because I could visualize the whole scenario. WMD LOL. I love to bargain just for the sake of it.. At times it clicks and I land up with a price 50% lower than I was actually planning to pay.. My son who is a mute witness to all the drama at times asks, how did you know he would give it for that price and I reply with pomp "Moms know everything!". LOL

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Ha! I'm sure he can't stop bragging about your super-powers to his friends :)

      Delete
  3. Women...at their best when bargaining;) Everyone does the same, i love the way you say you bargain for electronics and appliances. Good, i too follow the same. There is no point in bargaining with the poor tarkariwalah, right?:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! what's a few extra rupees.

      Delete
  4. yes, women in india are seasoned bargainers!!..and it starts at college.....remember the time when i used to bargain shop at sarojini nagar for trendy wear!!!!


    gol gappas.....they are to orgasm for!!!!

    http://sushmita-smile.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still go to Sarojini Nagar - that's where you get the best ganjees in town :-)

      Delete
    2. totally agree!!

      http://sushmita-smile.blogspot.in/

      Delete
  5. I think i need to start following this pack of girls when they are bargaining to learn skills from them :)

    I will need to be sure not to be standing behind you in the que for gol gappa , But then As you said you left some , that is ok for me .. I wonder what will happen to the one who is behind me I AINT LEAVING ANY :) he he he

    Bikram's

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Follow kaaro magar dhyaan se. They might bargain the shirt off your back!

      And don't you worry about finishing off the "paani". That drum has a bottomless pit :D

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    2. na shirt off my back NO chance .. Me not that lucky .. the face says it all he he he

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  6. There is really some sort of connection between a Woman and Golgappas ..Twins separated after birth in some sort of a Kumbh Mela and the moment they meet each other there is almost a chaos like situation..or should I say that their umbical cords are still not detached..Bhaiyya thoda khatta pani jyada dena ...thoda tikha aur karona ...and as regards haggling u can't beat a Woman...Great Post...As Usual Purba Style...Hilarious...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I rewrote this post twice - the only para that remained intact after the edit was the first one.

      Agreed we have a karmic relationship with gol-gappas :-)

      Delete
  7. I do bargain in flea stores. It is cruel and unjust to deny vendors the pleasure of fooling his customer by making a hefty profit even selling in a discount..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahahah! true that. Since they expect you to bargain they invariably jack up the prices.

      Delete
  8. Bargaining, I have always believed, is an art. Of late though, mainly out of my depression at all the wonderful books that I could not buy because it became an ego battle between the second hand bookseller and me, I spent some time, and realized there is a science to it too. First off, never quote your price first. Being forced to step down from his stated price puts the seller at a psychological disadvantage. Second, know the percentage markdowns that apply to the product segment you are shopping for. Clothes can safely be marked down to 50-60% in flea markets, as can books. Bargaining in large retails is easier but you cannot expect more than a 10-15% discount on electronics and consumer goods. Golgappas come at a standard 20% markdown, 10% in the one with the spice water in return for an understanding smile, and another 10% on the one without, in order to cleanse the mouth of the fire.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Subhorup, I was expecting a pie chart with your comment. Trust you give a detailed analysis spiked with psychological
      inputs.

      Enjoy your tongue in cheek sense of humour :-)

      Delete
  9. @farila: i agree each and every word of you. same views are mine too.:)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Kitni sweet aur funny post hai!...bargaining comes naturally to women.True, there is no point haggling with a rickshaw wallah. And simply by watching the person deal with those who serve us sheds light on their family background and upbringing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bargaining is part of our DNA :-)

      Delete
  11. ooww...when u were talking about learning to bargain, you should take tutorials from my MIL, she's just too good. I can buy 5 dresses for the price of 3. But even after being under her wings for 6 years, I've yet to learn the art, yes it's a art, a developed art.

    And most of the times, because a rick wala had given her and extra discount he over charges me.
    WMD...MILs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Guffaws! WMD's indeed and each one of them has a unique strategy.

      Delete
  12. Let me be honest here, I bargain too, but everywhere including the malls.
    But I am generous also. I tip my car cleaner with extra 50 every month, even though I find the car, most times unwashed.

    Also, have you observed, if we have to shell out money for the beggar or the auto wala, we manage to fish out the most torn and shredded note. For what do we keep the crisp ones aside is something I am yet to figure out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why tip, when he doesn't do his job well? This way he"ll keep taking you for a ride!

      And do beggars deserve alms? How does one decide whether he's genuinely needy?

      Delete
    2. @purba:
      truly said. alms for beggars is believed to be a crime now.

      @jenny: i care about your feelings on financially challenged people but 'pay to work' is a good 'mantra'. you change your car cleaner, you may feel great.

      Delete
  13. I like to bargain..but at select shops and always with autos and taxis. One of my friends is such a hard core bargainer..the prices she would quote used to just embarrass me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can completely relate to that feeling. But that's the first requirement to be an expert - the belief that nothing can be outrageous!

      Delete
  14. Hahaha.. Wonderful post! Happy Womens Day to you too, although its 12:00 AM on 9th March now.

    Two things -
    1. I'm terrible at bargaining, I tip everyone, Rs 17 is always Rs 20 for me, I cannot ask for freebies.
    2. I warn people to never, ever get in the middle of my gol gappa and me.

    (Expecting Cub to "huh" and claim Delhi Gol Gappa is better. I will not disagree) :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I doubt if cub milk teeth can withstand the gol-gappa onslaught! He prefers milk :D

      Delete
    2. Huh! Huh! Huh!
      And I ate one full plate with you at Bengali Market. Tee is my witness.
      *Sulks*

      Delete
  15. Bargaining is in Indian genes...we just cannot live without it...and tipping isn't! Period.
    How much Indians flinch in US when 18% gratuity is added to the bill once the group size exceeds 6 is quite a sight! :D

    Good post! U managed to capture the middle class mentality in a great way...:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't mind tipping but I do mind when the attendant at an ice cream counter expects one!

      And we Indians have the mentality to convert our Euros, Pounds into rupees. That makes it worse.

      Delete
  16. These days, foreigners are better at bargaining than the best of us. One of them even taught me how to get a better price. I, like you tentatively bargain and end up paying more than even the salesman expected!
    But I never argue if the rikshaw wala demands more than he should be. I feel bad as it is, riding while he pulls me without trying to reduce his fare. What does Rs20 get these days, not even a kilo of any vegetable!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But you should see some people - they are at their militant best. Arguing endlessly over a petty amount!

      Delete
  17. hehe, cute post. I was imagining the golgappa scenario. I've never faced it. Believe it or not, I always make golgappas at home and never eat it from the roadside cart. Yes, women love bargaining. Though, I suck at it. Pardon my language. But, I do love a good deal, no doubt. My mom and mil were cats at bargaining and thick skinned too when the odd vendor almost gave it back to them. Wish you a very happy holi!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Rachna, in the NCR we have outlets that use mineral water and the attendants wear plastic gloves :-)

      But I do love home-made golgappas as long as it's not me making them :D

      And bargaining is not for the faint-hearted.

      Hope you had a great Holi (not a big fan of the festival)

      Delete
    2. Yes, we have those mineral water ones here too. But, I like the ones I make at home :).

      Delete
  18. The first line told me this would be one of your A-musings and I was right. Have you ever tasted the Mumbai vadapao? Those vendors might have invented "reuse and recycle" for the oil they use for frying but the end product is to die for. Do miss our street stalls.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have heard so much about Mumbai street-food (I feel it's an acquired taste). Unfortunately it leaves me cold. But then you wouldn't be slurping over Delhi's kulcha-muuter, like I do :-)

      Delete
  19. I'm so bad at bargaining.I almost always fall for the vendor's sad stories.

    Oh yes,with auto-rickshaws I bargain like a possessed woman,"Bhaiyya,I asked you the fare for the ride and not the price of the auto rickshaw".
    I've taught myself to ask this in Hindi,Malayalam,Tamil and Kannada.. :D :D

    ReplyDelete
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    1. LMAO @ "Bhaiyya,I asked you the fare for the ride and not the price of the auto rickshaw".

      Ahh...the polyglot! Does it work?

      Delete
    2. Mostly.They have a thing for the girl from other state who speaks their language.
      No it doesn't work for me in kerala.May be i should look a little less keralite..

      Delete
  20. I checked almost every category in the above :D. But completely with you on the people who deserve rather than the huge profit margins raked in by the 'biggies'. Oh and a huge fan of Pani puri.....as it is called out here.....Smackilicious post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We should be shopping together and perhaps we will set a new standard for WMD's.

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    2. Done deal...........next in Bombay...holler out to me :)

      Delete
  21. LOL, this was fun! Its soo disappointing not to hear the shopwala pleading to you to come back and buy his wares, after you do the "seasoned bargainer" walk-out right :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hain na! And it kills you to go back and sheepishly say, bechna nahin hai kya?

      Delete
  22. If the autowala charges me an exorbitant rate, I haggle. But if he agrees to put on the meter chup-chap, I pay ten bucks extra. And if they give sob-stories, I give mine too- "Mujhe paise phukat mein nahin milte. Main bhi mehnat karke paise kamaathi hoon." One time the autowala got so emotional, he gave me ten rupees back! :D Yes, there are some good ones also out there.

    But you're right. We don't think twice about spending thousands in a mall, but don't want to spend even five rupees extra on those who spend hours in the heat and traffic to earn their livelihood. If I feel that a person is doing honest work, I don't hesitate to give them more than their due. I used to think that the autowalas in Hyderabad are chors, but one trip to Chennai was enough to develop a new-found respect for the Hyderabadi auto-walas. Seriously.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! you are a genius. Imagine getting ten bucks extra from an auto walla? Must have felt like a million bucks!

      Delete
  23. Very well written Purba! You have a great style!(of writing):)

    ReplyDelete
  24. I really need to learn this art of bargaining -:( :(
    All I end up doing is "Bhaiya aur kam nai hoga? Thoda toh kam karo" and eventually the vendor would come up with his household stories of poverty like how the prices have gone up, how its difficult for him to run a family..bla bla and I would eventually end up saying "Theek hai yaar de do"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey! that's my patent dialogue :D

      Seriously, those men must be having a good laugh behind our backs!

      Delete
    2. Some shopkeepers are smarter Arnab...one in my town running a women's store displays a sign reading "Theek theek lagaa do kahkar sharmindaa mat keejiye"...the females exchange glances with each other with suppressed smiles and some sober ones simply pretend to have not read it at all. The shopkeeper always maintains a straight face!

      Delete
  25. Oh Purba...Awesome post.....oh my God...golgappa...my favourite....I always ask for discounts and free gifts frm the shopkeeper....afterall....ladies ka bina bargain kiye khana jo hajam nahi hota...and we can't even enjoy shopping without bargaining.In hope you had a colorful holi.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not everyone enjoys bargaining. But you should see me when I spot a flat 40% off signage - I am like a bull on rampage :D

      Delete
  26. when it comes to entertaining notes , you never let me down :)

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  27. Hahahaha...I think I should make my mom read this :) Bang on with all expressions intact :P

    Awesome post Purba!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Err...just make sure she doesn't read the last para!

      Delete
  28. An Award for one of my favorite Blogger http://sweetsomethingz.blogspot.in/2012/03/versatile-blogger.html :D :).

    ReplyDelete
  29. haha love golgappas, love bargaining and love to read what u have written :D

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  30. The last time I bargained hard was in Bombay..I shopped like crazy and by the end of the day, I didnt even have the energy to bargain :D..Bargaining is awesome!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And you get to burn calories and save money!

      Delete
  31. Purba,

    Enjoyed thoroughly. What a way to talk about bargaining power starting with GOL GAPPAAS! One should only be cautious not to get fleeced.

    Take care

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm...you win some, you lose some :-)

      Delete
  32. Lol!!! When I haggle, the shopkeeper tells me to take the thing for free, but then I ask for two :D

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  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  34. Even the product websites sensing the mood of Indians have introduced facilities like online bargaining... long way to go :P

    Weakest LINK

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love the fabulous discounts on online shopping sites.

      Delete
  35. I loved this... :) :)

    Someday even I would like to learn bargaining..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just follow a bunch of college girls in Sarojini Nagar!

      Delete
  36. I am a bargain queen. I endlessly bargain at every product, but I do make sure I tip them or pay them fairly enough.

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  37. until I had started earning, and always thought that the money and spending is not mine and hence I found a reason not to give a tip to anybody. But then when I did starts to earn, I started to think that this is my money, and hence found another reason not to give tips to any waiters. The company I kept in my college days also advocated the philosophy that we are already paying the service tax and hence we don't need to leave any more money. But suddenly my mother seems to have grown sympathetic with the waiters and urges me to leave money every time I dine outside. I can only present one argument against this that when I am not ready to oblige with the exorbitant fares that the rickshaw wallahs demand, then why should I oblige to the luxurious whims of waiters.
    I am bad at bargaining too, so, I generally don't go shop :P

    Cheers,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If the restaurant is charging you a service tax, you are not expected to tip. But I do relate to your Mom's logic.

      Frankly, I prefer stores where prices are fixed, why don't you do the same?

      Delete
  38. Purba.. even I am a chronic bargainer whenever I am at Fashion Street in mumbai or Karama here in Dubai. Certain shops and areas demand bargaining...and yes..we are at our orgasmic best with the vendors.. My personal fav. is the vada pav wala and paani-puri wala.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do agree that in certain markets you are expected to bargain! In Delhi it's Janpath and Sarojini Nagar :)

      Delete
  39. Oh my.. looks like my thoughts just popped out of your mind. Very nice reading. Bargaining is tough and is a home bred special quality which I do not possess. I always feel comfortable in a fixed price shop. I know I am not going to feel remorse about someone paying less than me for the same product in the shop and my belief that since there is no haggling, the prices must be fair with no markups.

    Best
    Katie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thankfully high street shopping does not entail bargaining. Thank God for small mercies :p

      Delete
  40. Sighs, I blemish the indian name with more failed haggling skills.

    (gives you all my money and smiles)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahaha! I am sure the shopkeeper's union accords to you a red carpet welcome :D

      Delete
  41. A hilarious post as usual-interspersed with gems of wisdom--like how to strike a bargain...i do try sometimes,but never with the petty businessmen ; & only when my better half is not there to glare at me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's why it makes more sense to leave the better half behind :)

      Delete
  42. hee hee hee its so funny to watch women at the golgappa store and buying vegetable. just for the fun of it i accompany my mom for buying vegetables. its an ART to say the least. i still have no clue how to differentiate the bad one from good one and which vendor to buy it from.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Haggling is a fine art which is ingrained in psyche of Indians. Why not, when every penny saved is the penny earned:)Could not be written better!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And the penny gained is someone else's loss!

      Delete
  44. Ok. Now how do I convey 'Your writing has improved helluva lot' without giving the impression that it wasn't very good before, because it was!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Thumbs up to you Purba! I feel so LS..I always haggle with the autos..something in my blood curls at the sight of them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And rightly so! Gurgaon autowallahs look straight out of Tihar.

      Delete
  46. a good piece :)

    ReplyDelete
  47. Lovely Purba, only you can make gulping golgappas sexy :))

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  48. As always.. beautifully written. :) I was smiling through all the while reading it. Haggling and then bragging about it does give a kick. :) I am not blessed with that fine art though, nor is my mom, but I have been witness to so many others do it and have had my passive share of fun. ;) There is a friend of mine who is so good at it that he managed a $2000 discount (for me) for a car in the US where bargaining is less prevalent. His wife (and me) was so proud of him. ;) Anyways.. hilarious and thought provoking post again. :)

    P.S: I guess I am one of the last ones again. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you can reap the benefits of someone else's skill, then why not? Who doesn't mind the extra money :)

      Delete
  49. awesome post ma'm..loved it !

    indian women is best when it comes to bargaining..they can even bargain from an atm machine if given a chance .. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL! ATM machine?? Please don't give us ideas.

      Delete
  50. hahhaha! this reminds me of the time when i shyly bargained repeatdly for half a dozen plates...this was of course, after i had exhausted my shopping budget..the guy was so hassled that he began asking - aap acche ghar ke lagthe hon...kuch problem hain kya?!!!
    that was it...i've never bargained after that although i know i am getting cheated at times! bargaining is in my list of things to learn..so your article is a good beginner series for me:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww...did he say that! You should have countered it with Pataa hai main kaun hoon?

      Delete
  51. :D you are simply amazing. mast post.
    but "As a nation that has bargained it’s way to adulthood, we always expect more for less." remains the best :)

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  52. 110 comments and counting Purba! That is something. Loved the topic. How I wish I could bargain, but apart from meekly asking if the vendor will reduce the amount and getting relieved of a supposed fixed price I am not able to do much! It is just so much more stress free to buy without bargaining!

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  53. -Good piece of information.

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  54. Bargaining generally depends on pocket or mentality of a person.

    ReplyDelete

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