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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student

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Haggling: Practice makes perfect

In the U.S. if I want to purchase something, I walk into the nearest Target, pick up the item, and then pay for it. I never thought I’d be one to haggle.

But yesterday I found myself telling two men from Kashmir that I’d never spend more than $8 on a pashmina, but I would give them 400 rupees, teach them a secret hand shake, and call it a day just because I liked them.

Haggling has become part of my lifestyle here in India.

Later I was disappointed to find one of my friends bought a similar pashmina from the
same two men for 300 rupees and no hand shake. Maybe I just look gullible.

But in all seriousness, haggling has become so much a part of my daily routine that I’m not sure I could get along without it. The moment I get off campus, the haggling begins.

First, in order to get somewhere, a person needs a shared auto or a tuk tuk, which is an auto rickshaw (a three-wheeled auto).

If, like me, you’re paler than everyone else and you speak with an American accent, then the auto wallah will respond to your driving request with, “800 rupees.”  

To this you must respond, “800? Last time I got there for 600.” Then you must walk away.  

If the auto wallah comes back, he’ll likely say “OK, 600” To this you must respond: “600? That’s outrageous. I’m a student.”  

To this he’ll say, “400, that’s it.”

To this you insist, “200 for all. That’s 50 each.”

He’ll then either agree or drive away.

If he drives away, the process must be repeated.

People expect you to haggle, and often it can be fun.

First, there’s the outrageously low offer and then the outrageously high asking price.

The actual sale price lies somewhere in between.

I’ve seen many shoppers with different techniques here. Popular modes of haggling include dramatic, sweeping hand gestures, the walk away, and the confusion method, wherein lower and lower offers are made for more and more items.

Initially, the process of haggling can be exhausting. As an American, I’ve been used to set prices.

Sure, sometimes a taxi driver will take a scenic route, but the meter is still present, ensuring the going rate.

But in India, everyone charges different prices varying on the buyer and the situation. It was difficult at first because India is a country filled with both rich and poor people.

Unfortunately, most people here view Americans as rich and, therefore, initially quote an outrageous price.

Perhaps it’s true that many Americans can afford inflated prices, but as a student and a person who has been in India for a while, it’s easy to haggle simply for the principle of paying a fair price in order to avoid being had.

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