The thrill of bargaining…

‘It just can’t be of 300 rupees, I won’t you give more than 100,’ said the girl on a confident note.

‘100 won’t suffice Didi, we have to fill our stomachs, think about us’, uttered the shopkeeper.

‘No, even 100 is way too many, in fact I am being very generous’, replied the girl.

‘100 won’t be possible’, that was the final call of the shopkeeper (that’s what I thought)

The girl confidently stormed out of the shop, but apparently began walking very slowly, once she was out, expecting something. The shopkeeper immediately shouted, ‘Didi, take it for 250’.

‘I said no more than 100’, the girl retorted back. ‘200 is the final offer,’ No, 175’,’160’ ‘We are poor’, ‘Why do you fool your customers’ — — Ok, 170, No 165, 160…

The deal was finally settled for Rs 150. Both parties had varied expressions. The girl was overwhelmed with a feeling of joy. But then something unique happened. Out came the blackberry and a victorious message went to her friend, ‘Yes, I have closed the deal, thank you.’

Now what had happened here? Why a thank you? Before dwelling on the uniqueness of this approach, I happened to observe a regular affair of Bargaining of which women generally derives pleasure and a sense of achievement. (These smart shopkeepers know that and are ready for it).

Walking by the shopping street, I happened to glance by a set of male orange pants. ‘Who would buy those?’ I said to myself: Probably one of the victims whose brain would have got jailed while accompanying the women while shopping. Poor souls!

One thing which I could research on this journey was that Shopping in Indian lanes by women is a function of few components.

f(JS) ≈ T2.N.A5.B.M-3

Where JS = Joy of Shopping

T = Time spent while shopping

N= Number of shops visited during the ordeal

A= Sense of Achievement while bargaining.

B= A Sense of Belongingness to the place ≈ the art of luring the shoppers

M= Cash outflow from the purse.

Shopping with Indian women is nothing short of a Roadies task: exploring shops, exploring more shops and still exploring shops which haven’t been explored by others till date. Obviously doing this would mean eating away lots and lots of time. And all this has to be done with a minimum cash outflow. Whoo! This is a task.

But the most important attribute of Joy of Shopping is the Sense of Achievement while bargaining. The women just have to bargain. Even if the price seems correct, they won’t buy if there is no reduction given.

I just happened to encounter one of shops in these lanes, which quoted a fixed price of a scarf at Rs 50/piece. And trust me, the quality justified the price, and hence the shopkeeper was not willing to go down on the stated price. And the reactions from the shoppers were pretty obvious, ‘The guy is so rigid’, ‘Do you think we are fools’, ‘Loot raha hai customer ko’. The shopkeeper was smart and the very next day he started with a price tag of Rs 200 and was successful in selling a dozen by the noon at an average of Rs 75. There you go! Win-Win for both the parties! Mind you Rs 25 is not a loss for the women shopper. It’s a marginal gain of pleasure out of the sense of achievement in bringing down the price by more than 100%.

My friend said, ‘See you say you act in the theatres, give varied expressions, but I have brought theatre alive in front of you. Did you see my expressions while I was negotiating: the trembling of my lips, the shrill in my voice, the intensity of my eyes and the tightening of my face? Didn’t you notice?’ I nodded in approval. The shopkeeper smiled: his smile conveyed similar feelings.

The last, but surely not the least, component is the Art of Luring the customers. And this one is from the shopkeepers side! And trust me they are a master at it. They swarm the object (the shopper) just at the right time, and mind you, they do it only for a select few and the factors that determine those are varying. And this is where Delhi scores more than any other city.

Scene 1: Delhi Shopping Lanes: (Shoppers crowding the shop: Some are genuinely interested in buying while others are just gazing around.)

Shopkeeper to the gazer Shopper (aware of the fact that she is just looking around): ‘Didi, see these collections. I will take them out for you.’

Shopper (Suddenly awakened by a feeling of guilt that the effort of taking out the clothes and then rearranging them won’t result in sales): ‘No, no don’t take out, I won’t buy, I am just seeing them.’

Shopkeeper (And out comes his master stroke): ‘Oh Didi, I am not asking you to buy, I am just requesting you to see the latest collection so that you are aware of the changing fashion quotient. Please come.’

They say that a heartfelt prayer never goes unanswered. In comes the lady and out goes the latest collection in her shopping bag. A master stroke indeed! It need not work all the time but even Sachin Tendulkar doesn’t score a 100 every time he walks out to bat. We can give that much levy to the shopkeeper.

While coming back, the orange dangling pants, once again, innocuously dazzled me. I knew my moment had come, perhaps the orange object knew too that its moment had come and the Shopkeeper realised that ‘the one’ had come who would be honouring him with his raison-detre.

Said the glib Shopkeeper: ‘There are occasions in a man’s life when he must fling a splash of colour into his life other than the boring blues and ageing blacks’

Impressed by the effort and also just to keep my female friend waiting (She must also feel how one goes through the waiting task); I decided to have a look. I would never buy those, I thought to myself, what’s the harm in having a look. And surely I had fallen in the trap. When I inquired about those pants, he perhaps flicked a derisive eyelid but determined I approached my nadir and ignored the bad omens. I just can’t buy it, it’s only an inquiry. Immediately, he flaunted the shining pants with an air of solemn approval and said, ‘You and these pants are made for each other’. ‘Really?’ I said. ‘Yes Sir, with summer coming in, dump all the age old colours and outshine your persona with the bright of the brightest. And orange is the flavour of the season: you can wear it for the evening jog, in the gyms and in the stadium while watching IPL matches,’ saying he spread the golden beauty on the counter, diligently fingering the rich tapestry and holding it in his hands and pirouetting like a ballet dancer. My female friend glanced at the same, a little indifferent.

The shopkeeper of course noted it. With a thin smile crossing his face, he mentioned the price, Rs 200. And in came the women power: yes the bargaining game began. The shopkeeper was ready for it. I was a silent observer. The deal was stuck in between: 120 vs 100. Neither party was willing to give in, even after the ‘storming out of shop session’. The shopkeeper came out running and this time said to me, ‘Take it sir, Rs 20 is not a big thing for you, and after hours in the lane, you also deserve something flashy for yourself. He had already enchanted me by his blandishments, that this ethereal beauty deserved more and he was obliging impecunious guys like me by offering logic. I nodded in approval, unzipped the wallet and coins cascaded out of it. I watched him fold them away into a neat paper package and proudly sashayed out of the Shopping lane clutching a small parcel.

‘Hmm, we lost Rs 20, but it’s fine’, said my friend. I just couldn’t believe what I had done. Here I was in the most popular shopping lanes of Delhi, trying to study the behaviour of the shoppers and the shopkeepers, applying the recently studied marketing logics and mocking at most of the ‘not so needed’ purchases by the women fraternity; and I, myself was outsmarted by one the inhabitants of the lane. The air of experience is just precious!

As we licked the golas, my friend beautifully summed it up, ‘Shopping in these road lanes is just like watching a movie in the local cinemas whereas shopping in the mall is akin to watching a movie in the multiplex. In the former, one can express oneself: shout, ogle whereas in the latter, it is the disciplined approach. Fixed prices, same rehearsed looks and a polished approach vs the debate deals, raw chants and a more personalised attention’. A perfect combination of thrill of bargaining and the act of luring!

‘But what about the thank you message on your blackberry, when you made the purchase?’ I inquired. In came an instantaneous reply, ‘Oh, I clicked the photograph of the ear-rings and sent it to my old friend through BBM. She has loads of experience in bargaining in these lanes. And she said, start with 100 and pay no more than 150. And I achieved it.’

So, one can add a ‘tadka’ to the thrill of bargaining and the act of luring. Shopping in these lanes has just gone hi-tech. Don’t be surprised if Blackberry in their recent adds says, ‘Add the bite to your bargaining power, with BBM’.

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Adrit Mishra

When statistics & management insights transcends into philosophical, introspective & poetic ones