September 27, 2004

Bargaining 101

I initially felt rather apprehensive about having to bargain for (almost) everything in Senegal. I mean surely they vendors would trick me into paying higher prices. Would they also be dishonest with me but less so for local habitants? Well, yes they do charge a slightly higher price for toubabs (foreigners) but the difference is generally negligible. And besides, bargaining is an art so if you're not ready to chit chat when you shop you are either 1)very rich and money does not matter for you; 2)insensitive about driving local prices up for Senegalese nationals or 3)stupid. But hey! It's a free country. I think...

The trick with bargaining is that you must cut every price in two. That's the true worth of the item. The second trick is that you have to find your own style, much like dancing. A style that is you, that you are comfortable with and that flows naturally from your disposition.

Case in point:

My friend has a bargaining style that is very much her own. She comes up to the stall and asks for the price. Then she groans and grunts and starts with: "why are you charging this ridiculously high price? I'm not a tourist so don't give me toubab prices. Why do you have to be so dishonest?? You give me an unreasonably high price so let me give you an unbelievable low price! What, you think I am rich I am just a volunteer!"

These bargaining sessions start out on an irritated tone and
quickly escalate to shouting matches. The vendor matches the intensity and anger of her tone and finally, after much arguing (and me hiding in the corner), they agree on a mutually acceptable price. When the item is purchased, she and the seller are the best friends in the world and civilly ask each other what they are planning to do for the rest of the day.

On the other hand, I am rather more calm. I stroll to a stall, hesitate and greet the vendor with a smile. When she tells me the price, I always nod and say that the item is very nice but really too expensive, could you give me another price? A little bit of chit chat back and forth allows us to arrive to a decent price.

The two styles could not be more different but the funny
thing is that we end up paying the same prices.

Moral: 1)Always try to bargain. This is not disrespectful, it's just the way business is done here. 2)Find a style that's you. The vendors always will match your attitude. 3)Cut everything in two. 4)If you want to sweat less, bargain my way. If you like strong emotions, my friend's technique is the way to go.

No comments: