Should you bargain?

I grew up in India. I experienced bargaining first hand whenever I visited the local vegetable market with my mother or visited a local clothes shop. I imagine that most Indians who grow up in a middle class household experience this. I cannot comment on other developing nations in the world but I would imagine that it would likely be a similar situation where every penny counts.

The good thing for me and many others (like my girlfriend) is that such experiences taught us the value of money. We learnt to ask. We learnt to negotiate.

The bad thing is that it has become so habitual that even when our financial situation has improved, our thinking has stayed limited. We are ok to bargain for hours to save a few bucks when in reality we could be using that TIME elsewhere.

Please don’t get me wrong. Sometimes you need to bargain. It’s essentially a form of negotiation. But we must evaluate if saving a few extra bucks is worth our time. At least that’s what I feel.

Anyway, I recently visited Rome with my girlfriend where we ended up checking souvenirs at a street vendor. My girlfriend like an item which was priced at x euros. For some reason, she wanted me to ask the vendor if he could give us the item at a price of y euros. I will be honest here. The price of y euros was more than a 50% discount from x.

I approached the vendor and asked him if he would be ok to give us the item for that reduced price. He felt insulted. He asked me if I was from India. I said yes. He said to me, ‘This is Italia. This is not India’.

This time I was insulted. Feeling disrespected, I gave the man those x euros that I had requested and told him that I don’t want the item. I asked him to keep that money and remember that the same Indian person gave him the money for free.

I was angry. I was angry at the person for having disrespected my country. I was angry at my girlfriend as she asked me to do something which she should have done herself. And I was angry at myself that I let the vendor’s words affect my mood.

Having calmed down after a while, I tried to reflect on what that experience taught me. Here’s the breakdown of my analysis –

1. I should have kept my calm. I could have just not reacted and left that scene. This person was a nobody in my life. Why let someone so random affect my holiday? Was he really worth so much? Probably not. There are only so many fucks you can give in a day. I should not have wasted it on that conversation.

2. The man was wrong. The man could have quite easily declined my offer. There was no reason for him to make assumptions based on someone’s culture or race.

3. We were probably wrong to bargain in the first place. We should have probably known what was culturally acceptable and what was not before proceeding.

4. I wondered what made the man so mad. The answer is probably that a lot of Indians before me in the previous years probably visited this man and asked for a discount. And that made me wonder ‘Is this the image of our country that we are portraying abroad as ambassadors of our nation?’.

5. I asked myself would my girlfriend go to a branded shop or a chain and ask for a discount? Probably not. Then why do we do the same with small vendors. They also have the right to make money. I would probably go on and argue that they need that money more than the chains and brands.

In hindsight, would I do something like this again? Probably not. But, I am glad it did happen. It gave me a different perspective.

What’s your take on my analysis?




At the end of the day, all we own are our stories. They deserve to be narrated as a best-seller. So here I am sharing thoughts from a millennials perspective!

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