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  • Writer's pictureAbhinav Rastogi

The Whoopee Art of Haggling

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

A marketplace with a lot of crowd and commotion.
A Marketplace

Living in the 21st century with mankind's most advanced technologies, where we can pretty much get anything right at our doorsteps, at just a click on our smartphones surely makes our lives easier and comfortable. However, even with this amount of facilities at our disposal, are we bored of markets, especially Indian markets? An absolute "No" would be the answer!

We can never get enough of the bustling nature of an Indian Market. Local markets of a city are its lifelines and is a center of attraction for both buyers, sellers and provide an enthralling and overwhelming experience to the travelers that visit India from all around the world.

The markets of India are called 'Bazaars' in the Hindi language aren't any new concept, their chronology can be dated back to the Pre-Mauryan period, followed by, the Chola period, and then the Mughal. The change in time and technology over this period has surely altered the traditional market settings, but still, the ideology remains the same. The colorful chaos; the hustle-bustle; the vibrant and enormous range of choices present reflect upon the diversity of our great nation and impels us to shop at least once in our lifetime.

Perfectly termed as 'Organized Chaos', Indian Bazaars, apart from their noisy enchanting nature, are most famous for their friendly haggle between customers and sellers. Picking out unbelievable bargains from shops using those extraordinary haggling skills is a must-have for everyone visiting the markets. Markets are flooded with tons of kinds of shopkeepers, ranging from those who offer their products at genuine prices to those who quote their market price at twice the price.

However, this hardly matters in a place like India, where regardless of the sellers' instincts, every customer tries his level best to obtain an item at a significant bargain. The beauty of this interaction is that even after lots of haggling, the two parties remain equally happy, with the seller making his required profit margin and the customer getting equal satisfaction from the purchase. Negotiating before purchase from an old bazaar is an art and a life skill as well. With the trend of negotiating being so popular for many years, sellers often tend to inflate the price more than usual expecting the customer to deflate it while purchasing.

A shopper bargaining with the shopkeeper
Shopper Haggling

Bargaining is a social activity, which takes a lot of time and demands experience, artistry, and efficiency for both the parties involved. A convincing negotiation requires competency and readiness, providing only a little chance for the other party to oppose him. The salesmen, being professional in their fields, hardly fail to make a tourist pay for an item more than necessary. They put forward cogent arguments for the purchase made by the buyer, which the customer believes it to be a sensible deal.

So it is always advisable to do a little research on the product you're looking for (just to be sure that the price you pay matches your expectations). Online research might be of a little help in the case when shopping in a bazaar, the best being consulting two or more sellers selling a similar product before concluding upon a decision.

A precious life hack would be to let the seller tell you the price first. After hearing the price, set your price limit not above half the price he quoted. Stay firm on your decision and let him come down further. A contradictory response from the seller is bound to come at this point complaining about the price being too low. This is where the real haggle starts when the customer raises his price a bit and the seller lowers his price a bit. Eventually, both parties reach a mutual agreement with both being satisfied with the deal made. The process involves a lot of excitement, convincing, annoyance, praising to some extent.

The shops in which bargaining is most common are the clothing stores, which have no clear mention of the marked price on their labels, followed by footwear stores, bangles and ornaments shops, etc. These shops provide the largest profit margin for sellers and have considerable scope for negotiation. Most often, the customers coming to these shops are aware of the fact that sellers try to keep no stones unturned to persuade a buyer to pay more for an item. They are determined to make a sale and have excellent convincing skills as well. They are all set and prepared for witty customers who use haggling as their primary technique to buy something.

The extent of a bargain also depends upon the nature of competition in the bazaar. Areas with numerous vendors and a lot of competition among sellers automatically bring the prices down and a greater scope for haggling as well. It is these minute observations which visitors must pay attention to, to grab the best of the deals. More number of sellers of an item allows the customer to move to the next seller if he is unable to get a fair deal on one shop. If one is completely ignorant of the prevailing prices in the market, one good advice would be to ask a trusted local in the market area and ask about the appropriate price range of a product. When trying to bargain for an item, try not to look flamboyant. This will make the impression that the customer has an affluent lifestyle, and the deal would be challenging to make. Even if a seller asks for ridiculously high prices, or is not willing to lower the prices, one should always be courteous and polite and not be led to violent arguments.

Shopping serves an entertainment purpose with haggling being just an add-on to the fun part. It shouldn't be taken seriously. A well-known tactic is to simply walk away to another vendor if the former one is being rude or unjust. Sometimes, even if the seller isn't lowering his limit, it can still be a wise purchase if the same product is not available anywhere else or is available at a much higher price.

A common bargaining "etiquette" is to not haggle over very petty amounts as that could be monotonous and won't fetch a big difference in the deal. Also, one should always keep his word. For example, if the vendor has agreed upon the price you offered, be sure to purchase it and not make excuses like you have changed your mind. That is not only impolite but wastes the time of both the buyer and seller.

Given below are some of India's most popular bazaars where haggling is a common practice:

People shopping in the busy Chor Bazaar
Chor Bazaar, Mumbai

1) Chor Bazaar, Mumbai- From antique furniture to home decor items, from Bollywood posters to automobile parts, this stop at South Mumbai is unquestionably the best flea market to evaluate your bargaining skills. Vintage cameras, power tools and lots of other second-hand items are sure to mesmerize you with their uniqueness and captivity. Embrace the bargaining spirit here, and get all prepared to witness the distinctive items offered for sale here tagged at equitable prices. Spend your day shopping here, progressing through your negotiating skills, and refresh yourself with some amazing watermelon, and papaya Sharbat sold here for just ₹15.

People shopping in the crowded lanes of Laad, Bazaar
Laad Bazaar, Hyderabad

2) Laad Bazaars, Hyderabad- The famous and historic market known for its shopping souvenirs, and most importantly, bangles, stones, pearls, and jewelry. It is located near Charminar, the renowned monument. The crowded market is set in a narrow lane, with bargaining being the name of the game here! Prepare yourself to get into some serious and fun haggling experiences, with shopkeepers asking prices in multiples of 4 and 5 of the cost! The narrow alley makes the market very congested but it has a unique environment. Laad Bazaar is a must-visit the market for anyone who has come to Hyderabad, the city of pearls.

The sea of people in the lanes of Chandani Chowk.
Chandani Chowk, Delhi

3) Chandni Chowk, Delhi- One of the most lively and crowded markets in the national capital is the Chandni Chowk. Comprising of narrow alleyways, shopping from this market is an adventure in itself. The lanes of Chandni Chowk are divided into bazaars with numerous areas of specializations like fabrics, electronics, jewelry, etc. Bargaining in here can-do wonders, provided you have the right skills and abilities. One can get impressive shopping items ranging from bangles and ornaments to wedding saris and lehengas with good bargaining techniques. Negotiation is a must here, a skill in which Delhi people are experts. Out of town people should first learn to do haggling by observing other people first and then practicing with oneself, to get the best out of it.

The clean and organised Johari Bazaar
Johari Bazaar, Jaipur

4) Johari Bazaar, Jaipur- The oldest market of Jaipur, having a wide variety of products such as footwear, clothing, and textiles, only to name a few. The market has narrow lanes with innumerable shops. This place is perfect for shopaholics who are bargaining maniacs too, who can get pretty reasonable deals with a good bargain. The quality of items in the market is flawless and neat. High-end bargaining can bring the prices down to as low as a quarter part of the initial price asked. The Johari Bazaar offers a plethora of Rajasthani clothing and decorative items as well, representing the Pink City in an interesting form.

The huge area for the marketplace in New Market.
New Market, Kolkata

5) New Market, Kolkata- The historic shopping hub in Kolkata comprises of numerable stalls offering incredibly good quality goods at a cheap price. It is a great shopping institution for bargaining maniacs and consists of a wide variety of products ranging from clothes to eatables, and textiles. Ladies shopping here, tend to indulge mostly in the famous West Bengal saris, which are white colored with red borders. One can extract pretty excellent deals after some negotiating in this place.

However, this practice of haggling has some cons associated with it too, thus one should limit its usage only to a certain extent. Some of them are:

1) Persistently undermining what someone tells you something is worth can make you adversarial which is not an attractive quality. Haggling over petty amounts of money brings out the worst in people and what you perceive as a win over others may regard it as a reason to unlike you.

2) Haggling is an extremely tiresome task that requires a lot of mental effort. The enthusiasm and eagerness with which people step in the market to do shopping constantly wanes as they argue with more and more people to save up on their money. Getting into an argument with a seller often deteriorates one's mood which isn't good for anybody.

3) Inexperienced people who aren't used to negotiating before every purchase they make are the ones who suffer the most when they visit these markets to do shopping. They usually end up paying the most for items that are worth much less.

To sum up, negotiating at an Indian Market is amusing and interesting which requires liveliness and vigor within oneself. Negotiations assists in making the perfect deals for both buyers and sellers. The subtle art of walking away when the deal isn't going in your favor is certainly a golden tip and not falling victim to a salesman manipulative skill is a win situation for a buyer. At the end of the day, what matters most is that you have succeeded in not compromising on the quality of your shopping items and have paid the right price for it.

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