August 26, 2011

For a diagnosed shopaholic, writing a blog post on the subject is fairly easy. I thoroughly enjoy shopping, particularly when I'm traveling. Friends have compared me to a magpie, and if I were to be truthful I must confess I do have a penchant for shiny things, often useless, but oh-so-pretty-to-look-at. Shopping in Pakistan is a source of many joys, one of which is undoubtedly the fine art of bargaining. After a lifetime traipsing across the markets here, it is actually a little difficult to walk into a fixed-price shop and walk out without feeling a little cheated because you've been denied the pleasure of negotiating a better deal. Even if - as my mother often points out - would-be bargainers walk away paying more rather than less for a product, it's the thrill of the dialogue that intrigues me.

As you walk into a crowded market-place filled with things to buy in the hearts of the city - maybe Saddar town in Karachi - you will find vendors galore each of whom has something interesting that you want to stop and look at. As you do, it is very important not to look 'too' interested in a particular item, or to gush about it as some people are wont to do. If you betray your enthusiasm you can be guaranteed that you will be ripped off. A neat trick someone once taught me is to begin the exercise by asking the shopkeeper to show you something you're not really interested in, and ask him the price. Then ask him to show you something else. The product you really want should ideally be third or fourth in the list. As he tells you its price, it is very important for you to make an exaggeratedly pained expression - as if you are genuinely hurt and shocked that he would charge so much for this very average thing. He'll look back at you with a 'but-times-are-tough-and-what-can-we-do' expression and tell you all about how the price of every single raw material has gone up exponentially. You will refuse to believe him and tell him that you bought the very-same-thing last week for half the price. He will deny that the price of the item was EVER that low, but for your happiness he'll take 20rs of the price but only for you. You will ask him to lower the price a little more. He will cavil, you will persist, and he'll take another 20rs off. You will tell him it's not enough, and - if you really want to play dirty - you'll threaten to walk off and purchase the goods from another shopkeeper. He'll promise that if anyone gives you the product for even a rupee less than what he's asking for you can take it from him absolutely free. You will look skeptical and walk away very, very slowly - and before you know it he will call out from behind you and offer you another discount. You give in, and graciously make the purchase delighted both in your new toys as well as the sweet joy of victory!


SN said...

Oh totally!!! Where's the joy in shopping if there is no bargaining and some quick weird exchange about the economy, etc?

It'll be like groceries shopping!!!

BTW, EID has got me shopping for shalwar here in Mauritius at ridiculously high prices!!!! What wouldn't I give to be in Pak these days...
Enjoy on my behalf too :)

Salman Latif said...

Hahaha!!!! You have very aptly described the very phenomenon!! :D
And this reminds me of a cousin who would park his car a little distance off from fruit vendors when he had to purchase the fruits. You see, a look at the car automatically adds a certain sum to the 'fixed' price :P

Salman Latif said...

P.S. You took a long break o.o