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ONE TIME TOO MANY

I hate haggling. I really do. I find it rather draining. And also that it complicates matters , in what otherwise would have been a very simple transaction. And as I invariably find myself baffled when faced with complexity of any kind , I try to avoid haggling at any costs.

However , I have found that , there are many people who love haggling. And they can haggle and do haggle everywhere . It is almost like an addiction. They seem to get a high out of it. The entire process of negotiation , going back and forth , trying to get the upper hand , gaining ground , strategically retreating at times , – you know , this entire process seems to have an appeal for so many people. And no I am not talking about people , who want to pay a fair price , for the wares they just bought. I am talking about an entirely different kind of species here.

These specimen ,they haggle for the sake of haggling. For them shopping and haggling are two inseparable processes. One is incomplete without the other. Be it shopping at the grocery store round the corner , or a shopping mall ,  haggling would be there. In fact , am sure of them embark on the process of shopping , just for the pure fun of indulging in a bit of haggling. I mean , there are places you haggle and places you don’t. There are some places , where you walk in  , pick up stuff , ask for the price ,pay and get out. You don’t start haggling  there. For instance , you don’t walk into Pizza Hut and say, “ Is large Pepperoni Pizza pe , kuch kum ho sakta hai kya?” . It just doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t work that way. But not for these specimens. If they could have , they would have indulged in it even here .”Yaar , isi daam main , pizza ke saath , garlic bread bhi daal de naa. Yaar..kya yaar…itna bhi nahi de sakte?” And when refused , they act all righteously indignant , as though they are being denied their rightful claim.

“I know how much the bread and the meat and the vegetables cost ok.  Bevakoof samjha hai kya. You guys make so much profit , aur itna rote ho , thoda garlic bread dene ke lliye.”

I have always wondered why. I mean , what is it that drives people like this to haggle. I have had the opportunity , to observe , a few of these specimens up close , and also the misfortune  of having to shop with them. And apart from loving haggling for it’s own sake , they also very strongly believe that , if you don’t haggle , you are losing out , being taken for a ride by the shop keeper. In other words , it is smart to haggle , dumb not to. And the more you haggle , the more of a smart shopper you are. And not haggling , is akin to bending over and handing your posterior over to the shopkeeper. Now , I have no idea whether this is true or not. But in my quest and in my desire , to keep things simple , I am perfectly willing to bend over , if it means no haggling. “No jell-o , you say , no problem , just use the oil and get it done with.”, I would say. And would protest strongly only , when a dry run is mentioned. So strong is my disinclination to haggling.

And the experience of shopping with such specimens, is well, an experience. That is the only way I can put it. It has an entire rainbow of emotions associated with it. Fun , embarrassment , relief , anger , greed , a sense of victory , a sense of futility and sometimes an aversion to life in general and a revulsion for that person in particular. Let me explain.

There is this gentleman, who I am acquainted with. A perfectly nice gentleman, in fact a wonderfully decent human being. When I had moved to the city that I am currently in ,around an year back , he was my neighbor. Very friendly and helpful. Helped me settle down and stuff. Unfortunately , he belonged to that species. He was the dreaded specimen. He was a haggler. And a haggler , of the worst kind. He had a wife , who was in awe of his haggling skills. (And also two kids , who though were cute , were also annoying , but I digress). Now my mother , was very impressed with this guy. Why not? He could talk very intelligently about , how much tadka had to go in daal , or what proportions of salt and pepper , had to be used , in that particular curry.  He tried to interest me in these things , but I once bluntly told him , that I couldn’t even brew a decent coffee , and I did not even care enough to learn. Anyways , this combined with the haggling skills , was enough to impress my mother. And when , we had to buy furniture for the house , he insisted on helping us shop and my mother was more than happy to accept. And I not knowing , him to be a specimen , innocently agreed.

We walk into a furniture showroom. This showroom is part of a national chain of showrooms , a trusted brand , reputed to sell good quality wares. The staff is friendly and polite and helpful. We see a sofa set we like, and ask for the price.

“How much is this?” ,. I ask .

“25 K , sir”, the guy replies.

“Why 25 K “ , the haggler asks. He has a smile on his face.

That guy is stumped. He doesn’t know what to say. He must have been thinking , what does he mean , why 25K? Does he want to know how we arrive at prices? Does he want that entire calculation of margins and stuff?

“Well sir ….”, he mumbles , “quality and brand ..” , his voice trails away.

“Don’t tell me all this ,” , the haggler cuts in brusquely , “I know brand and all. This wont be 25K. Tell me how much will you give it for.”

“Well sir , there is a discount of 10% ,” , the guy says weakly.

The haggler laughs out loud. And there so much derision in this laughter , that any self respecting person , would have wanted to go home and cry himself into a puddle.  I myself felt sorry for the shop guy.

“Don’t bullshit me “, the haggler says , “Give it to me for 15k”

It was my turn to be shocked. 25K was what was quoted. This guy was asking it for 15K. Shittt…how can anyone to do that , I thought.

I was so embarrassed , I developed a sudden interest in the carpet , and resolutely kept staring at it. I could feel the glances , of the shop guy , mutely asking for help , but I refused to look up. I just couldn’t find it within me , to do that .

“Actually , it will be only 12k , but since , you are branded and all , I am asking for 15K” , the haggler generously peppers insult on injury now.

At this  , the shop guy smiled and called for his senior. I was terrified. I was sure , they were all going to stand around us in a circle , and start laughing at us. “Get out of here “, my brain screamed.

Thankfully , nothing of that sort happened. The junior guy merely explained the situation to the senior guy and the senior guy took over from there.

“No sir,” , he said firmly , “not possible” .

“I can get it for lesser outside.”, the haggler was threatening.

“Fine sir , “, the guy said.

“Now , now , how can you treat valuable customers like this . Tell me how much you will give to me for.” , the haggler.

“23K sir “, the guy.

“Why 23K ?”, haggler with a smile. And it all started over again. It went on and on , until finally I had to step in. The deal was stuck at 22,500. Clearly , it was victory for the store , and the haggler was not happy.

The bill was drawn , and logistics of delivery were being discussed.

“Sir , the delivery charges are Rs. 500 “, the shop guy said looking only at me , and refusing to look at the haggler.

“Why 500?”, the haggler said with a smile.

I jumped out of their glass frontage , shattering the glass , and ran and ran and ran.

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