I hate haggling. I really, really do. What I like is to walk into a shop and look at the price of something and then buy it. If I don’t like the price I can walk out. But I’m uneasy if the prices aren’t displayed, because then I’ll have to ask someone and if it’s too expensive I’ll have to invent a reason why I’m not going to buy the thing. I simply cannot bring myself to say ‘that’s too much’ or ‘I can get it cheaper elsewhere.’ And let’s face it, a lot of shopkeepers take offence at that sort of talk: I had one shout at me once because I said no thanks after he’d told me the price of something (I think it was fruit). ‘You can get a load of crap for a pound at the market!’ he yelled at my retreating back. Oh, the shame…
The thing is, I’m just too embarrassed. I don’t mind asking the price of things if I’m just browsing, but if I’ve come into the shop wanting just that one thing and I consider that the price they’re asking is just extortionate, I have to invent some reason for not buying it. ‘Oh, I’ll just have to go to the cash point,’ I say lamely, or ‘I’ll be back in a moment,’ or ‘oh, thanks, I was just asking for a friend.’ It’s ridiculous.
But when it comes to haggling you have a whole nother layer of embarrassment. Now, surprisingly, when I went to Morocco and then to India, I got quite good at it – though I still considered haggling to be an unwarranted intrusion into what would otherwise be a perfectly straightforward transaction. And I didn’t feel awkward at all, because everyone was doing it. But what really does my head in is when you have a private sale, when the buyer comes round and you talk face-to-face. For instance; I just sold an old bike of mine on Facebook. I wanted to get rid, plus it had a puncture, so I was only asking £20. A woman came to buy it, having agreed the price, but then when she couldn’t get any air into the tyre (I had told her there was a puncture) she tried to haggle me down to £15. I was completely thrown. I felt as if some unwritten rule had been challenged. I felt at once both very awkward and slightly miffed. The buyer was from the States, which I think makes a difference: Americans seem able to be your best mate whilst simultaneously haggling you down to rock bottom. It wasn’t as though it was terribly unfair; nor did I end up losing much money once I’d haggled her up again – but what stuck with me was the sheer awkwardness I felt in doing it in the first place.
Why is this? Do other readers feel like this? If so, why?
I think we should be told…
2 thoughts on “Caveat Vendor”
Different situations call for different approaches or tactics, and it’s weird how haggling can lead to bitterness, even if a sale is agreed.
It’s true. I just don’t think we’re natural hagglers here. Indians and Moroccans seem to do it effortlessly: it’s the culture, I guess. Even when I get a good deal as a result of a haggle I feel guilty