For You, Only 600 Rupees

“For you, only 600 rupees. It is genuine silk, guaranteed.”

“No thanks.”

“But this is the genuine sari; you won’t find another that’s genuine in Kovalam Beach.”

“Sorry, but I really don’t want it.”

“500 rupees then! What a steal! Don’t you agree sir?”

It was at least another two hundred meters to my hotel on the beach, and the man kept up with me and would not let up. But I ‘really’ did not want whatever it was he was selling. I didn’t have any interest whatsoever.

By that time I had been in India long enough to be used to the hard sell and used to staying in my thoughts while brushing it off. I had been through Varanasi, and after Varanasi you are combat hardened for anywhere in India. So I didn’t try to fight him or rationalize with him- I just went along my business while he kept talking himself down lower and lower in price.

By the time we arrived at my hotel he said, “OK! 30 rupees then!” At the time, that was about a US dollar and 95% off his original price. I bought one, not out of ill will or because I wanted to mock him, but simply out of curiosity. I knew that at 30 rupees he was still making money.

He sold me the ‘genuine silk sari’ angrily and gave me the evil eye. I had clearly ruined the moment for him. But after he pocketed the notes he looked bright again and set off in swiftly in hopes in finding his big catch for the day. Sometimes in India I admit to having a hard heart towards street con men after you see all the backbreaking labor that most people do every day for an extremely meager wage.

India is full of these types of bargaining people. I have been to India many times and it still amazes me. You can basically barter with anyone. Not like in the US where you have to pay the full price for things. Thailand, Mexico, and several other countries also have this practice.

I have some helpful hints for getting a good bargain when approached by a seller. First, never pay the first price he asks. I see some tourists do this and it makes me crazy. The street vendor will always start with a price that is 5, sometimes 10 times more than he wants to sell it for. Next, pretend that you are not the least bit interested. This will get the vendor to drop the price by about half. Then he thinks that he has your attention. But, hold your ground and don’t bite. He will continue to follow you to wherever you are going and keep lowering the price. Let him keep lowering the price a few more times, then offer half of what his lowest offer was. Then he will probably squirm a bit and go somewhere in between. Keep going back and forth until there is a price that you can feel comfortable paying. Keep in mind that he is making a profit no matter what price it ends up to be. The vendors are very smart and they know exactly how low they can go. If it gets to low, they will walk away.

But, most of the stuff you buy from vendors is made for tourists and the quality is usually pretty bad. The first time I washed the sari back home it came out white and stained my other clothes. But maybe the silk was not machine washable.

By Suzana