23 January 2015

Fixed Pricing and the Art of Haggling

Image credit:  http://www.clubbnb.com

The cardinal rule about haggling, my mother used to say when I was young, was to start at fifty per cent of the price that you were given. So why was it that once in Baclaran when I was a small boy, when the tindera told her that the price of the blouse she had taken a fancy to was 80 pesos, her initial offer was… 35!!!

And that was why I used to hate tagging along – and not that she left me with any choice – with my Mom whenever she went shopping. She had no shame when she haggled. That 35 pesos that she offered for the blouse, she said that without blinking.

If only I was a genie so I could have snapped my fingers and disappeared from the scene. Mom haggled as a matter of course; but inside I always cringed with embarrassment whenever she did so.

To my young mind, haggling was nicking off a peso or two from the price the seller gave you. Not more than 50 per cent!

Mom was Wonder Woman of Haggling. (Image credit:  http://www.talkingcomicbooks.com)

But of course, because my Mom was the Wonder Woman of haggling, she got the blouse for something like 45 pesos, if memory serves me right. I never quite learned how to do it the way she haggled so matter-of-factly.

First of all, she always looked the tinderas in the eye when she offered her price. Whenever I tried to do it this way, I always felt guilty; like I was trying to con the tindera. Of course, it never occurred to me that she was the one really trying to con me.

My Mom also always knew when to walk away and have the tinderas chase after her; when to come back; and when to walk away for good. Whenever I tried this trick, to my chagrin nobody chased after me.

How annoying was that!

And just to prove that my Mom was the Wonder Woman of haggling, she would haggle even in uppity air-conditioned shops in Quiapo or Avenida where there were large signs saying FIXED PRICES for even the blind to see.

The sexy sales ladies would politely point at the signs when she tried to haggle; but Mom was nothing if not obstinate. And yes, she would get the prices lowered despite the large FIXED PRICES signs.

I used to think that haggling was a female thing; and indeed, my own father wasn’t any good at it. Of course, over the years, I came to know some men who were just as dogged and skilled as my Mom was in haggling prices down.

I just never learned how. Or I did not have the stomach for it.

My most humiliating attempt at haggling was during a Christmas bazaar at the Folk Arts Theatre when I was in college back in the late seventies. I had taken a fancy to a toy that I thought would be a perfect gift for my young nephew.

The tindera said 100 pesos. Because it was a bazaar, I thought that haggling was obligatory. So, I offered her 90. She had the toy wrapped within the blink of an eye.

Actually, I was feeling pretty please with myself for having saved 10 bucks. The feeling lasted about a couple of minutes. Before long, I began to wonder why the tindera had the toy wrapped before I could even change my mind.

It was then that I realised that I’d been had. You know, suckered into paying more than I really ought to have done so. When you are a college student subsisting on your weekly allowance and just trying to be nice to your nephew, it’s a nasty feeling to carry with you.

Of course, nothing eases the suspicion that you have been ripped off better than knowing that somebody else has been ripped off worse.

In an educators' convention, I probably got the better deal than two female colleagues.
Attending an educators’ convention in Cagayan de Oro City in 2003 with fellow administrators, I was tempted into buying a couple of souvenir shirts for 80 pesos each. The original price that I was given for each shirt was 100.

Still, because of my previous haggling debacles, despite getting a 20-peso discount for each shirt, I could not shake off the feeling that I had paid more than I ought to have done.

Until I bumped into two of my female colleagues who could not stop telling me how pleased they were to have gotten the exact same shirts for 120 pesos; and this was after they managed to haggle the price down from 140.

Oh… It wasn’t a female thing, after all. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I got mine for 40 pesos less.

Mom used to say that haggling was something of a game; and I bet it was something she thoroughly enjoyed playing. Personally, I have always thought that haggling is such a waste of time.

I’ll take fixed prices any day; although my Mom would have haggled these down any day as well.





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