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15 May 2010

Cheat The Cheater: Strike A Bargain

photo by Ragaabhinaya

Bargaining is a big thing in India. If you are good at bargaining, you can get anything for a fantastic price. Sadly, it is a talent I do not possess. I would rather go to a 'fixed price' shop and buy something for the quoted price than put myself through the stress of wondering what the actual price of the article might have been, how much I am being overcharged, what the best price of the item would be and the actual ritual of haggling! Phew!

I needed some paper for a bank request this morning. There are only two places where one can get this paper but both were out of my reach. There is also a third place which sells them but for an extra cost, the latter depending on how well you can bargain. In a little shop on the courtyard of a court. 

Near the entrance of this building, there are a number of typists who type up affidavits and similar legal documents. There are lawyers in the designated black coats, smoking, drinking coffee or just standing around waiting for gullible victims they can make a quick buck out of. There is a small shop that sells coffee, tea, snacks (chakkuli, nippattu, etc) and some miscellaneous items (for e.g. smokes). It is here that you can also buy these papers.

As soon as I walked in the gate, I was intercepted by a man in black coat, who looked every bit like a crook. I had no choice but to explain to him what it was that I wanted. After all, I had been told to expect that. With an unabashed tone, he said to me, "It will cost you 400 rupees". Four hundred bucks for something worth 200? Was he out of his mind? I forced myself to remain calm and told him that someone sent me here saying it would cost me 250 rupees only. He insisted that it were not easily available, so I had to pay him an extra 200 rupees to procure it. Two hundred bucks to procure it, my ass!

I put on the best helpless look I could and told to him that I did not have that much money with me. I went on to describe my 'circumstances' to him, telling him that I had to pay a fee of 200 rupees at the bank and I brought just enough money with me to pay him 250 rupees. Clearly, he had seen enough people like me (probably more) to know that I was haggling with him. Initially he refused to budge but when I insisted that I really did not have enough money, he obliged and reduced the cost to 350 rupees. Are you kidding me? Do you not understand "I do not have so much money"? I kept repeating my story to him as many times as it took to get him to down his price further. Also, because I could not think of anything else to say. Also, because nagging and repeating is what I do best. Sic.

Finally, he asked me how much I would pay him. I said, "They told me it will cost only 50 rupees extra sir". He, obviously, knew I was BS-ing him and I knew that he knew but I had to try. Finally, we agreed to a price of 300 rupees. He was looting me by 100 bucks. Sigh. He pointed me to the tiny shop. 

I went up to the shopkeeper, who said to me that he would get it by 11AM. A 20-minute wait. In the meanwhile, I tried to find out if I could get it elsewhere instead but apparently, I could only get it at the post office if not where I was at. My husband was at the post office at the moment, so he tried there. They were working till 3PM but asked him to come back on Monday anyway. Government offices! Sigh! 

So, I returned to the courtyard and waited till 11 'O' clock. I went back to the shop and he said he was still waiting for someone to bring it. The guy said he would call me when it arrived. While I waited, I saw the guy selling papers to a couple of lawyers. I went back to him and asked again. He said he was still waiting and that he would call someone. He fiddled with his mobile for a bit when I did my 'help me' act again, "Please sir, I need to go to the bank before 12 'O' clock or the bank will close". It was 11.25AM. The guy waited another 5 minutes while I stood rooted on a spot in front of his shop. Finally, he left the shop and went to bring it himself. Within 5 minutes, I got my paper. I paid him 200 bucks, trying to see if I could get away without paying extra. He gave me an incredulous look. "Madam, 50 rupees", he said, as I handed him another 50 rupee note. Well, atleast he was not trying to rob me like the lousy lawyer did. 

I needed to photocopy the contents of a template onto the stamp paper. Our man in black coat was right in front of the copier. I made a quick decision. I would not go to him and pay up. I will just slink away. I've already paid 50 bucks to the guy selling me the paper. The bank had a photocopier machines anyway, they could do my document for me. As expected, they did the document for me. I felt proud of myself. I had never in my wildest dreams imagined that if someone tried to charge me 200 bucks, I would be able to bargain and get the same for 50 bucks. Hah! I had cheated the cheater. 

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