This past Wednesday was a holiday here in India, Ganesh Chaturthi, which celebrates the birth of the elephant-headed god Ganesh, who is revered for wisdom, wealth and prosperity. The festival in fact spans 10 days, but only one day is recognized as a formal holiday where banks and government are closed.
My IBM office being closed I decided to go out and do some shopping – an activity I presume Ganesh would endorse. In one of the lanes of Koregaon Park I went into a small shop where I saw rugs. My flat here is rather sparsely furnished, and f occurred to me a small rug would be a nice first step in personalizing my new home.
I spent 20 minutes or so looking at carpets, small ones on the order of 3’ by 5’. I saw a number of very nice silk pieces which had – as the shop-man declared – 1,000 knots per inch. I am not a rug-expert but my instinct told me these were higher-end products that I should research more before attempting to buy. I then fixed on the red wool piece you see above. 3’ x 5’, this is the well known Bokhara pattern. We actually have a rug of this type back home in the US.
I could feel the quality was good, so I decided to go ahead: “How much for a rug like this?” The reply, “This rug is 11,500 rupees, sir.” Where to go from there? I’m afraid I am not a natural bargainer, but there is something about rugs in particular that makes me feel haggling is needed. “Would you take 9,000?” The shop-man demurs, “Sir, you are first person today, I am not sure about bargaining.” I didn’t understand this, so I reiterated my offer, “Well, 9,000 I think is right.” The shop-man consults his colleagues, very quickly, whether in Hindi, Marathi or some other language I could not tell. After this brief debate the shop-man tells me, “9,500 sir.”
I am chagrined and smiling as I say, “9,500, done!” I had expected 11,000 as the next offer. Perhaps I could have started at low as 4,000.
Nonetheless the rug is very nice – it adorns my flat entrance-way even now – and at $180 or so is a definite bargain compared to US,where I’d expect such a rug for $600 or more.
Lesson: Bargaining, like golf, does depend on local knowledge – but ultimately the right price is the price that is right for you.