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I Bargain

September 22, 2012

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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.

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  1. Cat
    September 22, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Beautiful rug! We have one which (from a distance) looks much the same in our dining room. Of course, ours is definitely not silk, has nowhere near 1,000 knots per square inch, and wasn’t acquired in honor of Ganesh… I think you may have the victory in style points.

  2. Avshalom Houri
    September 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Also in Israel there is a culture of not bargaining much with the first customer of the day. In Arabic it is called “Siftah” which more or less means a beginning. Not sure from where this custom is coming from.

  1. October 23, 2012 at 11:58 pm
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