Monday, June 25, 2007

Hug and Sell

It was my first overseas visit ever. I was ready for all the new experiences that I would encounter in a foreign land but I was so impressed by this one that I decided to post it.

About 150 kilometers from Bangkok is the famed floating market. In olden days when waterways were the prominent mode of transport in Thailand, people used to buy and sell their wares in such floating markets. Nowadays, it is just another tourist attraction.

Once we reached the floating market, we went for a boat ride which cost us roughly 300 Baht. It was a reasonably good experience. The ride was for an hour and we went hither and thither looking at all the assorted wares on display. Our only purchase being three coconuts!

After the ride we were rather unceremoniously dumped (this was because we overdid our haggling and irked the boat man) at the exit point. Now the exit point is not a “point”, it is just the path to the exit and you got a large number of shops on this route selling much the same stuff you find on the canal. Due to our restricted budgets we had decided not to buy anything and just gawk around. Our main shopping was destined to be at “Siam Square” an up market shopping mall located in Bangkok.

Thus we were doing our gawking and pretty much avoiding the stores when this old/middle aged lady jumps in front of me. Her store has all sorts of handicrafts and curios stocked to the brim. I tell her that I don’t want anything from the store but it doesn’t work, she like most Thais does not understand English. So I wave my hands around gesturing that I don’t want anything. She gestures right back and asks me to look at least once.

Just to please her, I look around a bit and there is this dinner tray set made of soft wood and Bamboo that catches my eye. It looked good and would make a good present for my mother, but I had no intention of buying it. I had programmed myself to buy all things from Siam Square mall where things were cheap and branded. Unfortunately for me (fortunately for my mother) the keen old lady saw the look in my eyes and at once smelt a potential customer in me.

She took out a calculator and typed in 1800 baht. I was astounded. That was way beyond my expectations and anyways I did not want to buy it. So I said no, thank you, I am on my way. So she took hold of my arm and said ok, ok, how much. I said I don’t want it. It is too expensive. The crucial mistake on my side being that, I said “very expensive, very expensive don’t want” instead of a simple “no”. By that she understood that I was interested in the product but not in the price. Hmmm... the going just got tougher.

Now she typed out 1750, I just smiled and shook my head. That was more than my total day’s budget. Next she typed out 1600; I shook my head and smiled harder. All this while, I was trying to make good my escape. But she had a good grip on my arm. I looked helplessly at Shyam who was standing aside enjoying all this drama. Seeing my unenviable state he came in at last. Sorry, I should have said “he tried to come in” coz the moment the old lady saw him coming in, she rounded him and gave him a sort of broad smile and pretty much asked to him to keep his big body out of the business.

After the short commercial break sponsored by Shyam, we were right back to the calculator typing business. In due course she typed 1200, 1000, 800 and even 700. At 700 she said this is the last price. I again did the smile and head shake and tried to get away. Again she gripped my arm and this time, she gave me the calculator to put in my price. I thought for a second to put in 0, but thinking that would be too rude, I just gave it back to her. She gave it right back. Now we had moved on from arm gripping to calculator passing. I can guarantee that any basket ball player/footballer, watching the scene would have learnt a dozen new improvisations on the art of passing.

On account of my youth and vigor I was on the verge of winning this pass game, when the lady in the next shop decides to step in and tip the scales. This lady, the new one, she was beautiful and I did not mind too much that she now started the arm holding business. The old lady had by this time typed in 600 Baht. Shyam mouthed that 300 should be the last price. I decided not to take a risk and typed in 250. Actually Shyam had mouthed 200, which I had misread/heard. So he came in to clarify and guess what the old lady does? She gives me a hug and stops Shyam from making it to me, next she gives a playful punch to Shyam’s stomach saying “no no no” all the time, by which I guess she meant that he need not interfere.

For one moment I was transported back to my own mother land. How different people are! Back home a normal haggling would involve the choicest of filthy language, posturing, strutting, cursing and general bad blood. Here I was, totally cornered into buying what I did not feel like buying. But I did not feel mad, I did not feel angry, I just felt a bit funny to be the centre of this melodrama. Well, it was no surprise that in a short 5 minutes I was the owner of a mini dinner tray set that I did not want for a grand total of 250 Baht. What is more, I even felt very smug at having brought down the price from 1800 to 250. That was an achievement wasn’t it?

Very uncharacteristically, my mother was very pleased with this set. I was expecting a big lecture on the virtues of thrifty living, instead I got a smile. Guess it was not a bad buy after all.


N!$#@N^# said...

u got any more hugs ???

Nishanth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

ll b comin down on saturday to give u a hug... please keep 250 baht ready....

Abraham Menacherry said...

oodi vaa eppo tharaam....:)