Bargaining in India – Paige Nelson

Coming to Auroville, India there is an unique custom of bargaining with store and shop owners that  is not available in fixed price shopping in the European world. By making the price negotiable, there is an opportunity to satisfy consumers whose willingness to pay is significantly less than the shop owners asking price. Bargaining is a system of exchange by which goods or services are directly exchanges for other goods or services such as money. The bargaining system enables two parties to exchange goods or services based on mutually perceived value. It is enacted by an individual picking one or more items and bargaining the price with the producer of a product.

An instance in which I chose to bargain shop in the town of Kulapalayam, there was a negotiation of the price of a scarf that was initially 1,000 rupee. After many attempts to bring the price down to 800 rupees I chose to purchase two scarfs for 1,800 rupees. In the specific shop there were two brothers who were the workers under the direction of their mother who sat in the middle of the store as an overseer and keeper of the money. Realizing the relation between the three individuals, I recognized quickly that this was a family business who relied on the money to survive. Upon this realization I came to the question of “When is it alright to bargain when the consumer is in need when the family is in need to survive?” Is it proper to meet their asking price or is it proper to to honor your willingness to pay?

Finally, it is not a question of “who is more in need?”, but of “how can we both benefit from this process?” Watching the mother in the of the shop laugh at her sons attempt to negotiate made me realize that she is having fun with the process and was not counting on the profits of the night to sustain and was impressed with my bargaining skills. The process is not black and white and is built on a system of understanding. There has to be a middle ground to satisfy both parties that takes into account all of these elements. You get your scarves for a fair price and the family is able to sustain itself on their profits. 

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