In 2005, my dad was going to buy me my first ever car. To say that I was excited would be an understatement. I had shortlisted a 1994 Toyota Corolla off Craigslist, and the seller had agreed to come to my apartment to show me the car. My dad and I both saw the car, and we liked it. “I am charging $2750 for the car,” he told us. “Could you knock off $100 and give it for $2650,” I asked him. “You know, this car has generated a lot of interest, I could show this to other potential buyers as well,” he countered. “Prahalad, you want a discount of $100, right? I will provide that for you,” my dad said (not mentioning the He would be putting up the remaining $2650 as well. We bought the car, and she served me very well, running close to another 100,000 miles. In the years to come, my dad never lost an opportunity to remind me how I almost lost the car over a measly $100.
The principle my dad taught me is simple: Don’t Bargain. If you’re happy paying the price, go ahead and buy it. If not, walk away gracefully. Of course, if it were the case that I could muster $2650, I could explain my situation to the seller, and see if he would give mea break. That was not the case here. I was simply looking to get a small discount just for the heck of it.
My dad believes in this especially with small time sellers on the streets – fruit vendors, vegetable vendors, flower vendors and so forth. The extra few rupees would not hurt us, but it could mean the world to them, My dad would say. Whenever anyone tries to bargain with vendors, my dad tries to interject and get them a good deal.
I asked myself why I feel the need to bargain. Answer: the thrill of getting a good deal. When I think about it, it really is not a good enough reason. This has become a compulsive program that runs in the background, the result of which is that I may lose the transaction (as with my car) or I may get a good deal at the other person’s expense (like the vendors).
A couple of months ago, I saw a vegetable seller having fresh broccoli in his cart. I stopped my car, and asked him how much it cost. He said Rs. 50 per kilo. I was excited and bought four kilos of broccoli and a green lunch and dinner for the next few days. A couple of days later, I saw another vendor selling broccoli. I stopped and looked to buy some more. He said the price was Rs. 100 per kilo. I wish I could tell you I silently paid the price. No, I told him “But yesterday I bought it at Rs. 50 a kilo”. “I can come down to Rs. 80 per kilo,” he said. I agreed and bought 2 kilos. As I was making the payment, I remembered my dad’s words: Don’t bargain. The 40 rupees will mean much more to him than it would to me. I caught myself in time, and paid the full 200 for the 2 kgs.
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