When shopping in India, it is hard to really be sure what the right price to pay is. In open markets, haggling is the norm and prices almost always seem (more than) reasonable when you compare them to what the same item would cost in the U.S.
However the truth of the market is that some people are charged more money than others for the same product – especially when there are no price tags. So you have to be a little street smart. Whenever possible watch what the Indian before you pays for something. That is closer to the right price. And you can listen in on their haggling even if you don’t completely understand Hindi – the prices are almost always quoted in English – at least the number part of the price.
Today I went to Dilli Haat – it is a fun place with lots of vendors from all over India. There are tons of merchants selling scarfs – so I asked a few what their prices were before I began buying and frankly, I saved myself quite a bit of money. Another good tip is that the “first customer of the day” is auspicious. It brings terrible luck to the merchant if he does not give the first customer of the day a good price. Apparently that is true of the last customer of the day also. Although I cannot verify that because I am never up late enough to be the last customer of the day.
It really always makes me laugh when the vendors say – “oh, but you are my first customer, I give you very good price.” Then I smile and chuckle a bit. And they assure me – “ma’am, no really, very first customer brings very good luck.”
It is quaint in a way and it is sincere. But it sounds so gimmicky. You do have to be careful not to laugh too hard because you can really hurt their feelings. Especially if the are not used to dealing with westerners.
Another tip – walk away. Just say no thank you and walk away. They almost always ask you to come back for a better price.
And just take out of your wallet what you are willing to pay. Have that in your hand and nothing else. That worked well for me today.
And know that nearly e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. here is handmade. Don’t be too woo’ed by that.
Finally, when you see someone working at their trade and you know their work is meticulous and their prices are no where near ridiculous – don’t haggle. Just treasure their workmanship and value their time and appreciate the beauty of what they have created. Know that you are walking away with part of the artist’s art and soul. And know that you are lucky to have seen them in action.
This guy makes wooden stamps for block printing – a popular design technique for fabric. Notice how rudimentary his tools are – just a piece of wood and a carving tool all jockeyed on a bench he probably made himself. His medium-sized stamps were about $5 each. They must take him many, many hours to complete. This guy gets a “get out of haggling free” card. I simply cannot imagine how he can make a living when he is selling his art so inexpensively. Nevermind how he manages to get up off the floor after sitting like that all day.