The sun stole the shade as noon approached. The day grew hot and humid like an unvented laundry-mat. Our clothes stuck to our bodies. Somehow Kolkata was hotter than Thailand. We needed to get new clothes, Indian clothes.
I stopped Mikey from buying two shirts at full price. “Mikey, there’s two things to remember when you want to buy something. First don’t buy too much, you have to carry everything you buy, and you will be carrying it for thousands of miles.” He put one of the shirts back. “Next, this isn’t walmart, you can haggle.”
“It’s only a little bit of money.”
I nodded, that was true, the shirt was only $6. “But Mikey haggling is part of the culture haggling is expected here. Once a friend tried to buy a pot without haggling, she was willing to pay the full price. The vendor refused, she told us it was bad luck not to negotiate. I don’t know if it was bad luck, but I’m sure the vendor’s life would be a lot more boring if no one ever haggled. Don’t be afraid. Mikey, go try again.”
With a deep breath and a big gulp Mikey approached the owner and haggled. They went back and forth about the price for an Indian shirt that somehow resembled a medieval European tunic. He got half off and told me so.
I stepped up, choose the same shirt, in a larger size and a different color, and haggled and haggled and haggled. It wasn’t fair to compare my veteran haggling skills to Mikey’s newfound ones, but I did anyway. “75% off” I boasted. Mikey’s muscles tensed, I had defeated him yet again. My eight year advantage over him meant that I almost always won everything we ever did. Winning wasn’t what I wanted, teaching was. “Mikey, I only got 75% off because I showed him that I was willing to walk away. 75% off means very little profit for him, but a little is better than none at all and he knew that, so when I started to walk away, he called me back and accepted my offer. Just remember that whoever shows that they want it least will get the best deal.”