I've never been to a Mumbai bazaar, but I expect it's a little like shopping at Spotlight in Hastings. I've had so many experiences of taking things up to the counter only to be told their price is different from that on the sign (which is fine with bathmats or zips which you can just walk away from, a little trickier with fabric they've cut specially for you) that I now approach it like an overseas shopping adventure. I'm honing my haggling skills for the day when I find myself in a genuine street market.
All the fabric in Spotlight lies on tables, and you have to heft the bolts and lug them round the shop and stand in one of the slowest moving queues in the universe, while the two or three assistants discuss curtains and their fabric requirements (or patterns or children's clothes - all good stuff, and necessary, but more assistants would be extremely helpful) with other shoppers.
Today's fun went like this.
I start off at the SALE table. Big signs declaring: "All suitings $1 a metre" "All shirtings $2 metre" "Dry knits $5 metre"
And you know, you just know, that most of the fabric on those tables will not show up on the scanner at those prices.
How seriously do I want this fabric?
Can I be bothered haggling for the price that the sign tells me it is?
Yep, for $1 a metre (only 1.5 for a pair of trousers for me) I can be bothered.
But I've learned to start the dialogue before the cutting begins. Just in case you get an assistant who seriously doesn't care what the sign says.
Me: This was on your sales table.
Her: This one isn't on sale.
Me; How much is this a metre?
Her: (scanning it) $19.95
Me: Right, I won't have that one.
She's had a win, this will make her more surprised and less certain when I dig my toes in for the one I really want. I'm aware that I could insist on the signed price.
I heft up another bolt. Probably weighs about ten kg. I think of it as weight training.
Me: How much is this one?
Her: (scanning it) It's reduced to $8 metre
Me: The sign said $1 metre for suitings, and the label says it's a suiting.
(Meanwhile the queue of people hefting massive bolts of fabric collectively shifts from one foot to another. Men sigh audibly. Women slouch against the tables of upholstery fabric. This is the only fabric shop in Hastings, a city of around 70,000 people.)
Her: (scanning it again) It says $8.
Me: It was on the $1 table.
Her: Would you like me to check? (I'm not sure if she's being sarcastic. The shop is busy. Does she think I'll say Oh no, don't bother?)
Me: Would you? That would be great.
(Interminable minutes pass. Has she gone for a coffee?
No here she is, bearing the sign! Why, I'm not sure...)
Her: Yes, it's $1 metre. How much do you want?
And so on.
I stand in that queue with my several bolts every few months, knowing that it won't be too many years ahead that it will all be physically beyond me.
I guess then I'll just shop online.
Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox
3 months ago