BangaLore #6: The price is right

Dec. 15, 2008, midnight | By Sonalee Rau | 15 years, 2 months ago

Every day is Black Friday in Bangalore.

Comic Russell Peters proudly proclaimed to the world on one of his shows that "all Indians are cheap." And while that's a bit of a blanket statement, most Indians are, truthfully, pretty frugal. It's part of the culture. Why go all the way to the grocery store when there are door-to-door vegetable vendors? It's easier than Peapod and more affordable, too.

Bargains in India aren't always easy to find amongst highly specialized shops - this store, for example, deals only in embroidery, "fancy goods" and car decorations. Photo courtesy of Sonalee Rau.

Of course, bargain-hunting isn't always that easy. Haggling is a skill (one that all those years in middle school spent negotiating prices on Neopets didn't teach me well enough). All prices are flexible here - that is, if you can argue over the din of all the other quibbling customers. On top of that, you can only haggle in local languages. Beware if you ask for a price cut in English, especially with an American accent - it inevitably results in a price hike. Better to feign an Indian accent, or not talk at all. There's a mentality among shopkeepers here that expatriates should be charged more than other customers. Trust me, I learned it the hard way.

And sure, there are larger, more famous stores in the more affluent sections of town. But where's the fun in that? Why pay to get vanilla ice cream at Baskin Robbins when the same thing costs just ten rupees - that's about 20 cents - at the Dairy Rich shop down the street?

There are few department stores here - no Target, no Wal-Mart, no Sears. A store organized into departments would be too easy. In India, shopkeepers like to challenge customers by making products as hard to find as possible - and selling them in the most arbitrary combinations. Need to buy food for your Labrador? It'll take a while to find, but the best deals are at this one store that sells only dog biscuits, air fresheners and mops.

Complicated? Perhaps. But still, Dollar Tree's got nothing on the tiny convenience store at the corner of our block.

Editor's note: Sonalee Rau, who moved to the city of Bangalore over the summer, blogs about her life in India in the "BangaLore" series. For past entries, enter "Bangalore" in the Quick Search box.

Tags: BangaLore

Sonalee Rau. Sonalee (suh-NAH-lee) is a chipper Chipper and a would-be magnet junior. She spends a great deal of time playing tennis (Blair is red hot), doodling, reading, quoting famous people, quoting not-so-famous people and lamenting her inability to play the piano. She is also a big … More »

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