It’s well established that haggling is ridiculous. There’s nothing new on that front (and it still doesn’t make sense to me), but I am proud to announce that I’ve learned a new tactic: ask them for their “last price” RIGHT AFTER you ask them how much the thing costs.
“Bei ya mwisho?” (last price) has revolutionized the way I understand haggling. If the dude says the wooden table costs 3,000 Kenyan shillings (~ 40 US dollars), this tactic gets it immediately down to 2,500. It seems nonsensical but it works. I watched a buddy employ this technique over and over again when we were shopping the other day. We had gone to the Nairobi Ikea (read: dudes in tin shacks on the side of Ngong road making furniture with their hands) in search of a desk for my office (read: living room). In the end, we knocked off enough money on the table that I decided to throw in a nightstand too!
Funny story: this is the same place I bought my bed frame and my coffee table. After successive visits I now realize I over paid on the coffee table, which explains why he was so excited when I gave him 200 shillings for delivering it. But then again, hiring a pickup truck for delivery costs at least 1,000 shillings, and the coffee table jamaa (dude) actually rode it like five kilometers on his bicycle…
I never liked using the “I’m gonna walk away” tactic when you’re haggling on prices — it seems so cheesy and fake. Can’t we just skip the pretense and talk serious business? You know, business where you name a fair price and I counter with another fair price? Maybe you give me a price which is so fair I just take it without any contention. I guess those days are over, or it’s just all about getting lucky and ripping people off these days. In any case, I’ve found the “walk away” is a relevant and useful tactic to use in small business transactions. This is especially true in situations when there is one consumer and many suppliers: getting a taxi.
For instance: I know the price of a taxi from Westlands (around The Mall or Sarit Center) to my house on Church Road should be around 200 Kenyan shillings (three US dollars?). They don’t know I know that, so they always inflate the price a few hundred shillings. Because I know the price is 200 I just walk away and all the other taxi drivers start yelling at me to get in theirs. Of course this maneuver scares the crap out of the original guy, who immediately comes running after me yelling, “Kuja twende!” (come, we go!). I never meant to scare the guy out of a sale, I just figure that any of these guys can offer me the same product so why should I waste my time telling the guy, “Wee, si mbali. Church Road ni hapo tu!” (man, it’s not far. Church Road is just there).
This is even funnier because I hate taking taxis and I think haggling is ridiculous! Sometimes you just can’t avoid it, though, and I think I might actually be getting better at it.
I was shopping in Nairobi for some new clothes this weekend and a few things got me so frustrated. First, haggling is ridiculous. For whatever reasons, we just don’t do it in the West. The idea is that you, the person selling the goods, want to maximize the sale price. The other idea is that you, the person buying the goods, want to minimize the sale price. See the problem?
The other other idea is that there is a fair price somewhere in the middle, one where we both win. The process begins when the buyer asks the price. The seller, thinking to maximize, will usually give a price somewhere above what the buyer wants to pay, so the buyer counters (usually eloquently) with something more like what he wants to pay. In my experience the seller is always offended (sometimes genuinely, other times it’s just a tactic). The logic I can’t wrap my head around is this: the seller gives a ridiculously-high price and the buyer names an equally-ridiculous low price. As the buyer, I don’t expect him to actually accept my first price, and I expect us to strike and agreement somewhere above, so I pick something significantly below where I want to pay.