Embracing the art of haggling

Ethiopian workers on a coffee farm paid about $21 per month.

Ethiopian workers at a coffee processing station and who are paid about $21 per month.

Saturday started with a nice get-together of a few British friends inside Jo’s at 242 West Second Street.

The only slight hitch was the price of a $2 coffee didn’t include that American staple of an automatic refill, which though not enshrined in the Constitution might as well be (the slide started with Starbucks in the ’80s, when it introduced America to naff European-styled coffees like lattes as well as the European practise of only one cup for your change).

Afterwards, three of us pottered over to the Farmers Market at 400 Guadalupe Street and where I couldn’t help thinking that as nice and tasty as all the produce looked, it was rather overpriced at the same time.

So though I’d reached a critically-low level of honey stores at home for my morning porridge, I wasn’t too impressed by $12 for 1lb bottle of honey–so I managed to haggle the lady down to $10.

I came across a hummus stand where, much to the embarrassment of my friends, I entered tense negotiations with the seller and got a tub of Babagunus hummus down from $5 to $4.

Some teasing about my thriftiness ensued from my friends, which I didn’t mind but I pointed out it wasn’t that long ago the world faced economic meltdown due to unrestrained spending.

There’s plenty of evidence the banks haven’t learned anything from it and are carrying on as before with gay abandon, but I for one would like to think I might have learnt something. And there’s nothing like a freelance income to make you aware of the precariousness of one’s finances.

Also, there’s enough places where $2 represents a daily wage and the argument of economic relativity can only be stretched so far. No matter where you are, money counts–down to the last dollar.

In half the world’s countries, haggling is not the exception to the rule, quite the opposite. The main reason we don’t tend to haggle in the West is pride. I can’t afford to be proud any more when it comes to finances, and after what our economies have been through perhaps we’d do well to learn from other countries.

So, dear proprietor, if you want my custom, well, work with me. You think I’m being tight, fine, show me your profit margin that justifies your price. Don’t have the evidence to hand? Then let’s negotiate.

To paraphrase that immortal line from the film “Network“: I’m as thrifty as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!

2013 is going to be my year of haggling. Why not give it a go yourself?