g o d s - o f - i n d i a|
INDIAN SHOPKEEPERS ---- Are They Really the Rudest People in the Universe.
I HAVE BEEN FROM ONE SIDE OF THIS WORLD TO THE OTHER, TO PARAPHRASE HAN SOLO, AND JUST LIKE HIM I HAVE SEEN A LOT OF STRANGE STUFF. However, I have never seen anything -- ANYTHING! -- which compares to the rude and aggressive sales tactics employed by Indian shopkeepers to make a buck. From Singapore to the streets of south London you will find them, enticing you into their stores with kind and sugary words, then cursing you with venomous hate if you refuse to make a substantial purchase. Thanks to the Indian Diaspora they are everywhere now, selling fake Rolex's on the busy promenades of Kowloon, or scowling at you -- pitiful little customer you! --
MUMBAI SHOPKEEPER HEAVEN ---- The Golden Streets of Mumbai.
MUMBAI's streets may not be paved with gold, but there's lots of cash on them, perhaps crores per kilometre. And every ten metres there is a success story too.
Anything is available on these pavements Efrom humble ballpens to the latest electronic equipment. Want some item you saw advertised in a foreign magazine, you can place an order with a pavement dealer. The pavement vendor will take an advance payment, `import' the item, home-deliver it, demonstrate how it works, and, then, take the balance payment.
In old-style stores and spanking new malls, a customer who bargains is treated with contempt. In pavement shops, a customer who does not bargain and gives the vendor an opportunity to deliver his or her poetic sales pitch is treated with disdain. So pavement shopping is one of Mumbai's major entertainments for customers from all income groups. Pavement shopping is no more only for the middle and lower income groups. Vendors and regular customers develop an enduring relationship. News, gossip and shopping anecdotes are shared.
Since both customers and vendors are from all parts of the country, a pavement-shopping lingo has also evolved. Perhaps, it is worth a serious linguistics study. Vendors strive hard to convey that they are worldly wise, or globalised, and use English words and phrases freely to impress customers. So well are they organised that vendors do not have to make bulk purchases. Delivery vans bring the stuff to the vendors. Everything is almost as well organised as Mumbai's internationally famous dabbawala system. Only, Mumbai's pavement industry is waiting for the foreign media to discover it, as happened with the dabbawalas, before home-grown experts acknowledge its importance.
A great leveller, in recent years the pavement industry has even eliminated the gender bias. Not so long ago women sold vegetables, flowers and fish; men everything else. This is not true anymore, and the number of women vendors has been steadily increasing. And their enterprise has moved them from the pavement into regular shops; the owner's wives and daughters are now seen behind the counters.
As Dave and Lisa wrote: "When Dave's mom and dad left Africa, they took half of our stuff with them. We had winter gear for Antarctica and the climb up Kili which we no longer needed. Something just didn't feel right with our bags half full, so in the 10 hours we were in Pushkar before bedtime, we bought enough to fill our bags up again. Shopping was fun because Indian people make it much more of an experience than just shopping. While looking at a few things in one shop, the owner had us sit down, brought us a chai and showed us all sorts of beautiful things. We laughed and joked, told stories about our families, and only well selecting the items we wanted did we begin negotiations. This was an experience in itself. The price begins high on purpose, but you can't simply cut the price in half and hope he drops the price. You must tell him how it's too much money so that he can tell you a 5 minute story about how the quality is so much better and that it's worth the price. Eventually he'll come around and drop the price a little because we're friends now. This goes on for another 15 minutes until we all agree on a fair price.
The overall experience in that shop probably took 30 or 40 minutes. It's fun if you can sit through the whole process; these guys will literally cover you with hundreds of samples of whatever you were looking for. It's great fun.
Dave spent the next morning shopping for a Tibetan singing bowl. He's always wanted one, and if you've ever had a glass of wine with Dave, chances are he's annoyed you by running his finger around the glass to make it sing. Think of a much bigger bowl, made with 9 or more metals that vibrates when you run a stick around the rim of the bowl. It's bigger, louder, and "WAY cooler"."
Contact the author Rob Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anticopyright February 2005.