I am not good at bargaining. I was taught by my mom years ago to bargain well when she sent me grocery and produce shopping but after being in America for ages, those skills just wore off. I think I try to do the win-win negotiation, but quite honestly that does not work in India. Its always someone wins and the other person negotiating loses. Most cases its NOT a negotiation, its just a bargaining. So what’s the difference – well let me explain.
1. Negotiating: I walked into a local car dealership with my cousin the other day. Good day to buy a new car. There are over 50+ models to choose from – very different from the last time we went car shopping in India – there were 3 models. You either bought a Fiat (localized for India), an Ambassador (from Morris Minor) or a Suzuki (also localized). Well walking into the dealership was interesting in itself. Before we had a chance to acquaint ourselves, there’s a nice lady that walks by to “greet” us with a paper in her hand.
“Hi” she says with a half smile “Are you looking to buy a car”?
We nod in unison.
“Okay, here’s the price sheet. Please be seated, I’ll send you a sales person”.
Whoa! I thought, price sheet first. Wonder what Seth has to say about this.
The price sheet was pretty detailed, cost of the car, taxes, registration fees, insurance – all inclusive. There were 5 models of cars to choose from and about 4 types of cars in each model. From the basic (no power anything (including no power steering!) , no seat belts, manual shift and no AC) to the fully loaded (this still has no airbags, no car stereo – optional, no sun roof, etc).
We sat down and Rakesh came to greet us, “So, which car do you want to buy?”. My cousin says “Santro”.
“Okay, do you know which type of car?” he asks.
“What’s the difference?” I venture.
A more detailed explanation of the features ensures.
We finally settle on a model and type. Turns out the same prices are valid throughout Southern India for every dealer. The only difference is what options you can purchase. But wait, even with that the prices are set by Hyundai.
So putting my best negotiation face I say “Why dont you throw in the stereo for free?” expecting a tough, grueling session ahead.
“Okay” replies Rakesh, “If you want free stereo, the I can only give delivery in 2 weeks”.
“But we want the car tomorrow”, my cousin volunteers.
“Then no free stereo” he explains still smiling.
“Hmm, what about color” my cousin questions, “We want blue”.
“No problem we have that in stock” he replies, and before we can ask any further “does not matter which color you want, we have all in stock if you want delivery by tomorrow, without stereo”.
So much for negotiation.
I try the walk tactic “Well if we dont get stereo in the car and by tomorrow, we’ll go elsewhere”.
“Sure sir. Its your choice, but every dealer will give you the same price, same time of delivery and same options” says Rakesh, “Our difference is we are closest to your home. Would you rather drive another 1.5 hours to go elsewhere? In this traffic?”.
He has a point that man. Why buy a car and drive all around town? We are just buying it to park it at home are we not?
End of story. No more “negotiation”. Everything is set – you get a choice of delivery date in exchange for a free stereo.
I realize this post is already long and the bargain & haggling stories are kinda juicy so I’ll save those for another post.