Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Power of a Pear

It's only 9:20am but it's been a pretty good day so far, if for no other reason than that it was different. There is a bazaar just off post where local craftsmen and businessmen come to sell their wares. It is a good source of revenue for the locals, which works to our advantage. See, if there is any kind of attack against coalition forces during the week, the bazaar is cancelled that week and the local economy takes a hit. The locals are then pressured to cough up whoever was responsible for the attack so as to kick start the income producing wares sell-off. That may sound kind of harsh but it keeps coalition forces from being harassed or hurt, keeps the bad guys at bay, and offers local tradesmen a source of income.

The bazaar offers everything from local clothing, to pseudo antique stuff, to bootleg DVDs. It is a great place to buy souvenirs for folks back home or find a keepsake from the war. It was fun because if you even said "hello" to the sales guys they would point to something they thought you were looking at and say, "You're my friend. How much for that?" The game was to lowball the seller and see how far down he would come on his price. I wanted to find a teacup for my wife to add to her small collection. I thought it would make an interesting addition. But there were none to be found. The only thing I found was a small holy-grail-looking chalice made out of stone. Rather old looking but who knows. They guy said it was 2000 years old and cost $75. I chuckled and offered him $5. He chuckled back and said $75. He was the only guy who wouldn't budge on his prices. Most of his stuff looked like real antiques but you can never tell. Plus, he had unique stuff whereas most of the other guys were selling multiple copies of the same item.

I bought my boys some shepherd hats and a small walnut jewelry box for my daughter. I also found a small shield like you might see in a movie about the middle ages. The guy wanted $80 for it and I told him $20. He said no so I walked away but stayed in the area knowing he would make a counter offer. He did. $60! I said I could pay $20. OK, then $45 but no lower. How about $20, I countered. Final offer, $25. I'll pay $20, no more. As we stood there not budging, I pulled a pear out of my pocket that I had left over from lunch and began to polish it on my sleeve. That did the trick and he flinched. "OK, I'll take $20 and the pear".

I'm sure some of my readers may be thinking how cruel I was to lowball this poor man. Here I will interject that in fact the shield in question wasn't worth $15 and certainly not worth my pear.


Bob Perrow said...

LOL, a good story. I spent some time in Iran, and I know the bargaining system too. One thing you need to keep in mind is that not a single one of the traders will sell something without making a profit.

May our God keep you and bless you, your family, and your work.

Bob Perrow

Anonymous said...

Great story - sometimes I wonder how my Iraqi friends are doing, and wishing I could have done more.


Some Soldier's Mom said...

I have been checking your site regularly and am so glad to see you posting again!

a very good story... haggling is a way of life in all of the ME... it is considered quite honorable to negotiate for everything... you done good, kid!

may God (in all His forms and by all His names) keep you and our troops and honorable Iraqis safe.

Marcus Aurelius said...

Ahhh, the fine art of haggling!

When I was in the United Arab Emirates almost all prices were negotiable. Sometimes I would enjoy it and sometimes it was a pain in the....

I was in Africa once, and found myself on the good side of the haggling situation. A vendor (of ebony sculptures) wanted my watch.So he offered me one of his wares for my watch and some bucks. Well, he got my watch and I got his carving! It was nice being in the power seat for a change.

One last story. In the UAE there are a lot of Russians and they are there to buy buy and buy (some women go to work ;-) for a bit and then buy buy buy). A buddy found some worry beads he thought interesting and went to ask how much. The vendor offered some crazy high price and would not come down. Exasperated, my buddy asked the guy "Do you think I'm Russian?" When the vendor found out my buddy wasn't Russian, he got reasonable.