Sunday, January 29, 2012

Basics of Bead Show Bargaining - Part 1

First of all, let's not get our panties in a twist  - this is not about racism!  I'm going to be talking about societies and cultures, and politeness and expectations on both sides.  If I mention X nationality, I do NOT mean "every single person from X country, in every single situation, EVAR."  This is just my experience, OK?

Well, now that that's out of the way, let's get started.  Bargaining and bartering are the very first form of commerce known to mankind (and among the higher apes as well).  Ayn Rand said it best "Value for value".  Something is only worth as much as the other person is willing to pay for it.  Anyone who's seen a tacky beer mug go for $2,000 on Ebay knows exactly what I'm talking about.

First up, we're going to discuss Arabic cultures.  Bartering may be prehistoric, but it took the Semitic peoples (Jews, Arabs and Bedouin) to bring it to a high art form.  (More on dealing with Jews later.)  The term "Camel Trader" oft comes to mind.

"For you my friend, special price!"

Yes, they really do say that.  And it's true, you are their friend.  Everyone who walks into the booth with cash is an instant friend.  It's part of the culture of hospitality.  If you were in their home, no matter how they felt about you personally, they'd still offer you a cup of strong mint tea.  It's a matter of personal honor.  Smile back, and start admiring all the pretties.

The Middle East offers some of the most gorgeous gemstones in the world.  For example, the best lapis lazuli comes from Afghanistan.  The Arabic people are fiercely proud of their country's products, so don't be afraid to praise the items often, and loudly.  Sigh wistfully, turn things this way and that against the light, comment on the color and clarity with awe.  When you're done, put the most expensive items down and start to walk away, but look back at it over your shoulder as if you were taking leave of your lover. 

The proprietor is sure to take note of this, and will start trying to get you to reconsider that strand of beads you just abandoned.  Look at what you have in your hands that you are willing to buy.  Agree with him that his wares are worth every penny, and regret that it is simply not in your budget.  Watch carefully as his eyes light up.  In Arabic cultures, if you do not bargain, they have no respect for you - you are an idiot.  The harder you bargain, the more they love you.  It's a bonding thing.  It's like playing chess against the master.  There's no animosity here, so don't feel like you're being rude or insulting, quite the opposite.  Keep smiling, and LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

Now, here's the basic formula.  I'll try to keep the numbers round, because I'm horrible with math (another good reason to bargain).

What you have in your hand comes to 78.00  What you want to add to that costs 100.00, so together that's 178.00.  So far, we're looking at retail (or wholesale, if you're in the dealer's room, even better!)  Try to knock the price down to around 30% less or so, so let's say 140.00 even.  He says he can't possibly go that far, and offers 160.00.  You tell him that the piece is gorgeous, and certainly worth it, but after all, you have to stick to your budget and that you're pushing it already.  You offer 145.00, he offers 155.00  You say 150.00? and give him a BIG smile.  He smiles back and agrees. 

You're not done yet.  If he pulls out his calculator to start figuring taxes, you give him the big blinky eyes and say "No tax?" and then stare him down, but keep smiling until he puts the calculator away.  You are NOT encouraging him to commit tax fraud,  you're just asking for another percentage off of the final sale.  He'll take the tax out of the back end of the sale at the end of the day.  If he offers his hand, shake it.  If you're a woman, he may or may not offer.  Go with the flow.

BIG TIP:  Do not ask if they have a catalog or online shop until you are DONE with your bargaining.  If they think you're just wasting time in the booth, and you may or may not order online at a later time, they will go and assist someone else.  Vendors hate "lookie loos".  Accept any promotional brochures as you leave, and assure him that you look forward to building a business relationship with him in the future.  Use the word "relationship", it's another good key word in their culture.

Bonus round:  If you're brought a friend to the show, and you've separated for a moment, make a point of bringing him or her over to the booth you just bought from, and introduce them to the owner.  Loudly praise the merchandise and prices to your friend, and tell them that they should buy here next time they need XYZ items. 

Next entry, how to deal with those clever Jews (and I should know, I am one!)

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