Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saigon...Shopping, Fixed Price? You need to Bargain!

Through out the entire trip, our group had only limited spare time to shop. And since shopping is always one of the top items on the travel agenda of Singaporeans anytime, anywhere...that last morning was no exception. Practically everyone wanted to prove that point to be true, as always!
As it was a "free and easy" morning to departure time ( 2 hours later ), not really that much time for crazy Singaporeans with a buying frenzy, we headed for the nearest market mall within walking distance ( about 10 minutes away ).
D2 and I with another friend were the last 3 to arrive at this market mall ( Photo below).

The first thing that struck me was the several of the Signboards that declared " FIXED PRICE"
displayed overhead prominently. It was meant to say that all the items on sale are as priced or as indicated. No bargaining !? Huh...I could not and never believe such signs no matter where they
are found. I speak wholly from long and past experience.
It's quite don't be taken in by such.
As we meandered through the narrow paths between rows and rows of stalls, D2 and I were touted by various sales people, each spouting out their offers for this and that. Some spoke broken English, others in good French. Quite a number could speak Mandarin. None spoke to us
in local Vietnamese. Obviously we Singaporeans can be spotted from afar as distinctly different, somehow.
We passed several smaller parties from our Group at different stalls. Some have already made purchases while others are still unsure about the "right price " of intended items.

Sensing this, I reminded D2 not to finalise any purchase until I was present.
Unlike the others, Unk Dicko does not enjoy shopping very much. However, when it comes to
the business of "Bargaining" especially with a "hardnut" stallholder for anything that someone
really wanted...well that's totally different. I enjoy that aspect very much, believe it or not!
I relish it as a challenge of a different kind.
Most people are too shy or to put it bluntly, too " thin-skinned" to be seen bargaining, perhaps
fearful of getting an embarassing belittling or being scolded or insulted by the stallkeepers.
Can't blame anyone who thinks like this.
It has happened many times before especially to people who know little about the art and skill
of bargaining.

Here D2 has selected a beautiful "ao dai "to test market the price. I whispered to her that if she really like the cut, material and style.. she should get a few more pieces and other items before
I rise to the challenge.
We got all she wanted at a very good price, way below the "Fixed price".

See the Vietnamese wide hat on her head and my large grin. There's a reason and story
behind that. As we continued our walk within, we met a party of our friends having a hard time
bargaining with a stallholder. They wanted to buy some hats as shown and was close to concluding the "final" mutually ageed price.
As I listened in, I just could not believe the price for the hat. It was quoted in thousands of dongs
using a calculator to confuse the buyer lah !
Then when someone asked for the price in US $ ... it was about $18.
No choice. No diddling. No hiding.
Up stepped Unk Dicko right smack into the midst of that bargaining session.
I said to all of them, " Don't worry. Allow me to help you get what you want at the LOWEST
Price possible. Let me do the bargaining for you. "
They nodded and were only too pleased!
First thing I did was to take hold of the hat and look at it very closely, checking whether
it was a fine work of art or just a reasonable souvenir. Having made my accurate assessment, I then asked very politely of the stall holder what was the lowest price he'll offer to me.
He punched out the figure using the calculator. I was aghast and most unimpressed.
I knew his previous stated price in American $ ( super over inflated ).
Then, knowing that many of these stall holders are not that familiar with our Sg currency beyond
hearing about its excellent reputation ( better than the $ US ! ).... I asked the stallholder if I paid in Sing dollars, " How much you want? ".
His reply , " Ok , if use Singapore dollar ...Two dollars ".
There you have it!
Can you understand and figure out what was behind the stallholder's mind earlier in the light
of his most unexpected response of $2 for the hat?
If you can and do, I welcome you into the Wise Owl least, where the art of bargaining is concerned.
That's the story of the hat on D2's head. Soon, a lot of Sing 2$ were frantically being dugged out from wallets and pockets. All the heads under those hats were very happy, I know.
Mr KS Chua was another "beneficiary" of the hat bargaining episode.
Btw, the hat was of excellent craftsmanship.
Later when we were at the airport, I checked the price of similar hats on
sale at the Souvenirs counter.
Guess what amount was stated on the price labels?
Between $8 to $10 in American currency!
Another of my successful bargaining outcomes at this stall
saw many of us come out with a truly "Win-Win" result.
The stallholder was most pleased and so were we.

Just before we all left for the airport, Mr Andy Lim and Mrs Lim Hwee Hua
( S'pore Cabinet Minister ) came to wish us "bon voyage" and for a
memorable snapshot.


Anonymous said...

Unkle Dicko,

I was told that they have beautifully designed and decorated bird cages for sale. One can have them customed-made, too.

BTW, I am not referring to the large "bird cages" - for prisoners, during the Vietnam War.

stanley said...

It looks as if our Sing dollars are more valuable in terms of monetary value than the American dollars.

unk Dicko said...

That's true. I went to some guitar and ukulele shops. On display were many kinds of locally made of the same. Some were truly most beautiful in the attractive "looks" dept, with very intricate in-laid designs on the body.
However, I was more interested in the main thing that mattered to me...SOUND production quality.
Those that I personally tested out did not meet my expectations, unfortunately.

unk Dicko said...

Stanley, the Sing $ viv-a-viv the American $ exchange rate can be easily calculated.
But for ordinary stallholders, shopkeepers it's more than that. They look for the'confidence' factor too. If for eg; you have a sizeable collection of US$ and the dollar falls over the are in a big mess.
The Sing $ will not fall in the same manner or even at all!