Tale of Printed Prices

Recently I came across a ‘meme’ that accused the ‘liberals’ of negotiating prices with vegetable sellers in the street but buying fancy items in malls and stores at face value and then tweeting the grief on farmers’ suicide. On its face, the meme seemed logical. But somehow it didn’t seem to connect the dots. The thoughts of finding why we negotiate had been visiting and revisiting me for a long time. We end up negotiating the cost of the grocery with the vendors in the streets. We bargain with rickshaw persons for a better fare. We do that even for manual rickshaw which requires human muscle strength to pull another human. Often some section of society judges the section of negotiators and bargainers. I wanted to dig deeper instead of dumping judgments and labels.

We don’t do this bargaining when the price is printed. Even when that is handwritten on a piece of paper like in the farmers market or artisans market or trade fair, we hesitate in any form of negotiation.  In the fancy malls or stores or hotels, we again have only two options – take it or leave it. When the price tags are seen digitally on Amazon or Flipkart, we would have no control again. There might be sale or deals, whose control again sits with the sellers or the platform.

Somehow, when the price is written down,  it puts mental blocks towards the direction of negotiations. Those printed or written digits discourage us from asking for a better price. Of course, the motivation for this discouragement works differently in different situations.   

Sometimes the class difference between buyer and seller plays a role. Street hawkers or rickshaw pullers fall in much lower classes than buyers. So buyers exercise some power in extracting a better price. But the power of class differences dilutes if the price is printed.

When we buy a house or buy media or software subscription for our company or ourselves, we negotiate to the last drop. Big money involved there. In essence, those negotiations are a thousand times bloodier than the ones on the street with grocery sellers.

Thus, ground for negotiation is not as simple as it is portrayed to be. Many factors play into this.

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