Negotiating is one of my secret passions; the interplay between two parties’ perceived value of goods and services is fascinating to me. So when I learned that the primary mode of transport was the autorickshaw, and each trip represented an opportunity to level up my negotiating skills, I did a happy dance in my head.

For those of you who just threw a “BS flag” citing I hate conflict, let me explain. Because there are roughly 40 rupees to the dollar and most trips cost less than 150 rupees, we are arguing over quarters here. I normally dislike confrontations because the costs of engaging make the game simply not worth playing. But here, if I lose 30 rupees, I’m over it.

So, here we have the perfect setup for training the inexperienced American bargainer.

  1. Costs of losing are cheap
  2. You get to play many rounds without depleting your resources, and
  3. You can always literally walk away.

A brief summary of +1 for Mike’s bargaining adventures:

  • Got to a restaurant for 30 rupees. Skipped an hour walk in the hot sun. +1
  • Went to a park for 100 rupees. Missed the cross-town traffic and didn’t have to dodge cows. +1
  • Went to church for nominally 100 rupees. Price went up to 150 rupees apparently due to a misunderstanding. Left in disgust. -1
  • Had to confirm everything my wife said to the driver, and was charged an additional 20 rupees to go farther than he thought originally. Broke even.

But the biggest victory came just the other day. A friend of ours wanted to see X-Men First Class, and the only showtime was 9:30pm. It also happened to be in the “gold class” theater, which is both pricey and translates to “reclining lay-z-boy seats and waiter service.” The movie, with intermission, got out just before midnight, and the walk was a few clicks along unlit sidewalks. A rickshaw driver approaches as we exit the theater.

“Where you want go my friend?”

Our friend Brandon explains where we’re headed, with the usual hand gestures and onslaught of landmarks.

“150 rupees,” came the driver’s response.

Brandon laughed. I said, “No way man, the trip is worth 50 at most.” I mean, we’d gotten to the theater for 30, but there were only a few cabs around and we were going to a place where he might not get another rider easily.

“No, 150 rupees,” and he gestured for the three of us to follow him.

I chuckled. “Nope, that’s fine, we’ll walk,” and the three of us started away.

“Okay, my friend, 100 rupees!” he called after us.

I stopped, and turned in the theater’s lights. “75 at most, or we’re not going.”

He didn’t seem to want that, so I resumed walking away.

“Okay, Okay 75!” he shouted and gestured wildly towards us.

“75?” I repeated, gesturing with my hands the number I intended to pay.

“Yes, come!” so we piled in, zoomed back to our dorm with a few terrifying swerves, and were soon back in our rooms.

Boom! 50% off!  That may be the high score for the trip, but we’ll see if I can go for 60% next time.

+1 Negotiation for Mike


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Nisha on July 10, 2011 at 08:44

    Glad to hear you are enjoying this process – a lot of my American friends have gotten really frustrated with the amount of barganing they had to do in India. Have you bargained at one of the sari shops yet? That would be the ultimate test I think 🙂


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