July 2012

Gora's bargaining prowess

(This is a feeble translation of a story by Bengali humorist Shibram Chakraborty.)

I have known Gora from the time he was very small, must have been twelve or thirteen years old and studying in the seventh grade at the Mitra School. This is his story which he had himself narrated it to me - the story of his shopping experience.

While playing football, his shorts ripped and Gora requested his uncle to buy him a new pair. "I do not have the time. I cannot roam around the market with you. Purchasing a pair of shorts for you is not my cup of tea. If you can purchase the shorts on your own, then go and do it," the uncle said.

Gora agreed. "Give me the money, then."

The uncle handed over 100 rupees and said, "I know you will be cheated. All the people in the world are always cheating you. All of them are lying in wait to cheat you. But what can I do, I do not even have the time to eat a chocolate bar."

As if Gora would have handed over his chocolate to uncle if he had the time! Gora dropped the 100 rupees into his pockets. He popped the remaining piece of chocolate into his own mouth and, while chewing, remarked, "I am not so stupid. I have yet to come across someone in entire Bhavanipur who can cheat me. In fact, I feel worried all the time that I might cheat somebody unknowingly!"

"Okay then, go to this shop," uncle said while directing him to a reputed clothing store. He advised Gora, "You must pretend that you are not keen on making the purchase. Even if you like a pair of shorts, feign that you have not liked it. Most importantly, remember to bargain and offer to pay only half the amount that has been demanded. Else you will surely be cheated."

Gora reached the shop and the shop-keeper welcomed him with a huge smile. "Come, little boy. What do you want?"

Gora was angry at being addressed as a "little boy". Was he a "little boy"? He was a seventh grade student in the Mitra School! "Let him address me as a 'little boy' again and I will teach him a lesson," Gora thought to himself.

But without letting the shop-keeper know what was going on in his mind, he said, "I want a good pair of shorts. How much will it cost?"

"It will not cost you much, just 100 rupees," the shop-keeper said and placed before Gora a collection of shorts to select.

"You are quoting a very high price. I can pay you 50 rupees."

The shop-keeper said, "Fifty rupees! Where can you purchase a pair of shorts for 50 rupees? But you are only a little boy, so I will give it to you for 80 rupees."

Gora was very angry at being described as a "little boy" again. "Give it to me for 40 rupees, else I am leaving," Gora said and took a step towards the exit.

"Forty rupees!" The man uttered the words as if the sky had fallen on his head. "A pair of shorts for 40 rupees! Do you know what is the cost of cloth? Then, there are labour charges ...."

"I neither understand such things nor do I wish to bargain with you. If you give it to me for 40 rupees, I can buy it," Gora made it clear.

"I don't like to disappoint customers, especially immediately after opening the shop in the morning. Okay, then, I will sell the shorts for 50 rupees - the price that you had yourself mentioned."

But Gora was quick on his guard. Offer to pay only half the amount that has been demanded, his uncle had said. "I will pay you 25 rupees and not a rupee more," Gora said.

"My God! You are a difficult customer. Okay, you may take the pair of shorts for 40 rupees. I am ready to forsake my profit."

"Oh, no!" Gora realised that the man was trying to cheat him. "Give it to me for 20 rupees," he said.

"What! Twenty rupees! Boy, you are giving me nightmares!" the shop-keeper was in tears. "I have been running this shop for the last 20 years but have never encountered such a difficult man, I mean boy, ever in my life," the man said and let out a one-and-half mile long sigh. "But what can I do? I cannot turn back the first customer to my shop empty-handed. Okay, let us settle the price at 25 rupees. Add another five to 20 and pay me 25 rupees."

"Twen-ty-fi-ve! What are you saying! If you had said 12.50 rupees, I could have considered," Gora was desperate. He did not want to give any opportunity to the shop-keeper to cheat him. "Will you give it to me for 12.50 rupees or should I try another shop?"

"Oh, wait. No shop-keeper can turn away the first customer, it is bad for business. Hand over 20 rupees and take away this pair of shorts."

Gora removed a ten-rupee note from his shirt pocket, a five-rupee note from the left-hand trouser pocket and three one-rupee coins from the right-hand pocket. "See, I have 18 rupees. Will this suffice?"

"You do not even have 20 rupees?" the shop-keeper was almost sobbing now.

"No, I have only 18 rupees and I must tell you that two of the three one-rupee coins are now no longer in circulation. I have no intention to cheat you."

"Sixteen rupees? Sixteen rupees for a pair of shorts? Sixteen rupees for a pair of shorts that costs 100 rupees" I think I am turning mad!" the man tore at his hair. "You do not have to pay me anything, I will give you the pair of shorts for free. You have been a nuisance by arriving as the first customer."

Gora realised that the shop-keeper was bent upon cheating him. "If you give me the pair of shorts for free, then I will take two pairs," he immediately replied.

The shop-keeper began a dance - a dance of anguish. While still dancing, he packed two pairs of shorts and handed the packet to Gora. The boy walked out of the stop with an unconcerned expression on his face, just like his uncle had suggested, and thought to himself, "I have purchased the shorts, but it is only uncle who can tell whether I have been cheated or not."

Some useful links for
your career:

  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu

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