Saturday, August 06, 2005

Madam, you're an idiot

Wha...!? Whoa! Bhai saab! You think I'm an idiot!?
These are the kinds of thoughts that flashed through my mind - and face, I'm sure - as I found myself being duped by the sellers on a shopping trip.

I was shopping at this overpriced market in Karachi (it's close to home) to buy some essentials for a pilgrimage tour. It had been some time since I had been out shopping on my own, and I had to devise a way to get a bargain. Pretending to be a dumb customer is a strategy I employ to negotiate - it kind of alarms the seller: "could-be irritating girl, right ahead!" Usually, they give me a bargain just to get me out of the shop.

But this isn't something that really works. (I'm just checking different strategies.) In fact, I don't even have to try to act dumb - I walked in to several shops that seemed to be waiting for customers (in a minute we'll know why) - and the shopkeepers had this "in walks my prey" written all over. My thin veneer of the naive-university-girl-out-for-shopping quickly wore out as I tried to control my temper - and amusement.

At the cosmetics shop, I was presented with a thick-grained blush-on in a wornout plastic pack. It was from "UK." Now a quality blush (or eyeshadow, or even chocolate!) is fine-grained. You can't even feel the powder if you rub it between your fingers. I asked them if "UK" was in a bara [unregulated markets, often full of smuggled or counterfeit goods] in Peshawar? They gave me that "silly lady asking too many questions - why don't you just buy the damned thing and leave!" look. They lost the sales, and even in my confidence in what appeared to be perfectly legit Etude cosmetics.

Other Stories [more of the same]:

Repeat: Cotton-buds pack declaring it's a 100-bud pack, with only about 50 cotton buds. When I noted, the price was slashed from Rs. 25 to Rs. 20. Thank you!

Repeat: The salesgirl, pitching another small-time item: "And this is for.... [turns to the shopowner] How much should I say?" He doesn't look up and says: "Make it 50." I: "Er, this sticker says it's Rs. 30.50." Salesgirl: [Pause, blink.] "We also have to make profit." I: "Ok, make Rs. 5 profit." Salesgirl to shopowner: "Khalid bhai?? ['Brother Khalid...']" Khalid Bhai, doesn't look up but for a frustrated glance: "Ok, ok. [[Stupid customer!]]" Salesgirl: "Ok, 35." I: "Ok, 35." My heart: "30.50 has profit included." I, to heart: "Shut up, sir. I'm in a hurry here, but my only solace is to blog it!"

Repeat: I: [On being presented with a cheap-shot "Italian" blush pack when I asked for Etude, of which the shop bears huge posters. The printing on the box was coming off.] "This is not Italian." Khalid Bhai: "Madam, you said it so abruptly. Don't do this... [Pause] This is Italian." I: [blink, blink] "Let me say it politely, This is not Italian." Khalid Bhai [removes all cosmetics from the counter, sullen] "Ok."

What makes these people think they'll get business if they try to fool the now-extremely savvy customers? Their large shops with 0-2 customers at one time bore testimony to their anachronistic selling techniques.
P.S. Retailing needs an overhaul. At least, all items should have a price tag, at least the branded ones.
P.P.S. Pakistani firms need to focus on branding big time. They are losing sales by the unethical selling practices of the retailers who are pocketing the unreasonable amounts of profits.

Email: nextbyramla AT


Mars said...

My experience with the run-of-the-mill businessman has been about the same. Unfortunately, it seems there is this vicious cycle where each person is ripping off the next one, so when it comes to confrontation with a consumer who wants 'more', they are baffled. Seems like the small-time businessman today thinks 'beymaani' equals 'business'. I think they just don't know better.

Sabaa said...

So true!

Pakistani shopkeepers lose out big time due to their ignorance of concepts such as brand loyalty, quality and customer retention.

Countless times have I entered a shop only to leave it without purchase simply due to the obnoxious attitude of the shopkeeper. At times one is made to feel as if you are being done a favour by having something sold to you.

Ramla A. said...

I hope their eyes can open up. Some people just never had a chance at good training.

But still - I think if they used their brain cells on good behavior and common sense as much as they do on new ways of manipulating customers - they'd be much better off!

bakpakchik said...

It's a mixed blessing sweetie, all this 'price tagged' stuff.

Sometimes, I'm glad to just load my shopping cart knowing exactly how much I am paying for everything and other times, I run my fingers over one knick knack wondering how - back in karachi - if I bought two, I would have been able to get a huge discount on the third!

At least here i know all my cometics are good quality.:)

Ramla A. said...

I love bargains myself. But this bad-tameezi?? No no!

Haggling is fun and somehow, you always feel a winner until the next woman you meet up tells you, "I got it for half the prize from this khoka in Zainab Market!"

Question: what is it with us women torturing us with the idea that we ended up with a bad bargain? It's a post-shopping extreme sport that hurts but is still thrilling! What a paradox! :)

Sabaa said...

I have 3 kids, so as you can imagine we get through a lot of milk in a day. Our corner shop wala, instead of awarding us 'best customer medal', routinely raises his eyebrows at the sheer quantity of milk we buy from him every day!

Btw, have I told you before how much I like your blog? Recent posts are excellent.