This morning a few of us visited the church in Nepal, while others went in search of bargains on the streets of Thamel. We met back up for lunch and I introduced the team to the former school principal Dinesh and his son Diwas.
How to barter
The boys excitedly showed off their ‘bargains’ after lunch as Josh revealed his 6th pair of colourful pants. The rest of us were forced to go shopping for waterproof jackets as the heavens opened and it rained for the first time the whole trip. We navigated our way around endless stores offering ‘Genuine GoreTex’ products, some vastly different to others, but all genuine let me assure you!
Bartering Tip 1# Not interested
Bartering is a lot easier when you don’t care whether you get something or not. Not having your heart set on an item can shave hundreds if not thousands off the price. On the contrary that look in your eye that says “I must have this” will quickly put you out of pocket. Don’t think you can fool a trained salesperson. They will see it. That look of amazement, that happy dance when you’ve finally found ‘it’. Calling friends over to “look at this”. Excitedly shouting “This is awesome” or “So-and-so would love this”. If you have done any of that you might as well have cradled the item like a baby, given it a name, stroked it tenderly and rubbed it up against your face. Any of these rookie mistakes tell the salesperson to multiply whatever the price was going to be by 6.
It’s hard to pretend you don’t want a rain jacket, when it’s cold and raining outside. Time to employ another strategy.
Bartering Tip 2# Bargain in Bulk
Everyone knows you save when you buy in bulk. In Australia, if there is a bargain I will buy up big, knowing I have saved hundreds of dollars. Some doubters may point out that you don’t need 64 boxes of shapes or 160 Boost Bars and I’ve actually wasted money. I prefer to see these things an investment in my future. Anyway, knowing that the price goes down as the quantity goes up is really all you need to take advantage of Tip 2.
Here’s how it works. Bracelets that most suckers can get down to 50 rupees, 40 at best, you can take down to 8 simply by buying in bulk. “But I don’t need 100 bracelets” I hear you say. Good point! The thing about this strategy is that most of the time you don’t intend to buy in bulk, you are just using it as a cover to spy on the real price. Once the shopkeeper has gone down to 8 rupees per piece you know they must be making a profit at 10. So now you make an offer for one piece 10 rupees, explaining that if they can make a profit selling them for 8 then offering your offer of 10 is almost too generous!
Since starting a business I realise this is a cruel strategy and doesn’t always hold true, but I still use it to find out what things are really worth, and lets be honest, if you know me most of the time I buy in bulk anyway!
Tip 3# The walk-off home run
There is nothing better than gaining the upper hand in a bartering exchange and no quicker way to make it happen than to use the “Walk-off homer”. All you need to do is quickly lose interest because of the outrageous price and then walk away. Don’t leave too quickly or they won’t have time to chase you. The trick is to stroke the product or voice an “Oh well” on your way out, indicating that you are still interested but not for that price.
If done correctly the shopkeeper will be at the doorway in no time, lowering the price with each step you take away from their shop. There is no hard and fast rule for how many steps you should take before turning back and agreeing to a much lower price. Generally I advise turning back before you are out of earshot!
There are endless strategies when it comes to bartering like Tip 4# “The guy down the road is selling them for” Tip 5# “The price laugh” or Tip 6# “Major on a minor flaw in the product” although that one reminds me of a funny Bible verse.
“It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer; then off he goes and boasts about his purchase. (Proverbs 20:14)
Anyway, after quite a bit of shopping around Lisa scored the elusive jackets at around 1/3 of their starting price. By this time it was too late to walk to Swayambhu, the Monkey Temple so we jumped in a taxi and after a short ride ended up at the bottom of 365 stairs. The race was on.
The Monkey Temple
The boys bolted off and I quickly followed. Our race to the top quickly turned into a slow walk and we realised just how unfit we’d become! After a number of steep stairs to finish we made it to the top, where two of us had to crack out the asthma puffer.
The rain had cleared the smog from the valley below and we shared sweeping views of Kathmandu with the monkeys.
Aside from the Katman-view, the main attraction at the top is a Stupa with ‘Buddha’s Eyes’ painted in all four directions, representing the omniscient mind of a Buddha (enlightened one). I thought because of their position on the top of the hill overlooking everything the eyes were a reminder of Karma being an inescapable force in Buddhist belief. Nice try. But wrong!
In the middle of the two large eyes is a ‘Third eye’, the eye of wisdom, something common to both Hindu’s and Buddhist’s. It is very common to see people with a small red dot on their forehead to represent this ‘Third Eye’ as well as being a sign of blessing from their gods.
Opportunistic locals often come up here to prey on unsuspecting wallets, but not in the usual way. This tactic is much more clever than picking pockets. Posing as sightseers, they waltz over to you and strike up a conversation. Some ask for your permission but others just start giving you a whole heap of information about Swayambhu. Oh that’s nice of them, you think to yourself, until at the very end they ask you for an outrageous fee for what you thought was a conversation! The boys narrowly avoided these would be ‘guides’.
The sky darkened. The crowds cleared. It was just us and the monkey’s.
Soooooo many monkey’s
We even spotted an unusually large one, who was looking for his friend Ray Bees!
Fortunately Mitch never ran into his friend Ray.
The team gathered to watch the last of the sun disappear. Darkness filled the city below. Kathmandu was on another scheduled outage. Generators powered the few lights that were on. Unfortunately, there weren’t many of them around the 365 stairs we now had to walk down in the dark.