Navigating everyday commerce in India

I don't think too much of a haircut (should I?) and so pop into a neighbourhood salon (rather than a swanky place where they make it seem like its heart surgery) for one. While in the 'act', the barber asks me whether he was the one who presided over the act the last time around. I say yes, and think that's odd. Why does he want to know? Then it hits me. Maybe he asked so he knows what he can charge me. After all I look the Richie-Rich type, so could be for him a perfect prey to an extravagant price. But If he knows he's done my hair the last time around, he can't ask for more. 'Cos I'd know.

Soon the act's done. I give the guy a hundred rupee note. He asks for exact change. I ask how much. He counters, how much did I pay the last time? I don't remember, but I quote a reasonable amount. He's stuck. He thinks I know what I paid last time, though like I said I don't, so he accepts meekly.

I walk out.

Welcome to a typical informal kirana-type sale in India. If you, the buyer are perceived as the Richie-Rich type, you're sized up and a rate's quoted. Should you be the accepting type, a 'costly ride' is a guarantee. Should you be the clever one, you can 'trap' the seller into accepting what you give, which of course is not easy. Plus there's still a possibility of being taken for a ride.

But if you, like me have executed your 'smart' move, you can pat yourself on the back. For having navigated well, what is informal everyday commerce in India.

The depressing news? Such pats will be few and far in between.


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