Street Market Negotiation


Greenmarket Sq, central Cape Town. Stalls set out with Africana bric-a-brac. A magnet for tourists. Much of it invokes memories of donkeys and sombreros for someone of my generation, via Seventies Spanish package holidays. Yet dig for it and you can find genuine craftsmanship and a bargain.

If springbok hide cushion covers are your thing, they’re half the price of the shopping malls. If you seek a funky chunky ring, the intricate and the bold are cheaply and freely available.

So my sister likes penguins. Hardly a surprise, metal framed, beaded penguins were on offer. At just a few centimetres high, they are not large, and the instant I picked one up I heard the stall-holder pipe up with “only 45”.

The typical too-ing and fro-ing ensued. I could buy a pair for 80. But what if I wanted a different, third, animal for 80 all in? We agreed on this. I’d also thrown in the potential for a fourth item, but that slipped away. Right up until I came to pay.

This was with a 200 note. Right at the death, with trinkets in a bag, I was offered that said fourth item and all I had to do was accept 100 in change, rather than the presently expected 120.

It was a pretty good show.

I instantly noted how few pen-hovering moments seek to sell more.

Perhaps it’s the worry that further thinking will introduce a pause. And such delay brings significant risk of the deal slipping away for good. Perhaps it’s the eagerness to secure any signature, whatever the reasoning, and rush across to the next victim, I mean, customer.

Whichever, I recalled my first ever order form. Although for software modules, it resembled a wholesaler’s PLOF. Such ‘price list order forms’ have line items pre-printed, with boxes somewhere close eagerly awaiting a tick or large number manually entered into them.

When challenged, we could say that it was to help the sales ledger clerks, as the last thing anyone would want was inaccurate billing. Yet the salesteam were of the opinion such a design gave the best chance of someone adding to our juicy commission. And I experienced this for myself, when someone enquired on the merits of Cash Book and Fixed Assets register as ink dripped from quill, and promptly added one to their order.

Where’s your enticing extra chocolate bar at the checkout till?

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