“It’s 60$, but I give it to you for 50.”
“Hmm. I will give you twenty.”
“No way mon! That’s hand-made! See how delicate it is? It took me hours to make that horse head!”
“Forty-five, and that’s my last offer.”
“Hey mon! You make my day! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!”
Did I give too much? Had I been too easy in the bargaining process?
At first I didn’t think so, but then I noticed the same woodcarving all over the Straw Market, and some of the merchants were asking considerably less . . . Handmade? Yeah, right!
The Straw Market in Nassau, Bahamas, is a huge tent located right on the Nassau harbour, just in front of the dock where tourists disembark from cruise ships. Over two hundred vendors come there everyday to sell their goods to the thousands of tourists that bombard the island.
The Straw Market received its name because of the fact that in the past, it primarily sold straw products made in the Bahamas. Tourists could choose from a myriad of distinctively Bahamian products, such as Bahamian-made mats, hats, dolls, fans, etc. Developers soon took over most of the islands, however, and other than on the islands of Exuma, Andros and Long Island, most of the straw-producing plants have been destroyed. As a result, the Straw Market now sells products from around the world, such as woodcarvings, shirts, jewellery, souvenirs, toys, shells, etc. There are still some limited locally-produced products, such as some woodcarvings, some of the straw products and the paintings, but most of the goods on sale come from elsewhere. And if you notice the same product in several places in the market, you know it was not produced on the island!
When you visit the Nassau Straw Market, you are expected to bargain for your goods. Watching the vendors bargain can be very entertaining. Some merchants don’t budge on their prices, but for others, half the joy of the sale is the bargaining. They have become very good at manipulating tourists. I can’t tell you how many times the vendors called my wife a “pretty girl”. They even told me I was handsome! That sure made my day! The first few times it was complimentary. Then we noticed that every tourist who stopped to look at that particular boot was also a “pretty girl” or a “handsome young man”, even when they were 90 years old! Others would pull you aside and whisper their price in your ear, making you think they would get in trouble if others found out how little they had just offered you.
One creative vendor pulled my wife aside, looked around to make sure no one was watching, and then told my wife she would make her a “Wal-Mart” special. My wife asked in surprise if there was a Wal-Mart on the island, and she grinned. “No,” she said. “But you know what a Wal-Mart special is!” She then proceeded in selling her three bracelets for 2/3rd the original price of one…
My youngest son quickly caught on to the tactics of bargaining. If the vendor refused to go down as low as what he wanted to pay, he would simply look at his mom with sad, puppy dog eyes. My wife would invariably say something like this: “No. I won’t let you pay that much for that. Now come on! Let’s go!” And she would take him by the arm and turn to leave. Invariably the vendor would suddenly lower his price.
Some would say that I might have had reason to complain about the dishonest bargaining tactics of the vendor who sold me my carving of the horse head, and you are right. However, I have to ask myself: am I any better? Don’t I use manipulation, intimidation, deception, and even flattery to get my own way? Isn’t my attitude often, “All that matters is that I get my way”?
“Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.” (Matt 5:37 The Message)
“Don’t let anyone intimidate or silence you. No matter what happens, I’m with you and no one is going to be able to hurt you.” (Acts 18:9-10 The Message)
“Such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” (Rom 16:18 NIV)
I don’t regret how much I paid for my horse head. You see, it is easy to get into the swing of bargaining while in the Bahamas, and it can be exciting to get a better deal with one merchant than with another, but throughout it all, we have to remember one thing: With tourism being the primary industry in the Bahamas, these people rely on the sale of their goods for survival. If they don’t make a sale, their children will not eat. Not only does leaving behind money at the Straw Market provide you with remarkable souvenirs, but it also helps these people survive! Doesn’t the Bible encourage us to put the interests of others ahead of ours?
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2:3-4 NIV)
Wow! This sure changes the perspective of how we are living, doesn’t it! But then how could we fulfill “loving others” (see John 13:34) otherwise?
“It’s 60$. But I give it to you for 50.”
“What about seventy?”
“No way! That’s hand-made, mon! See how delicate it is? It took me hours to make . . . Wait a minute! What did you say?”
“OK, OK… I will give you a hundred for it!”
Blessed are you when you succeed in caring for others!
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘carefull,’ you find yourselves cared for.” (Matt 5:7 The Message)
(To access the entire “Control Freaks’ Senility” devotional series, please click here.)