Friday, September 7, 2012

To bargain, or not to bargain??

Earlier this week our teammate, Lisa Newland, and I had fun shopping at an African Expo. It was interesting to see the different wares they were selling. Some from different areas of Tanzania, and some as far away as Uganda.

We also spent some time talking to a lady who is from Mwanza. She spoke English fluently - something we rarely ever hear. She was quite interesting to talk to. She teaches people how to do handy crafts that can be sold to make a living. She proceeded to tell us that one item may take hours and hours to complete. Then when the person tries to sell their wares people dicker over the price and the person might be left with little or no profit. However, if they've used all their money to travel into town to sell their wares, they have to sell them - even if they are practically giving them away - in order to get home. So they sell their wares far less than they are worth, only to go home discouraged and not wanting to waste their time again.

There is a conflict here. For the most part we bargain over everything we buy except groceries and medicines. (In fact, we've been known to bargain even in America at stores and with dentists!) Typically people start high, even higher for we wazungu (white people). The "rule" is to go about half of what they ask and then go back and forth until you agree on a price. So what are we to do when we are trying to bargain for a handmade item? I guess what we try to do, and will worker harder on now, is to think of how much we think the item is worth before we start the process. Then be happy when we agree to that price.

Below are the items I purchased. Most all of them I didn't even try to bargain because the price sounded reasonable right off the bat.

dress for my granddaughter made of kikoi

wall hanging (5 ft long)

cow horn (2 ft long) from Uganda