I have just returned from a long weekend in ancient Istanbul. It is a fabulous place for a short break. It’s where East meets West, and it shows.
Anyone who has travelled to anywhere vaguely exotic will know that buying anything is not a simple transaction, it’s a life experience. You don’t just decide what you want, make sure you can afford it and hand over the cash. Oh no. It’s not that easy. As Eric Idle said in Life of Brian: “You are supposed to haggle.”
Now this does not come easy for a shy and retiring Brit. Not at first anyway. But it becomes easier as you get used to it and, if you think about it, it’s actually a much better way to exchange goods and services.
In the West we let the market do the negotiation for us. All the shops display their fixed prices for all to see. They wrestle with each other to offer the customer what they perceive as the best value (or just the cheapest price). The customer just has to decide firstly whether they can afford something and secondly whether they like it enough to open their wallet. Simple.
In the East it’s simple too. There are no prices on anything, so you do things differently. Firstly you decide whether you like something. The price is secondary. The Turks in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul know that things are worth different amounts to different people depending on their personal wealth and the urgency of their need. A loaf of bread could be worth nothing if you have just eaten, but a fortune if you are starving. So why sell at the same price to everyone?
The price quoted in the bazaar is the starting price, not the actual price. You then decide whether it’s good value for you. Tell any stallholder that the starting price is too high and you always get the same response: “How much would you like to pay?” Somewhere in the middle is the correct price for that transaction. You just have to get there.
I see no reason why it shouldn’t work for services too. The price is related to desire and it is the desire that comes first. In the West it seems that we have it the other way around: price drives everything. Maybe we should learn from our Eastern friends. They have, after all, been doing it a lot longer than us. Steve