Forget romance, poetry, home cooked candle lit meals, in fact forget the art of wooing! It seems that shopping is the key… And true commercialism comes to India in American style shopping malls. Incidentally I spotted this sign inside Phoenix Market City (Pune)…
Shopping here is an experience! Upon arrival at the mall, you are greeted by security staff, metal detectors and sniffer dogs. I’m here with my camera, camcorder, iPhone and other tech in my travel survival list, having been patted down upon completing the airport style security, (Which stopped little short of rubber gloves! 😳) I’m allowed on my way into the mall itself.
From here on in, you could be in any mall, in any part of the world.
I enjoy a cheeky latte before finally taking a look around the stores, finding gifts to bring home. This is where the shopping experience differs from my normal experience. Most of the stores have security guards posted at the door, it seems, and the locals are requested to leave bags at the door. As a Westerner I didn’t seem to have that problem as much, clearly there are double standards, do they expect me to buy more or do I look more trustworthy?
My colleagues help with the shopping, and we find a couple of suitable gifts I thought were quite nice to bring back, and felt they were representative of India. Having inspected the goods, I tried to pay at the department store counter. No No No!… Apparently they package the goods and give you a ticket, the ticket you take to the very back of the store to a cashier, who then takes payment, stamps your ticket which you then take to the front of store to collect your goods. hmmm…. The cashier area looks like an 1800s western bank window with ornate metal bars and glass.
I asked if this was a security mechanism to reduce shoplifting, but apparently it’s an age old trick to get you to browse through the store to ensure you see all the goods on offer.
Top Tip!: Remember, the price you see on a ticket is not necessarily the price you actually pay! No, I’m not talking about haggling (certainly not in a department store). The price is the price, but then local Taxes are applied to reveal the actual price you pay! In some ways it’s frankly annoying, as you have to do the mental arithmetic based on a random tax value parameter. On the other hand, they’ve not caught up with Western societies charging model (which isn’t a bad thing!). Generally goods are rounded up to the nearest 49/99pence/cents/euros, consequently we know we pay over the odds, but makes it easier for lazy amongst us to work out how much we’re paying.
India however, may charge 137 rupees for the goods, but with tax, you may end up paying 162 rupees. Which is good in another way in that you are paying a better price.
I have no doubt that some bright captains of industry will eventually cotton on to the fact that they should round up to the nearest 100 rupees and charge 200 for the same goods, it’s just a question of time!
Markets and street traders though, there is plenty of scope for haggling! Don’t be afraid, there’s no harm in asking for money off the initial starting price, and as a westerner you know the price just got doubled if not quadroubled at best!