By Zara Maqbool
Ever since my husband and I started our own retail business what thing that stood out for us more than anything was the culture of bargaining and discounting that is so strongly prevalent in Pakistan. And since now I am at the receiving end of it, it makes me realize how painful this practice is where even after you give a 50% discount to customers they still want more. I think more than the money it’s the attitude that is so deep rooted in our society where we suffer from entitlement behavior and believe it’s our birthright to take it all. Customers now I realize are like blood sucking leeches that will not stop till you have no blood left in you.
There was a time when I was a blood-sucking leech too. I remember on my honeymoon at the night market in Bangkok, I bargained so much over a scarf that in the end, the Thai sales person lost it and turned towards my husband and asked, “Is she for real?” My husband the wise man that he is – did not reply for any reply to this statement would have incriminated him for sure.
Now, I have changed! As a businesswoman myself I can relate to how small time businessmen struggle with so many issues and bargaining for a few hundreds is not the best thing to do. It’s downright petty! I have stopped bargaining with fruit vendors or dyers or tailors like I used to early. And surprises of all surprises, it hasn’t made me any poorer. And that’s when I realized that it’s more a mindset than about money at all.
And that’s what I want to highlight, that the mindset needs to be changed. We need to start respecting business owners’ small or big and when it says fixed price, we need to take that at face value and not start questioning. I think, here the business owners also need to have better systems running for example a retail outlet I commonly visit says, fixed price and yet I see women always arguing and getting away with getting a further discount.
What I find funny is that it’s not just a woman thing only but its everyone around us – males and females. When I started marketing for my restaurant, even after offering 40% discount to the corporate sector they would still argue that its not enough. My mind could not wrap my head around how a multinational can ask for further discount after being offered 40%. I had to then somehow convince them that this is not a charitable business and if they might allow it, I would like to make some money out of it.
So how do you change the mindset? Well, I learned to say ‘No’ and taught my staff the same thing. There is simply no bending the rules and short of hanging a signboard that says there is no free meal in the world my team and I tried our best to stay assertive whether it was a stranger or a friend buying something from me. I realize that ‘customer first’ is important but rather than lowering prices, I would offer them something else and I taught my staff to agree with them when they want lower prices but then defend why our prices are what they are and that is because we are offering the best.
At the end of the day, its a game being played between the buyer and seller and its up to the seller to bust the mind game which is being played. The rules of the game can keep changing and may the better man win!!