Friday, July 15, 2005

Bargaining in the markets

Bargaining: I haven't talked about bargaining here yet, I think. Bargaining is fairly common, if you speak enough of the language. A couple of quick rules a' de thumb: How formal is the sales setting? The less formal, usually the lower the price - and a little more flexibility. Marked prices are a sometimes a sign of less flexibility. If it is a tourist market there will be more price gouging and more flexibility. The honest ones show up though. They won't bargain, and don't seem too insulted when you ask. And all this may hold and may not. For instance, some street produce sellers will bargain a little, some won't. You just have to ask. Typical of competition, where there are more vendors, you can shop price a little more.

We have a gamut of merchants here, from American style department store settings to babushkas and dedushkas setting out a box with stuff by the sidewalk. Sometimes not even a box or a table to set the stuff on - they might lay out their items on a cloth on the ground, or even hold what they have to sell in their hands. I saw a babushka near the metro entrance today selling band-aids and bottles of antiseptic. She held a box, with an assortment of band-aids, in one hand and the antiseptic moved from the other hand to a tricky sort of single hand presentation when she needed a hand. I was tempted to buy something just to get her some money. I mean, she was out there obviously making an honest attempt to offer something for sale - quite enterprising. But, the fruit selling babushkas do better from me, I'm afraid. I bought more rasberries, and widened my horizons to what appear to be blueberries today. There seems to be a consensus among the babushkas on what the value is for a given amount - they get $50 rubles for the same plastic beer cup - about an 18 oz-er.

I saw what I believe are the same gooseberries I first met in Wales - a large grape-sized green-white pale globe of a berry, sweet and delicious (tastes like chicken, hehe, yes that's a joke!). These were pale green with white vertical striping. Bought a watermelon today, too. $20 rubles per kilo, so a 15 lb melon cost 140 rub, or about $5. Not a great price, to be sure, but not real expensive, either. And, it is a damn good watermelon, too. Very sweet.

I went back to the CD market by myself - starting to recognize the Cyrillic alphabet combination in the Metro station names. Of course, when I got there I couldn't find the merchant from whom I bought the CD I wanted to return. I did find the stall that I THINK sold it to me, but then of course it worked perfectly when I tried to show the guy. Ok, no problem, I just copied all the stuff from that CD on to my hard drive. Then I went to find a coffee grinder. I'd bought coffee a week or so past, and I thought it was ground. I was wrong, it was whole bean. BTW, there is no problem finding coffee and tea in the groceries here. AND, there is a wide selection of both. Coffee in American and European roasts, whole bean, ground, instant; tea in black, English varieties, green, and herbal blends. Prices vary widely but seem to me to tend toward the American price range. American tea blends by brand name will get twice their Americal retail here, I think.

Ok, so I was on about finding a coffee grinder. I can use this as an example of three things - the multitude of merchants here in the markets, the pricing range, and the availability of goods. Number three first, I actually could find a coffee grinder for the home. Number one, I could find the same grinders in a multitude of stores in the market I went to. Just as I have described the other markets and vendors, they tend to have many many small stores, 6x6 to 20x40, and locate them all in one big location. So I could have bought at least 10 coffee grinders from different stores, and that is only considering the ones I found in a bewildering array of hallways and glass window displays. So, number two, the price range was from 480 to 550 for the same Braun coffee grinder I buy at home for around 15-20 bucks. Run the numbers yourself. If you can find any difference between pricing ranges in the two countries you can knock me down with a feather.

Which brings up another point I've mentioned. If you're coming for a longer spell, like me, why bother bringing your electric appliances? You can get the same goods here for about the same price, and they work with the local voltage already. Some of our stuff, tho, is OFTEN already compliant with a 220 V system - shavers and computers are 2 examples.

As for shopping, I think I have described that to my satisfaction. Most people will probably think I've beaten the horse dead, but this is all the kind of stuff I would have found interesting and possibly useful before coming over. And even if I wouldn't have, I HAVE had a lot of fun getting this knowledge so far. But, I've got a feel for it now, and it is time to move on to other kinds of travel stories.

Do'svyadanya for now y'all.

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