Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Haggling in Egypt: "Life of Brian" comes to life

These guys, here in Egypt, are straight out of central casting when it comes to the haggle.  Everything, but everything is up for haggle, and they do it just like Eric Idle in the wonderful Monty Python clip above.
They even haggle for stuff like toothpaste at the Pharmacy, or batteries at the corner shop.
"How much is the toothpaste".
"My friend, how much you want to pay?" (huh?)
"I don't know, it's your toothpaste - you tell me."
"50 pounds".  [Egyptian.  That's almost $US10.]
"Ridiculous" and you start walking out.
"How much you give me??  Ok, 40".
keep walking....
"Best price, for you, my friend, ok, 30"
keep walking... he follows you...
"My friend, my friend, I have a poor dying grandmother! Ok, 20, my last offer."
keep walking...
"Ok, mister, 10 pounds only!!"
Stop, turn, give the man 10 pounds.  No doubt still too much, but you need that paste... and one-fifth of the original price is what we've figured is the price -- still the rip-off price, but acceptable all round.
You take the paste and start walking out...
"My friend, I have some nice Viagra!  Only 250 Egyptian pounds!"
They have this other neat trick, as we first saw with our Nubian Christian friend Thomas.
He's been walking with Chris and me for some time, since we first met him at a shoe shop, where Chris wanted to buy a pair, that had to be cool...  He's come with us to a sort of department store, where he reckons we'll find what we want, but no cool shoes there, so now we're in the souk, the local market in Aswan, when he tell us
"Mister, I was with you on the boat yesterday, you remember?"
Huh?  Maybe he was, you kind of recollect a swarthy fellow with day's beard and 'tache.  But did he have that gap in his teeth?  You don't recall, but you'd better be polite and not ask what on earth the fellow was doing yesterday at the helm of the felucca and today he's a shoe salesman, and he's also a tailor and a silver merchant.  He knows all the people in the souk. But he could be the guy with the boat, so you say "Oh yes, yesterday, on the felucca. Imagine that...".
Of course, it's all nonsense.  Just playing on the fact that all foreigners would have had a go on a felucca and you're not quite sure, are you, one Arab Nubian looks like any other... and all that....
We buy some shoes (that I certify to Chris as being "VOC" = verging on cool).  We're walking back to our hotel, Chris and I.  After an unsuccessful attempt at getting some shirts from Ahmin.  Ahmin is the friendly (always friendly!) tailor with his father helping out in the shop.  His father is a copy of Ghandi, but half the size.  We'd settled with Ahmin on cloth types and cloth pattern, cloth sizes and shirt numbers.  I'd asked Ahmin numerous times for a price and he says "later, later", and finally quotes us $US35/shirt, and we're not even in the ballpark, not even for the one-fifth rule, and so we're out of there. "No worries, my friends, see you next time", at least they take it on the chin. We walk along the banks of the Nile, back to the hotel and a guy passes by and says
"My friends, I'm your cook at the hotel!  Remember me?"
Neat trick.  Establishing rapport.  These guys are master sales-men, a pleasure -- almost -- to see them in action.
But no way this guy is our cook!  I know our cook at the Aswan hotel, cause I helped him cook some eggs this morning....
[how to cook the perfect poached egg; but that's a whole 'nother story...]