Indians’ skills as traders are well-known. And in Cochin we had a practical class of trade and commerce from those masters of sales...
We were wandering about Bazaar Road in the old town in Fort Cochin, when our attention was drawn by two men who were loudly discussing just outside a rice shop, in front of two dozens of bowls of different varieties of rice. Intrigued by the situation, we quietly got closer and observed the discussion. The two men were clearly conducting a negotiation.
As minutes passed by, we got more and more involved in the negotiation, and we started ourselves asking questions on the different types of rice: name, quality, properties, etc. After a few minutes of explanations, we decided to purchase some red rice from Kerala, and we asked the price.
- 22 rupees* per kilo - said the merchant.
- Ok, one kilo then - we answered.
- Sorry, no ‘one-kilo’. Seventy-five kilos.
In response to our puzzled expressions, the merchant explained us that he was a wholesale dealer (rivenditore all’ingrosso), and that the minimum sale was seventy-five kilos. A bit disappointed, we asked where we could purchase one kilo only of that rice, and the merchant pointed ‘Melvin Store’, the shop just opposite his, on the other side of the road.
Relieved and cheered-up, we crossed the road, we entered ‘Melvin Store’, and we asked for one kilo of the red rice from Kerala. An errand boy weighed the rice, wrapped it up, and given it to us. We had already ready the 22 rupees to pay, when the merchant of Melvin Store said: “25 rupees**”.
Half-surprised and half-annoyed (“the usual Indian shopkeeper that want to cheat the white tourists”, we thought), we said that we just came from the shop in front, and that the price was 22 rupees/kilo there. It was not a matter of the three rupees more, but a matter of principle: we wanted to be treated as all Indian purchasers!
Emotionless, the merchant responded: “That is a wholesale shop. This is a retail shop. 25 rupees”.
In vain we tried to bargain, using all our weapons: winking, humour, indignation... The price remained 25 rupees, and 25 rupees we paid.
And so, we had our class of trade and commerce. But as for those classes that leave students not fully convinced at the end of them, we didn’t quite understand why on earth the rice’s price increased by three rupees for just having crossed the road!
(*) 0.48 US$ or 0.33 euro
(**) 0.55 US$ or 0.38 euro