So I’m in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba for my new job. I don’t have a place to live yet, and my temporary accommodations won’t be ready / available until next week. So I’m living out of a motel. I shopped around and found the cheapest place in town. Very small room, but tolerable for one person for a short period. I’ll be spending most of my time at work or in restaurants working on my laptop (like right now!), so the size of the room really doesn’t matter as long as it’s clean (it is) and it has a lock (it does).
It’s the shopping around for a price that brings me to my story. Here in Canada, our most potent strategy for getting a better price is to simply go somewhere else. Which is exactly what I did to find the best price I could get. As it happens, the first place I went had the best price (of course, I didn’t know that at the time). I asked at the front desk about the price, and he told me. In the critical effort to get a better price, I asked for the weekly rate. Same same. So I asked for the corporate rate. Same same. Well, I thought, I surely can get a better price than that! Most places have weekly rates and corporate rates. So I said thank-you and went outside to my truck (actually, my father-in-law’s truck, but we’ll pretend it’s mine for the sake of brevity, although it probably won’t get mentioned again!).
I had a list of other hotels / motels that had been provided to me, so I started phoning them to get prices. Sure enough, they all had weekly rates and/or corporate rates available. Great! Problem was, even the cheapest discounted rate available was just a touch higher than the base (and fixed) price at my present location. Being the smart, frugal (not to be confused with cheap:)!) guy that I am, I stayed put and took the un-discounted room.
So, all of this finally brings me to the real story! The real story took place when I lived in the Middle East – where real haggling happens and arguing over the price is just par for the course (and something I found thoroughly enjoyable). I was in the City Center Mall in Doha, Qatar, shopping for my wife’s engagement ring. Ok, it was for my girlfriend’s engagement ring, but now she’s my wife—which I guess suggests that the purchasing of the engagement ring was a good idea.
The shopping arrangements in the Middle East are a little different from those we are used to here in Canada (or the US if that’s where you hail from). Instead of having a mall or a market with a wide variety of store types, there is often a grouping of stores that all serve the same purpose. So when you want to buy a computer, you go to the computer souk (“souk” is market), which is a building full of computer stores. One end of one floor of the City Center Mall is dedicated to jewelry stores. There are perhaps a dozen jewelry stores adjacent to one another.
So I shopped around from store to store for a ring that caught my fancy. Meanwhile, there was this other guy shopping for something for one of his wives. It seems he found an item that he liked that was also available at another store across the hall. He was insisting that the storekeeper match the discount that the guy across the hall gave him (25%). The shopkeeper patiently—and repeatedly— explained that his price, which was non-negotiable, was still significantly lower than the discounted price across the hall. Nonetheless, this guy argued and insisted that he was getting a better deal across the hall because the price was discounted. He want the same discount here. The argument took some time, while I pretended to be eyeing rings, but was instead watching the “haggling” and being very entertained.
If I recall the prices correctly (I might not, it was 2005), the price across the hall was QR5,000 (about CDN$2,000 at the time) minus the 25% discount, for a final price of QR3,750. The price in the shop we were in was QR3,000.
Finally, the local gentleman gave up in frustration and left. Sure enough, as I was leaving, he was in the store across the hall shelling out a stack of bills to pay for the item at the “discounted” price. To this day, I don’t know if he just valued winning the argument and getting a “discount” so much that is was worth QR750, or if he failed to grasp Grade 4 math.
Let this be a lesson to all of you! Discounts aren’t everything:). Let this also be a lesson to those of you who run businesses. If your customer insists on paying more, let him:).
Oh, I found the ring I wanted, and got a good price too!
About the Author
- Steve Pomroy
- Southport, Manitoba, Canada
- Steve Pomroy is a professional flight instructor and aviation writer. He has been teaching since 1995 and holds an Airline Transport Pilot License, Class 1 Instructor and Aerobatic Instructor Ratings, military QFI, and an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. He's written and published three flight training books through his company, SkyWriters Publishing, and has several other books under development. Steve currently teaches RCAF pilot candidates on their Primary Flight Training course.