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First customer of the day…………

April 1, 2009

I like to shop early – as such, I have heard this phrase several times since shopping the markets in Delhi.

“Oh ma’am, you are the first customer of the day, I will give you a good deal. It brings me good luck.”

It makes me laugh because I just cannot imagine walking in the door first at Costco to be greeted with “good morning ma’am, you are the first customer of the day, please tell me what you are willing to pay. Please ma’am, whatever you want.”

The first few times I thought it was very funny. I know that you are supposed to haggle in India. I figured this was just part of the vendors “tactics”. Appear sympathetic and appreciative and the mark might just fall for the new “lower” price.

But today I went to Dilli Haat. I had a list of very specific things I wanted to get. Dilli Haat is a rolling craft fair. It is always in the same location (across the highway from INA market) but the vendors rotate through. It is my understanding that they come from all over India.

One downside – it is like going to a craft show in the U.S. where every other vendor is selling jewelry – except at Dilli Haat, it is scarfs. Lots and lots of scarfs. But there are other things too. And with haggling it is “game on”.

So I went to get embroidered pieces of fabric to have framed and hung in my kids rooms. And I heard it – “oh ma’am, you are the first customer of the day. I will give you a good price. It will bring me good luck.” Yeah, yeah, yeah, please just tell me your best price. We haggled and I walked away happy.

Then I went to get a couple of shirts. I haggled and the man seemed a little frustrated (not mad, just not jump up and down happy) when I told him what I was willing to pay. I mean no offense by my price suggestions. They are just that – suggestions. Please feel free to say no. Believe me, if I don’t agree with you, I will say no. I don’t even start as low as half-price – I start much closer to what I am actually willing to pay – so I feel I am very reasonable. He thought about it and then in Hindi he said to his son – hindi hindi hindi first customer, hindi hindi, good luck. And they gave me the price.

When I paid him, he kissed the money and said a prayer. Okay. Was the prayer for good luck or that I leave his booth immediately? hee hee.

Now I am starting to believe in the power of being the first customer of the day. Armed with this new super power strength, I head out to buy wooden boxes. I go back to the far corner of Dilli Haat and I meet a rare bird indeed – a vendor who stinks at haggling more than I do. His prices are crazy low compared to American standards. His boxes are unique. They are not such a high quality that they are going to be displayed in the Smithsonian Museum any time soon – but I like them a lot.

He does not even bother to flatter me by telling me I am the first customer of the day. He just immediately agreed to my price. I like him. He is my Dilli Haat BFF. We bonded over our sad negotiating skills. I did not offend him by asking for a big discount. Just 10 percent.

Then I went on to get a few other things. Being the first customer of the day is a good way to go.

The last thing I bought was this mini cabinet. It is very cool. It will be a terrific reminder of my haggling days and will look great in my office in the U.S. Until then it brings a little bit of Dilli Haat and the heart of the Indian crafter to our home here.


There were a couple of funny things that happened while I was there too.

If you have never been to Dilli Haat, you will need to know that they vendors will call out to you. They want you to come and look. Not to buy, they will say, just look. They are kind about it and it just makes me chuckle. They don’t yell or follow you or anything like that – but they will try to entice you inside their booths. One man selling carpets called out to me. When I said no thank you, he said, “but ma’am, they are magic carpets. You can fly.”

Seriously, that made me laugh. He thought he was quite funny too.

The other thing was that I was standing on stairs looking at some mirrors and picture frames. I was not touching anything. Along came the breeze and huffed and puffed and knocked everything over. My husband already played an April Fools joke on me this morning – so I turned to look for Alan Fundt and the hidden cameras. I turned to see a group of  vendors sitting and watching the whole affair. They were laughing so hard. That made me laugh too. And now I had witnesses. Whew. I just threw my hands up and took a big long deep breath.

It turns out the vendor selling the wood items was standing not too far away too and he also saw that it was the wind. Seriously, thank God. I would have died if he thought I had done it.

And then I was talking to the puppet guy. He was amusing just by himself – his puppets were fun. He was talking to me and asked me if I am Indian. Funny. Very Funny.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 2, 2009 9:25 pm

    Sharmistrsha’s comments are quite educational!

  2. April 1, 2009 10:56 pm

    Badass – if I get a magic carpet, I will fly it to you – I’ll just bring my broom along so that I can get a ride back home

    Sharmishtha – it is really charming – I really thought they were pulling my leg until yesterday – it’s true – the early bird gets the (cheaper) worm

    Lola – isn’t it great? and can you believe – still no bejeweled swine

    Josie – how are you feeling? I love it!

  3. April 1, 2009 7:20 pm


  4. April 1, 2009 4:17 pm

    See, I’m always the last customer, and I get the same results. LOVE the shelf, darlin’!!

  5. Sharmishtha permalink
    April 1, 2009 9:12 am

    In Hindi they say “Meri Bauni kara dijiye”. Don’t know the exact translation, but they’re asking you to buy something to start their day of retail. It’s considered auspicious, hence the kissing of the money and the little prayer. I find it a rather charming tradition. The other times I experienced this was at the end of the day, when they are desperate to close down for the day. Of course the goods are thoroughly picked over by then so there’s not much that you want to buy so late in the evening.

  6. April 1, 2009 8:38 am

    I want a magic carpet. If you find one that actually flies, get one for me. I’ll pay you back.

  7. April 1, 2009 8:24 am

    Naomi – when you get here – you have to go to Dilli Haat – and you are right it is more of a mini cabinet! I love it.

  8. April 1, 2009 6:52 am

    Love it. That shelf? Amazing.

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