Bargaining on Commercial Street

Had some fun bargaining down on Commercial Street today. OK, I’m sure I got ripped off. I kind of screwed up on the exchange rate. $1Can=40Rp. I paid 800Rp for an Indian wall hanging for Alanna’s room but messed up thinking I was getting a good price at $10. Of course it was really $20. Easy math but in the midst of bargaining I wasn’t thinking. Still, he was asking 1,600Rp so for me 800Rp seemed a good price. For him, probably a fortune.

Commercial Street is narrow with many, many little shops selling clothing (Indian and Western), handicrafts, carpets, jewellery and all sorts of interesting things. It’s a bustling street, littered with billboards on the tops of buildings and hawkers on the sidewalks selling everything from books to popcorn to maps of India.

The woman selling maps of India followed us for quite some time trying to get me to buy one. I had no desire to buy one but I offered her 10Rp (25cents) – she called me cheap. I laughed. She said 400Rp. I said 10Rp. She came down to 100Rp, I went up to 20Rp. And that was it, she finally left us alone.

The original reason for going to Commercial Street was to get the children measured for their school uniforms at Neha Uniforms. Addresses can be a little confusing:

Neha Uniforms,
#323, 1st Floor, Narayana Pillai Street,
Opp. City Centre, 3rd Cross,
Commercial Street,

Turned out to be on Narayana Pillai Street which is the “3rd cross street” to Commercial Street. And the 1st Floor is one up from the ground floor. In this case we saw the sign for Neha Uniforms from the street but had to follow a narrow path between the buildings to the back where there were a number of tailor shops, up two flights of garbage strewn stairs to – voila! – the shop we were looking for.

This shop, no more than 300 sq. ft, housed the reception area where the children were measured within minutes, six tailors busily sewing uniform after uniform and three people sitting on the floor packing them all up. Quite the little place, I hope they are paid well (probably not), but at least it wasn’t a sweat shop. The sewing machines were basic but in good condition and each sewer had a fan blasting in their faces and looked relatively well dressed.

We spent close to two hours on Commercial Street and covered merely half of it, not to mention all the side streets that await our next visit. Bartering is fun when you have time for it. Which is why for the big furniture items we will stick to the fixed price stores. But for accessories – the things we don’t need right away – it’s fun to chat with the people in the shops, have every bedcover or wall hanging strewn over the floor for viewing, and leave (with or without goods) having enjoyed each others company.


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