Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Doin' bidness with the Thai

Thai vendors, especially the ones at the night market in CMX have a simple sales philosophy: never chase away potential income. Having learned from our experiences in Bali, June was out to drive the hardest bargains she could. She picked on quality, colour choice, she even offered to purchase multiple items for a "bulk" purchase rate. At a little stall that sold silver trinkets, she mixed and matched pendants with neck and wrist bands, even though they had to be un-made and re-fitted on the spot. At the next stall she came to, she got an even lower price and asked for a instant custom job which was carried out quite happily.

June's biggest triumph was at a fabrics store where she inquired about a batik sarong and for a demonstration as to how to tie it in a halter-neck fashion. No problem, the sales staff obligingly and painstakingly showed her step-by-step until she got it. When June quoted her price, the sales staff unleashed a torrent of foreign-sounding curses, punctuated by the word, "stingy" a couple of times. We simply walked off to find a tuk-tuk to get us back to our hotel. Just as we were about to negotiate the fare, from afar we heard an exasperated, "ok, lah!" We turned around and saw our batik sales staff waving at us to come back. Score!

This isn't, however, about a people desperate and grovelling for a pittance. We all know there is a game we're playing. We're not there to screw each other over, we're simply negotiating a price both buyer and seller can accept. The process in no way diminishes the pride the vendors have in themselves and their wares. There's nothing to be gained by chasing customers away with displays of attitude. If the customer requires a little more work in order to be satisfied, then just be obliging, smile and do that little more for a win-win.

Their service culture is just something more to admire about the Thai.

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