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You Can Bargain A Bit

In the country district where 1 grew up, money was scarce droughts and bushfires frequent. As a result, we lived off the land, buying nothing but clothing, and the criterion for buying that ~, as: "Will I be charged with indecent exposure without it?" Ornaments for the home were simply dismissed as wanton extravagance.

Small wonder i have become a sucker for sales. A certified (or certifiable) compulsive buyer. That little four-letter word SALE acts on me like a syringe on a dope addict. Let something be marked down to half price and instinctively I know it's what I've always needed. I remember once buying a stuffed emu and 20 yards of a positively revolting gold brocade, simply because it was fire damaged and "reduced". This little lot has followed me half way around the world, and now lies in my garage, a musty warning against folly. And still I will not learn!

The only reason I don't own a fork lift of a Bengal tiger is that, so far, I've never seen one on "special" at a sale!

Imagine me, therefore, in Bali - which has the soft sell to end all the sale signs. The oft-repeated phrase, enticingly whispered, purred even, in your ear "You can bargain a bit!"

Added to that, the things that you can bargain for are indeed truly what I have wanted all my life - oil paintings and woodcarvings; basket ware and batik. Mind you, not all of them are good. Those done hurriedly to meet the tourist demand are very resistible. But there are still many exquisite batiks, fabulous paintings and fantastic woodcarvings if you know where to seek. Given my case history, it was only to be expected that these latter were the ones I sought out - items of perfection, with prices to match!

Strangely enough though, 1 did not immediately get into the swing of bargaining in Bali. Confronted by superb craftsmanship, offered at seemingly ridiculously cheap prices, I would in confusion appalled at even suggesting a lower figure - yet mindful of the guidebook advice: "Pay more than half the price asked, and you're being ripped off'.

Thanks to this hang-up, I returned from my first visit to Bali virtually unscathed, with nothing more to show than one solitary woodcarving. True, the purchase of this had been quite a saga .....

For starters, 1 had hired a taxi for a half-day's tour, but decided to stop off for a few minutes in the woodcarving village of Mas.

The driver, who probably got commission for each tourist delivered - escorted me into one gallery, assuring me that they definitely had the best value.

Now, a woodcarving was the one thing 1 hoped to buy in Bali, so 1 looked long and hard at their display and only one piece did 1 remotely fancy - two heron birds fishing a lily pond. Elegant, yes.... but wasn't it rather insipid? And this was marked at the quite exorbitant price of $65.

(i had hoped to get something for $5 - but how to tell them?)

Self-consciously I mumbled that the price was too high. Soothingly, the owner assured me.... "You can bargain a bit". Shamefacedly, remembering the guidebook, 1 hung my head and muttered: "I can only afford $5."

The owner, choosing to ignore this as sheer nonsense, continued: "Carving very good, long time to make.... but for new visitor I give special morning price $60."
During this short exchange, he had seated me at a low carved (what would you expect - a butter box) table, placed the heron birds in front of me, and offered iced cordial and pink rice cakes. A full half hour later, his price had crept down to $42, while mine had crawled cautiously up to $30.

And while i thought uneasily of my taxi merrily ticking away in the yard, my host looked to be so enjoying himself, I wondered if

During this short exchange, he had seated me at a low carved (what would you expect - a butter box) table, placed the heron birds in front of me, and offered iced cordial and pink rice cakes. A full half hour later, his price had crept down to $42, while mine had crawled cautiously up to $30.

And while i thought uneasily of my taxi merrily ticking away in the yard, my host looked to be so enjoying himself, I wondered if

 

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