This past weekend I fulfilled my dream of buying fancy plates and other "crokery" - Bangladesh has a rapidly developing ceramics industry and produces positively gorgeous plate sets for export. All the spoils and products with defects are for sale on the local market for, well, rather cheap and if you dig really deep and really carefully, you can actually get almost no defects in the plates you buy. From the get-go, I was pretty determined to acquire some fancyware to use for my beloved dinner parties. Thing is, we live in the diplomatic enclave of Dhaka, and the prices of most good here as, well, for diplomats. So, on Friday morning, the Diplomat and I walked boldly in the first store of Shinepukur ceramics and I immediately fell in love with a nice, gaudy set. Enthusiastically, we asked for the price, and were told 11,800 Taka (about $160) for a set for 6 people. The owner sternly said, "fixed price" and a minute later said he'll give us a 25% discount as first customers for the day. Still quite the steep price, I decided to take the shopping party rogue and took us to the New Market, a place where one can buy anything China, India and Bangladesh produce in the space of a large Manhattan apartment., including fly swatters, silk sarees, plastic toys, fantastically ugly large fluffy pillows in fluorescent green and pink, cheap jewelry and some wonderful plates at 1/3 of the price.
I spotted the set I wanted immediately in one of the million minuscule stalls and let the Diplomat negotiate the price. The poor owner never knew what was about to hit him. He quoted us the highly decent price of 5,100taka ($67), and then it went down like this:
Owner (in OK English): Sir, very good price, Sir, very good set, EXPORT QUALITY! For you Sir, great price I give.
Diplomat (in OK bangla): See look here, I buy 3 set and I know other who want plates so if I like I tell many you give me card no defects, then we good wife needs good plates, she boss home we have many party good plate needed. wYou have 3 can you do? Also, soup bowl.
Owner: Oh Sir, yes, we have many, no problem sir, we give. Great price, great quality I personally check for you. What else you want?
Me (whispering): I want soup bowls and two platters, but how much is it??
Diplomat (whispering back at me): Shhhhhh...
Me: But, why not ask...
Diplomat: We want other things, here is everything., How much?
Owner (typing something in a pre-war looking calculator): hm, uma, 34,500 Taka.
Me: say, what?
Diplomat: WHAT? Let me see that.
Owner hands over piece of paper and ancient calculator when Diplomat whips out his Android indignantly and fiddles with it for 5 mins when he comes up with 24,500 only. Then he gets up even more indignantly, explains that he feels terribly cheated, he cannot believe anyone else here and is leaving.
Owner: Sorry, sir, just a small mistake, I sorry.
D: I don;t know whom to believe here anymore, you are trying to cheat me, I am not buying anything here, this is the end of my trust.
O: Oh, sorry, what I can do?
D: OK, here is the deal, I will pay ONLY 17,000 and not a taka more.
O: Oh my God, I am ruined, my children will have nothing to eat. No, sir.
D: OK , I am leaving, I can't trust anyone here.
O: OK, 22,000 final offer as first customer.
D: 19,000 and this is my last one, Here is my card, call me if you decide to take my offer.
O: No, Sir, can't do that. This is less than my buying price.
D: Too bad (starts to walk away, me in horror that we have pushed too hard).
O: (beaming) OK, ok, 20,000 all yours and I will check every plate myself.
Me: Sigh and smile and pull out a wad of cash.
So, all in all, we got a gorgeous full dining set for 18 people, including some serverware for a grand total of $266. The next day all plates arrived home and not a single defect on any piece. Go New Market!