One aspect of everyday life in West Africa that is different from here in NA is the haggling system. Not everything there is haggled over. In most of the shops the packaged items all have set prices – so a soda pop will cost the same for everyone all the time.
The food markets and the tourist places are another story altogether.
When we first arrived and discovered haggling I worried that I might be taking advantage of some poor merchant trying to sell me his wares. I needed have worried! Those merchants have been doing this a lot longer and are far better at it than I am. I still recall with chagrin being sold an umbrella by a street salesman when we first arrived for about double what I ought to have paid.
I think haggling is a much nicer process than we have here. When you are discussing the price of something you are no longer just a face in the check-out aisle. Now you are someone to have a relationship with; you can interact with the seller in some pretty fun ways.
My favorite memory is of shopping with Daniel, our youngest, on the way home from . . . somewhere (don’t remember that part). I have been tasked by Sonya to pick up things for the kitchen, so we stopped at a roadside marketplace renowned for its good vegetables. My job was to get the potatoes, and Daniel begged me to be able to bargain for some carrots.
The woman there had a daughter who was helping her, perhaps a few years older than Dan. While the daughter and I chatted about the price of spuds, the woman came up behind Daniel, grabbed him and hugged him tight. “I want to keep this one!” she said. “How much do you want for him?”
Daniel was unimpressed and had a look on his face that said, “Dad – please rescue me!” I laughed and told the woman I would be willing to give her a straight trade – Daniel for her daughter.
Oh no, she said, she meant for the two of them to marry and help her out at the shop. She could tell Daniel would be a good asset there. I laughed some more (it was a comical scene), and replied that his mother would be pretty upset with me if I didn’t come back with him.
We left good friends, having had some hilarious fun together. The vegetables were good and the woman had won herself a repeat customer!