Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly.

#1 Nov 10th, 2014, 14:20
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I have come across a few small businesses such as travel agents and textile emporia who conduct their trade from a mattress covered floor and a few cushions for the customers to lean against. The proprietor insists the customer remove footwear before entering the business floor which is thus represented as a private or domestic space that the customer is privileged to enter. Often tea will be offered.

I suspect this arrangement is intended to distract or back foot the customer into relaxing normal caution in completing a transaction.

Perhaps others have come across this situation.
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#2 Nov 10th, 2014, 14:53
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Carpets, carpets - silk, wool, all very fine, purely hand made right this way ....



and a little later -
Special price, just for you, my friend. [insert devious smile emoticon here]


p.s. Lovely title, had hoped to read some verse in the post.
#3 Nov 10th, 2014, 22:34
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Ah, the sari shops in Pune where dazzling textiles are paraded..
#4 Nov 10th, 2014, 22:49
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Ganga Handlooms, up toward Vishwanath Temple, just off of Vishwanath Lane, Varanasi . . . Classic place. Classic man, Sunil, the owner. Yeah, shoes off at the curtained door, into the main room, padded and pillowed. Chai is there before you sit down. I bought a lot from Sunil, during the course of my stays. But I would go sometimes just to see Sunil. Not a spider at all . And when I did go, just to "hang out" I saw that he treated everyone - those who days in Varanasi or those who had months - in the same way. A delightful man. His work is stunning. Most of his cottons (all cottons in this city of silk) are vegetable dyed.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure - Marianne Williamson
#5 Nov 11th, 2014, 05:15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unclelach View Post I suspect this arrangement is intended to distract or back foot the customer into relaxing normal caution in completing a transaction.
I'm sure that the good salesman manipulates everything within his power to make the environment and the way that the prospective customer feels, conducive to the sale.

However, taking the shoes off before entering is common practice in perfectly ordinary businesses too. Only the other day, I left my shoes outside a lighting shop, and, before I knew where I was, I was buying a couple of LED floodlights. Mind you... that is what I had gone there to do
#6 Nov 11th, 2014, 10:58
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I have seen shops with similar setup in Mumbai near Parel / Dadar and even Mangaldas Market.
#7 Nov 11th, 2014, 11:01
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Most of the textile shops in Chikpet in Bangalore operate this way. I can certify that they make you feel like a cheapskate if you end up not buying anything. But they do give sweet deals if you buy in bulk. A relative recently bought 100 sarees for Rs. 25000. The price marked was Rs. 1000 each.
#8 Nov 11th, 2014, 15:06
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Wow, one would have to be an expert shopper to get a deal like that!
#9 Nov 13th, 2014, 00:58
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My apologies in advance, for digressing a bit and wandering off on one of the tangents, but I want to impress upon the non-native readers the Indian culture when it comes to these things.

My grandfather and maternal uncle owned a retail outlet of clothes for decades. Now they have other businesses. My mom's maternal uncle is a gold and silver jeweler. They all do business exactly like this--mattress on the floor, white sheets, tea in winters or sharbat during summers, sweet talk, et al.

They do genuine business and are very successful. The whole set up is, as you said, used to put the customer are ease, make them feel comfortable, make them focus on the purchase, and to deliver what's promised. I shall detail why and how. You'll still find this setup especially in the conventional businesses, old-time shops, and small-time towns. They don't have enough space to spread out all their items like in a super-market.
  • The focus is on personal touch and shopkeepers constant engagement with the customer. In the big cities the privacy and personal space while shopping is important. It is the opposite in smaller localities or towns, where everyone knows almost everyone else. There is no need to be privy or pretentious about. For example, prices are asked and told upfront, along with displaying a product. And rejections based on price are commonplace and inability to afford something is declared upfront ("Oh c'mon brother! This is too high for my limited budget. Don't you know my father is constantly ill and my brother is yet to be married? I cannot afford anything beyond Rs. 500 worth!"). No point pretending or showing off to be OK when half the town knows they are not OK?!
  • While sitting face-to-face on a mattress, the shopkeeper and the customer are at the same level and talk from the same level. It is the Indian courtesy. In fact, many shops display the verbiage to the effect "Customer is God-like".
  • Sitting close-by, face-to-face salesmen display one item after another. They get to see the reactions and body languages of the customers and get a good understanding of what the customer wants. The customer gets personal attention of the shopkeeper and personalized recommendations on products sold.
  • Most shopkeepers either don't have enough money to invest in the shop's infrastructure or prefer the age-old ways which their customers are used to. The least it costs is to throw down a cotton mattress on the un-tiled floor and cover it with a nice-looking white sheet. With cylindrical cushions, it is also very comfortable to sit on the floor. Here's one version of these cushions.
  • And regarding taking off the shoes, that's the case with most Indian places of such sort (small-time localities, small towns, big cities but conventional homes or businesses, etc.) Shoes are not clean enough to be allowed in most houses and many shops. In 32 years, I have rarely worn a shoe, a sandal, or a flip-flop inside my house. That too is allowed-with-a-frown only when I'm just running for a quick chore, only before mopping, and only early in the morning. Later in the day, after the sweeping and mopping (not vacuuming, mind you!), absolutely no footwear are allowed inside. If one finds the floor too cold during winters, one wears socks, but no footwear. And God help the one who wears any footwear whatsoever inside a kitchen! :O

Of course, some shopkeepers are using the conventional approaches to cheat customers. Most Indians hate them for this and wish for untold misery to descend upon such cheaters from Hell! Do remain on a lookout for cons who try to relax you into a good conversation only to pickpocket you or sell you a shady deal or flick your belongings. We Indians too are facing this more and more in our very own native places At times some shopkeepers don't even want to cater to the local demand because the export rates are much lucrative than the local rates they can successfully charge. The orchid I ate mangoes from through all my childhood summers now refuses to entertain any local folks. All their produce is now only for export.
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Last edited by blackfog; Nov 13th, 2014 at 02:10.. Reason: Improved formatting, grammar, and minor modifications towards readability
#10 Nov 13th, 2014, 02:05
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Very nice, blackfog, and certainly no need for apologies. It makes a change to hear about things from the traders' point of view.

It is possible that the ones unclelach is posting about actually only ever see, sell to, and exist for tourists. What you have described is an authentic Indian buying experience, and, in a way, the tourist outlets are giving the tourist that experience --- and milking it for all it is worth, of course. They are sales people!

It's all good ...unless/until the guy starts talking about the customer's unhappy childhood, the blocked chakras, and the high-price gems they must buy off him to fix it
#11 Nov 13th, 2014, 03:05
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Excellent post, blackfog.

Many of the traders in the wholesale markets of India still operate with just a mattress, a ledger book and a telephone. For example, in Bombay, they still exist in Muljhi Jetha Market (cloth), Masjid Bandar market (spices), Zaveri Bazaar (Gold) and Loha Bazaar (metals), etc.

Hundreds of millions of rupees are traded each day and a lot of it is on the basis of faith in a trader's word of honour. The trading community is a close community, and someone's word of honour is vitally important to maintaining credibility in such markets.
#12 Nov 13th, 2014, 05:28
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Many times I have welcomed the hospitality of this old style of commerce, especially on hot days in India where I've been parched, fed up of traffic and noise, and finding nothing better than taking off sandals and putting feet up.

I am not very good at it as I am not used to it, but going saree shopping with my mom in shops with this set up is delightful, as by relaxing and taking time she is able to make excellent choices of the over half-dozen sarees that we end up buying for assorted aunts and cousins, and I can sit back and admire how young male assistants drape the sarees on themselves in a very charming fashion.

There is a place for amazon, but there is a place for traditional Indian shopkeepers too.
#13 Nov 13th, 2014, 13:55
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Thanks folks for the encouragement--I'm just stating what I have grown up seeing. Oh and it is mighty charming to shop that way--especially now when all my shopping happens in malls :| Just that I used to hate to go shopping with my mom when she'd shop for sarees. So many shops and so many varieties--she'd take (and still does!) hours to shop ONE saree

@Vishva mentioned 'hundreds of millions of rupees' being traded with just a mattress, a phone, and a red, soft-bound ledger. This magnitude of scale is just what is officially reported. Some rough estimates of turnover happening at the high volume wholesale markets (the likes of which you mentioned from Mumbai) are a few billion Rupees every week . Tax is paid on a very small amount of it, so the official figures are always much less. How I wish my parents set a shop for me

---------

@Rasika: Since you mentioned sarees shopping experience with moms, you may enjoy this parody-but-accurate video
. The language is Hindi and the ascent is from the Central Indian region of Malwa.
#14 Nov 13th, 2014, 14:59
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#14
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Originally Posted by Rasika View Post I can sit back and admire how young male assistants drape the sarees on themselves in a very charming fashion.
Absolutely. But I enjoy it so much more when the young assistants are female

(I've noticed that, in kitchen and electrical shops, where I used to get followed around by young women who had perfectly memorised the specifications of all electrical goods, now there are young guys doing the sharp sales routine instead. This is not a good development.)
#15 Nov 13th, 2014, 15:10
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#15
Quote:
Originally Posted by blackfog View Post Just that I used to hate to go shopping with my mom when she'd shop for sarees. So many shops and so many varieties--she'd take (and still does!) hours to shop ONE saree
And then another hour at the matching centre to get blouse piece, underskirt, and fall for that one saree.

Quote:
@Rasika: Since you mentioned sarees shopping experience with moms, you may enjoy this parody-but-accurate video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZNqgLCd-B8. The language is Hindi and the ascent is from the Central Indian region of Malwa.
Ha! My Hindi isn't very good - did she buy three pieces? Gi-reen, bi-lack, and ...? (Just as unclelach warned us . )

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