Bargaining Is a Lost Art

As I have explained in the past, I am a terrible gadget junkie. But I’m frugal, in some ways. The main reason I can hardly ever bear to pay top dollar for my toys is that I feel it wasteful since any money I save can be invested… In other toys, of course. I am very proud of being able to find the BEST deals for my expensive buys, be it online or in the bargain carts of back streets in Nipponbashi. I am a merciless bargainer and can invariably get a discount even at stores that “do not practice” bargaining… There are 2 keys here.
The first is specific to Kansai, the western region of Japan where Cosmic Buddha was born. Cosmic Buddha as in my website/band/social circle, not me. And when I say Kansai, I mean Osaka. Osaka merchants are known for being good at business. Meaning, they will greet you with a friendly smile and then stab you in the back… Nah, just kidding – kind of. Osaka merchants are nice and friendly most of the time, but in this giant fucking depression we are muddling through, you best believe they will take every dollar they can get.
You know that practice you’ve read about a thousand times in articles about small shops in Japan, about how they will often give the first customer of the day discounts for good luck? From my observations, that shit doesn’t happen in Osaka very often, and if it does, it’s because someone is getting suckered. Come on noobs, small shops are small for a reason… Do you really think they can afford to take a loss on a big sale as an appeasement to the god of small merchants (Answer: No, and the main appeasements to gods of business are made at Ebisu Jinja at the new year). I talked to one fool who was going to line up for the new DocoMo phones earlier this year and he actually told me that he would be the first in line in order to get a big discount… His brilliant idea was to buy 10 phones at this supposed discount and resell them for a profit. Needless to say, he lined up at 4 in the morning for naught… As if the stores would discount phones they could sell at double profit for the first month (when they had any stock at all)!
But I digress. The first tip for bargaining in Kansai (er…Osaka) is: Incite the Osakan business pride! When they refuse to give you a discount the first time, say “are you from Tokyo or something?”, or “you speak like a fucking news anchor!” in the most gutteral Kansai dialect you can muster (BTW, if you learned Japanese in a classroom, this tip does not apply to you). Then follow up with indignance and further insult, if necessary, as you get ready to leave the store. Something along the lines of “well fuck if you’re gonna ask this much for it, I might as well buy it at a big chain store that won’t go out of business“, or my favorite, “at least I won’t have to make that trip to Tower to get a whiff of Tokyo Ghetto Pussy. ” More often than not, this will result in:
A. A heavy discount for the item in question
– or –
B. One of those hooked poles they use to lower the steel shutters over the shop at closing time, planted firmly in your ass
My second tip is for use anywhere, but you must be shameless and in a true bargaining mood to pull it off. Amateurs need not apply, but this tip works 80% of the time in my experience. I only play this card when I really want something and I feel the shop will accept the offer. Now with all these obvious disclaimers out of the way, let me unveil the second tip for bargaining in Osaka: Show the money.
The best example of this tactic in use I can give is when I bought my Fujitsu laptop three years ago (in Nipponbashi of course). This was the cleanest bargaining I have ever pulled, and one of the best deals I ever made. The shop in question was Naniwa Denki, which has a reputation for having good deals as a result of broad connections (when a computer retailer goes out of business they are often the first in line to buy the merch). This laptop retailed for 255,000 yen. It was new, but the outer box had a crease in it (packaging makes the sales in Japan). They were offering it for 195,000, cash-only w/shop warranty for one year. At the time, this in itself was the best deal I could find in the WHOLE WORLD for a laptop of this caliber (LOL it’s my slowest machine, by far, now). I called my friend Tatsuya at IO Data (peripherals company) and got the 411 about the item (solid) and the shop (again, solid, he told me about their buying practices – which I agree with). I talked the guy at the counter down to 165,000 but felt there was still wiggle room. I took a break and got 160,000 out of the bank. BAM! I slapped 16 bills on the counter – no subtlety today, sir – and did a take it or leave it. The manager smiled and took the money. I walked out with a laptop that was worth more than I paid for it even a year later (although I should state that I got a makers warranty instead of the shop warranty – no biggie).
Showing the money – actually putting down or flashing the cash – has occasionally failed me. When it did, it was embarassing as hell when I was with other people or there was a crowd around, because that’s another factor, the audience. In some situations, the shop will not deal with you in front of other people, sometimes because they have a “no-bargaining” policy (when it’s time to use the “this is Osaka, what do you mean, ‘no bargaining,’ you Kanto wussy?” tactic), sometimes the guy you’re talking to isn’t earning commission and could give a fuck about making the sale (actually if you’re in a chain store, they almost definitely are NOT earning commission – but they do have to worry about sales quotas), and sometimes making a low-profit sale in front of a crowd just isn’t in the store’s best interest. It is not possible to know the reason for deal breakers all of the time, but it’s good to relect upon in the interest of sharpening your bargaining skills.
I love bargaining in foreign countries as well, in countries where it’s practiced, at least. You can tell if a store is good or not by their willingness or unwillingness to bargain with you. You see, some areas have been completely ruined by affluent tourists. If a street vendor greets you in Japanese, that’s usually a bad sign. If sales tag are written in more than one Germanic language, escape!
Cosmic Buddha’s next bargaining practice session is scheduled for January 7th-9th, 2004, in Seoul. Bring on the Prada wallets, I need one to match the “genuine” Speedmaster I bought in Phuket!

1 thought on “Bargaining Is a Lost Art”

  1. Good commentary, Jus. I’ve heard that the same “flash-the-cash” tactic works here stateside, as well, at some retailers. Try it and let’s see your mastery!

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