Watching the British Bargain

I think one of my most guilty pleasures in blowing half a day in London, in a hotel room, due to the Tube strike was watching British TV programs (er… programmes). Overall, I find the offerings to be a great deal better there than here. While not always genius, shows will often have at least some thought put behind them. Truth be told, America rips off all its good shows from ones in the UK or Europe. So, it’s no wonder that I’d love the much superior, original versions.
I got a great kick out of Dickinson’s Real Deal. It’s a show where people come on with stuff that’s been lying around their place and they get the choice of taking the money from a antiques dealer on the spot or putting it up for auction. Besides the, “Oooh, which way will make more money?” you get to see the British do what they do worst and that is haggle. Admittedly there are a few that haggle well, but they’re about as rare as Americans I like to travel with. Let’s just assume that the British can’t bargain for the premise of this article.
I’ve heard how bad they are about this in general from other Europeans, but I saw it first hand in Sućuraj, Hvar with a British couple there. It seems that where the Americans are too brash for haggling, the British are too nice. You can watch this unfold on Real Deal in many a humorous way. I could have watched a marathon session of it.
Say someone comes on and they have a Tiffany lamp (people don’t but just pretend.) The dealer says, “Hmm, yes, yes. I think. Hmm, I would like to offer you, 20 and… yes yes, another 20 to bring this to 40 pounds.” To which the person on the other end is seething to point where you can actually see it. This is no small feat and their response is so measured, that you tell they’re pissed at the offer. It goes something along these lines, “Hmm, yes, well, that’s not quite what I had envisioned. Perhaps a tad bit more if it wouldn’t be too much trouble and all.” And back and forth it goes. They make me jump out of my seat and scream, “Punch the son of a bitch! He’s screwing you over!!!” It’s like I’m watching incredibly well-mannered boxing.
This was in great contrast to the haggling I would hear in places like Belgrade which were like, “How much for this?” “400 dinar.” “What?!! You’re insane you son of a fatherless goat! I’ll give you 50!” “50?!! Do I look like your whore of a sister?!! 300!! And not a dinar less!” “You insult my family for six generations with your 300!! 200!!” “250!!” “Hmm, 240!!” “Fine!! 240!! Now I never want to see you again!!” “The same, you ingrown donkey hoof!” Later on of course, mother and son would be sharing a beer, not the least bit offended by each other.
I have to say that I’m rather torn as to which approach I prefer. The British way seems so nice and easy to deal with, but you really risk offending each other because people take it personally. Whereas the other way is much more offensive, but both parties realize that there is no ill will meant and it’s just business. This would be why America is such a mess, since we blend all of this together in to one sticky mess where everyone is offended all the time. At least we’re consistent, eh?
Watching the British Bargain