“How much for two books?” a guy says, after spending a few minutes reading the blurbs of the books stacked on our sales table.
“The books are $3 each, so two would be $6,” Darling Man replies. The books retail for $30-plus here in Singapore — and they’re great reads. The books are a bargain.
“I’ll give you a dollar,” the guy says.
I am fed up with the Singaporean lowballing, the need to get things for the absolute cheapest price. I say no and the guy shrugs and walks off.
“THESE PEOPLE,” I think to myself. “What is WRONG with them?”
The garage sale was supposed to be our last Singapore selling hurrah. Most of our big stuff was sold by posting individual ads on Craigslist and Gumtree. Now, Darling Man, Miss M, me and our neighbours are sitting behind an enormous table covered in books and baby clothes, casserole dishes, a toaster, baby toys and yoga clothes.
I’ve been dealing with such a variety of annoyances as we slowly sold off our Singapore stuff — a Japanese lady who spent an hour combing through our house, agreeing to buy two cabinets and some shelving. All purchases canceled, one by one, over the course of two weeks. The Irish lady who said she wanted to buy the bookcase and toys. But then didn’t want any toys. And then didn’t want the bookcase. And then asked for her deposit back. Then said she’d take the bookcase if we could arrange transportation. Then, after we arranged transportation, texted at 11.45pm to say she’d gone to Ikea that day and bought a bookcase so didn’t want ours after all.
But it’s the lowballing and haggling which is really ticking me off. Two shelving units for $5 each — an absolute steal. “I’ll give you $2 each for them.” Darling Man haggles the price up to $3 each – and the woman finally says she’ll buy. But only one. (Her husband pulled up to collect the shelving unit in an $80,000 car. I was so glad there was gecko poo on the back of the shelves.)
An as-new bike that we bought 10 months ago for $400, selling for $250 – “I’ll give you $150.” This from a guy who doesn’t want to test-ride the bike. He stood in front of our house for 20 minutes checking the retail price of the bike on his smartphone. He doesn’t want a bike. He just wants to flip something, anything.
The lady who asked for a “bulk discount” on baby clothes, offered at $5 a piece. She wanted TWO dresses.
The emails that arrive, 15 minutes after I post an ad, offering exactly half the asking price of each item. Just one line for each ad – “I’ll take it for $50.” “I’ll take it for $100.” No hello, no name, no manners.
To me it’s rude, hair-tearingly frustratingly rude. It makes me want to stamp and swear and scream at people for being tight-arses. To Darling Man, it’s perfectly normal. “It’s just bargaining,” he says with a pleasant shrug. If we weren’t so stressed out he’d probably find my reaction amusing.
To me, it’s not about the money. We are selling things we don’t need, things we don’t want to carry to Thailand. We’d give it all to charity but the charities in Singapore are so picky that they don’t accept certain things. (I’m worried we wouldn’t make the cut.) You have to pay $60 to donate “bulky items” and the local charity bin has mysteriously disappeared, making a trip to drop off clothes and shoes a half-day expedition.
So we’re offering things for sale. The prices are low. You want something, just pay the damn price. If you don’t want it, shove off – don’t waste my time.
I realise this is another “cultural experience”. I came to Asia seeking cultural experiences. But I only want to have good ones. These annoying cultural experiences are really annoying.
Even Darling Man has gotten a little narky about things. The Singaporean customer behaviour is similar to Vietnamese customer behaviour, but it’s not the same. And those differences can get up his nose too. But he’s so much calmer than me, and we have so much else to deal with, so he doesn’t complain.
I am so lucky to have him. And so lucky to have an outlet for my complaints. (That’s you, dear reader!)
12 years ago