「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


Saying no to haggling

By Tan Ying Zhen


There are many things I enjoy about travelling. Haggling is not one of them.

On a recent trip to Cambodia ― my first to this beautiful country, I met many fellow travellers who seemed to take pleasure in bargaining with tuk-tuk drivers and market stall holders over amounts as small as 50 cents (about yen50).

It puzzled me because the tourists, many of whom were from developed countries, did not look poor. Some disgusted me because they were downright rude to the mild-mannered and friendly locals.

My travel companion said many guide books encourage bargaining. He explained that some people bargain because they feel they are being overcharged, since goods and services are generally cheaper in Cambodia than in developed countries. Also, even for the exact same service, locals apparently enjoy lower prices than tourists. For example, a tuk-tuk ride might cost less than US$1 (yen120) for a local, but US$3 (yen360) for a foreign tourist.

I could not help but retort, “What’s wrong with that?”

To me, the prices were reasonable and affordable, considering that I pay more than that for a similar service in Singapore. I do not think I should be exploiting people for their labour just because I am in a developing country. Locals may pay a lower price than foreigners, but that is logical because they are earning unfairly low wages.

According to a 2010 socio-economic survey by Cambodia’s National Institute of Statistics, the average monthly income in the capital city, Phnom Penh, is about $100 (yen11,580). The average national income is even lower at around $1 a day.

I was more than happy to pay a higher price than the locals, and offer a tip when appropriate. It was the least I could do to show my gratitude for great service. It was also the bare minimum I could do to make a pathetic attempt at reducing the income inequality between developed and developing countries.

American writer Anne Elizabeth Moore, who has lived and worked in Cambodia, described similar sentiments in her book, Cambodian Grrrl: “It’s going to be much easier for me to replace that dollar than it would be for the shopkeeper in front of me. It is not worth a dollar for me to strong-arm her into lowering her prices in order to feel like I won this shopping experience.” I like her logic.

At the end of the day, it is about treating people decently, no matter who they are, where they come from, or how much they are earning. As different as cultures may be, decency is decency and I like to believe people would not bargain away decency just to save a dollar or two.



The Japan Times ST: December 12, 2014

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版