I needed a new pair of sandals for church. I have a bunch of flip flops and Keen-type sandals, but nothing that was pretty for church. With the church directory photos coming up on Saturday, I decided to "splurge" and buy something that didn't look so, well, "missionary-ish" (ie Keen sandals) to wear with my dress for the picture.
So off to the market I went this morning. After a bunch of searching, I found a pair that would do-- I didn't love them, but they would do. So then the interesting part begins. Price negotiation. Being by myself as a white woman at the market I am automatically at a disadvantage. My Kreyol is improving lately, but I also am at a disadvantage because I am not completely fluent. So I asked her how much she wanted for them.
She said $30 Haitian. (Which is 150 gourdes, or about $3.75 USD.) Now, let me stress that there was nothing special about these sandals. And let me also stress that ALL prices in Haiti are negotiable. Sure, these shoes were new, but they were just glorified flip flops-- jelly shoes actually, with a mess of rhinestones. I can see paying about $8-$10 in the US for these shoes, but we're not in the US. And so I knew this wasn't a deal. However, not having the advantage (as I previously mentioned), I offered her $20 Haitian. (Which is 100 gourdes or about $2.50 USD.) She laughs at me and says no way.
So I say, "Pa gen pwoblem. Mwen ka cheche lot merchann." (No problem, I can look around at other vendors.) And I start to walk away. And here's the thing. I wasn't playing hardball. I really meant it. It's not like my life was going to end without these shoes. So I turn to leave. Then after that she all of a sudden changes her tune. She wants me to pay $25 Haitian. ($3.12ish in USD.) I really wasn't interested in paying over $3 for some jelly shoes. So I said no. At which she grabs the money out of my hand and starts yelling at me, saying that she will give it to me, but I am trying to rip her off. Of course I didn't have the correct change, so it was a $50 Haitian bill. (250 gourdes-- $6.25USD.) So I needed change. Which is the BANE of my existence. Because NO ONE EVER has the right change. Like seriously. Never. Or even if they do, they don't give it to you, hoping you won't check or you'll be in too much of a hurry to wait for them to walk off to other vendors to make change.
However, I felt like this was a hill worth dying on. I was GOING TO get correct change. She was hesitant. Then she hastily reached into her purse and handed me a wad of tattered and crumpled money. I counted it and (miracle of miracles) it was correct! So I say thank you and go to walk away with my change and my sandals and she stops me and says, "NO! You owe me $5 Haitian." (Which I did not.)
I told her, "No you agreed to sell them to me for $20 Haitian. I have you $50 Haitian. You gave me $30 Haitian. We're even."
So then SHE says, "No, I said $25 Haitian. You need to pay me $25 Haitian. You owe me $5 more."
I took the sandals and threw them down on her table and said, "Forget it. Just forget it. Give me my money back. I don't want your sandals anymore."
She looks at me and screams, "No Madame! I will NOT give you your money back. Just leave. Take the sandals and leave."
So I did, feeling emotions of about 25% perturbed and 75% satisfied.