the art of
buying grey Cell Phones
Apurv Parashar
he Proble!-"The problem involved here was to get myself a cheap cell phone which
• Would cost me less then Rs3000
• Would not necessarily be the size and weight of a mortar brick.
Also wanted a !decent" range of features on my gizmo where !decent" for me usually
borders on the e#travagant for others. The only way this seemed possible was for me to
tap the !grey" market which e#ists in $affaar %arket and &aalika 'azaar in (elhi.
)owever these markets have a reputation of being twin edged knifes of sorts as too many
stories abound of people having been taken for a ride by smooth talkers and ending up
paying more than the retail price for these gadgets. 'ut confident* by virtue of desire and
need* decided to press on and did e#tensive research of sorts on retail as well as grey
prices and ultimately headed for these markets. Along with e#perienced friends* headed
out and ultimately got what desired after two days of scouting at Rs+,00 about -.00
bucks less then retail. The entire process* the negotiations* the threatened walkouts and
the ridiculous stories told on both sides of the counter were tremendously instructive and
here attempt to analyze our transactions as a /uintessential middle class guide for
getting that cell you want for a wee bit less of your pocket.
he #etup-" 'oth of these markets /uoted above operate on a negotiation model where
the term !marked price" goes for a big si#. 'argaining is the mantra of the day and
represents the pinnacle of materialistic fruitful communication for the buyer. The game
itself starts upon your initial glance towards the seller"s rack 0The sub1ects in /uestion are
armed with counters resembling better a cigarette2beedi bo# rather then a shop3 and the
seller towards you$ It is here I must emphasize that this entire process is an exercise in
communication between you and the seller. Through your moves, your attitude, your
speech, you are unconsciously (or consciously) sending signals by which a seasoned
seller makes up his mind to what price he can take you for and hence reacts. t is at this
level if you are careful you can turn things around your way as intend to show or at least
prevent yourself to be cheated. n effect it generally boils down to a two player
communication problem which e#pands to more if more sellers or buyers are involved.
$enerally similar communication techni/ues will follow for both &aalika and $affaar* but
will differ in some few vital areas due to characteristic differences between both in
location* setting and type of sellers. This becomes increasingly important when choosing
between markets* if the time you can spend is limited. Also note that this is intended not
to be a general bargaining guide for any product or market but only for this peculiar
problem for markets /uoted above as many methods developed for this situation turn on
their head in say* a souvenir shop or some place else.
4ollowing the lead of successful $enerals from history* we begin by analyzing the
opponent by segregating him into two classes
• he Paan-%eedi type vendor 25.These types dominate in $affaar and have a
reasonable presence in &aalika. They are typically sitting behind a small glass
counter showing their wares on the open street and hence their name. The vendors
themselves range from right to chaps looking like actual beedi types to
!respectable" looking broken 6nglish speaking types. They have about -02-. cell
phones right there for you to see and have more stashed somewhere and are even
connected well to get you a model if you care to name it for him. They usually
deal in second hand phones but can be the best source for a killer buy on a new
phone provided you can verify their claim. These tend to be more receptive to
bargaining strategies then the second type as they have to resort to similar
communication channels for their sales pitch to make up for their lack of shop
structure and hence lack of trust and reliability therein.

• he &'espe(table #hop)eeper* vendor25 These are mostly found in &aalika
where they usually host other electronic items but can be wholly 7ell &hone
oriented too. They have all the fa8ade of retail and inspired by some original
cardboard bo# packs on their showcase* /uote even higher then retail price. They
usually assume an arrogant attitude so as to 1ustify the higher floor area occupied
by them compared to the path side vendor sitting outside his shop. They rarely
deal in second hand stuff but like to classify all their wares as new* whatever
condition they are in. 9ot invincible to bargaining techni/ues* but they are less
receptive then the first type maybe* as they seem to get a regular share of rich
gullible customers who go home happy in the thought of making a bargain 1ust
because they bought it from &aalika.
he +yth25Before developing our general tactics* we clear the air first by breaking a
myth about bargaining in general and specifically here. )aving watched too many
)ollywood movies in which the buyer and merchant simply name prices until they agree
one that is roughly halfway between the original asking price and offer price* many
people think that this is the way bargaining really works. Well it doesn"t.
f you try to ask for a discount the seller will come up with all kinds of stories as to how
his margin is Rs.0 or even lower* or how this phone is worth much more but he"s doing
you a favour because he you are his first sale of the day:: f you believe his story* and
accept the figure that he named* you are going to be paying an outrageous price.
;o you know what he"s up to. 9ow what do you do< f you don"t want to pay an
outrageous price* you have to remember one simple guideline= ell hi! a story$ ,e told
you a story- and no. you tell hi! one. Tell him you intend to buy the phone right there
and place the money in front claiming that as all you had minus the auto fare. The >
have this much only? @ story /01# work* provided you act it out convincingly and the
money you lay in front is does give the poor chap some margin and at the same time
reasonable to you. This works e#tremely well with the first type as they often doubt
sincerity of their prospective !customers" as even many 1aywalkers also ask them out for
$ood acting skills are important too. &ractice your surprised look in the mirror. When he
names his price* look shocked and start apologizing. >"m really sorry. had no idea it
was so e#pensive. thought it would only be around half that price. like it but don"t
want to waste your time. There"s no way could afford it.@ This also sometimes works
but often mistook for sarcasm but when its not* you are most likely to be made another
offer. ;o you have to decide on instinct by your perception of the seller and to what
particular tone and content will he respond to. personally found that a subtle first
reaction is much more useful if you know that the price is grossly inflated and has to
come down like in this case as will be seen 1ust ahead.
We now e#amine general tactics for effective bargaining and will later review my own
e#perience and analyze it in light of aforementioned and communication theory by doing
a mini case study.
he General 'outine25
• #tri)ing a pose25Aour attitude is everything when you go in. Almost every seller
seems to welcome a positive* fun* and friendly potential customer and sales
interaction. Abrasive- ta)e no prisoners- in your fa(e- 'a!bo type attitudes
usually are not e!bra(ed .ith the sa!e enthusias! although you may have to
end up being a little aggressive to stri)e the final deal$ At the same time sincerity
must* and can not be compromised for a light disposition when dealing especially
with the first type. This can not be overemphasized as the repeated /uestion from
them is to whether you really want to buy a cell phone and that itself is very
important for the /uoted price to begin its downward spiral.
• he routine itself-" )ow to start2 4irst of all through e#tensive market research you
should be familiar with prices and models available. ;o you will have idea aplenty
when you actually venture out to buy. 9ow is the time to scan all the counters out
there. Aou see a phone you like or were thinking as a possible buy. Aou then proceed
to ask its /uoted price. The price /uoted is almost certainly way above your threshold
limit and is almost twice if you are in &aalika. t is then advisable to react with
subtlety in mind and keep inspecting the phone up and down* in and out. 4inally
when convinced of the set"s value it is advisable to follow a scaled down routine on
some other phones even if in pretence. This should be done in order not to give away
your liking for that set. Beep asking /uestions though* about model* battery life*
features even if you know more than him.
3eep in !ind this is not a e4er(ise in delay but one in .hi(h your sin(erity as
.ell as gullibility 5or the la() of it6 is (o!!uni(ated to the seller. f it"s not
happening* you are missing the point. f you feel it is not happening your way* then
ask a different /uestion and keep asking 0and e#amining3 until you incite the seller"s
interest and attention. Cnnecessary delay will bear no fruit and you must enter now
the second phase of the great game.
9ow you come back to your best bet phone and ask for a second price which
generally meets with two responses25
 A ne. pri(e is 7uoted- !arginally less then previous$
 he 7uestion &,o. !u(h are you prepared to give2*

n case of first response* act with disgust: 0This is an opportunity for you to be your
e#pressive best:3 and start narrating stories at the same time pressing home the point
that while u appreciate the set* you will not be taken for a ride0Aes* make this clear in
classic direct style communication3 and how you can not pay him the higher price and
carry the feeling home of paying more than fair. The keyword here is &1ngage*.
6ngage the shopkeeper even if he appears reticent and try to bring him to the second
response or to a price you might be willing to pay.
Things get interesting in the second response and preferably you should not suddenly
/uote your price or a price below it* but rather wait and incite the seller to give his
best price insisting as it is his product he should come out with a fair price himself.
This delay takes a little bit of the shock out of the price you will /uote which is even
lower then the price you think is fair.
Cpon hearing that price now it is the seller"s turn to act in disgust. This cycle can be
ended now by instinct and fle#ibility and your as well as his need to make a sale.
Dnce you /uote a price 0and you think it is fair to you and him3 stick to it and now
you enter the final act* the walkout.
Aou must also be a good actor when you do your >walkout@. lmost all successful
bargaining sessions involve threatened or real walkouts. f you are not have any
success in getting to the price that you want to pay* it is time to apologize for wasting
the seller"s time* and pretend to leave. $enerally in $affaar* you will be called back
E0F of the time. t usually takes one or two threatened or actual walkouts to get a
good price. The walkout is also useful because if the shop2keeper lets you go* you
know that he is not going to go any lower and you can always come back if you want.
0Though you shouldn"t if you think your price is fair3
• %odyal)-" 6#pressive gestures* facial movements* and or the lack of them* will
emphasize motivation toward a purchase. 7ommunicating what you will pay and
when you believe something is over2priced can be accomplished through body
language. 6ye e#pressions* hand movements* a smile* or dropped 1aw* will all be
understood regardless of any language barriers. Aour kinesthetic disposition will be
of paramount importance throughout the transaction.
• %8-" )owever once you do sight things you like and hear stuff you like* stay cool*
calm* and collected. &ut your best poker face on. After going crazy over a phone* by
praising it up one side and down the other* donGt be amazed when the shop owner
wonGt budge from his price. The shop owner then knows how much you want and
love that piece. )eGs got the upper hand now. Dnce you have revealed your true
intentions and desire* to regain any leverage with the shop owner is futile. ;hop
owners* Gm convinced by now* have e#traordinary powers of mental telepathy. 9hen
you see an ite! you .ant- being non(halant about the .hole thing .or)s best.
know it may be difficult but remaining neutral works to your advantage. The thrill of
ac/uiring what you want is worth the challenge of staying cool.
• a)ing it slo.-"magine that you are a seller. A guy walks into your store and shows
some interest in an item. Aou give him your best sales pitch* and price negotiations
begin. After a minute or two* if he leaves without buying something* you haven"t lost
anything* but if you spend ten or fifteen minutes* you will be e#tremely reluctant to
let the customer leave the store without making a sale. 6ven if you are only going to
make a very small profit* you will want to make sure that the customer buys
something. This brings us to our second guideline= ;pend a lot of time at the counter.
Ask a lot of /uestions. 6#amine the phone in minute detail. &retend that you are
interested in other phones as well. Try things on* and try to look as if you have all the
time in the world. 6#ercising patience may be the difference between getting what
you want for the price youGd like to pay or not. /on:t be i!pulsive. Beep those
feelings zipped in your back pocket and put some restraint in your wallet. Hearn to
pull back gently on your reins* as you go charging toward your potential purchasing
• ,abeus Corpus-" f you can rant along a cell phone of a buddy or take the cell
phone buddy with you it can be very useful indeed. The most important use comes
along in the happy coincidence when you intend to buy the same model and can
dangle the phone in the air* moaning in disgust as to how it really costs a tenth of the
/uoted price. Dr you can resort to comparing the phone on counter with that in your
and as how despite having more features your phone costs less then that on the
• ;llusion of )no.ledge-" Aou /0 <0 want to appear as an ignoramus about cell
phones even if you are not far from one to the seller. Dtherwise the seller is allowed
to dominate the talking space by firing all kinds of details about the phone he himself
has no clue about* so at least pretend. 6#amine the phone you picked out of the rack
in every way possible and fiddle around with the battery* appear to be looking for a
specific diagnostic detail which preempts the seller lashing you with feature
description of the cell phone he chants for every model. This behavior generally shuts
up the seller after his initial barrage and marks your position in the communicative
space between you and him* as he ponders what mysterious diagnostic operations you
are carrying out. Although a non communicative point, for the sake of completeness it
must be mentioned that you should check for damaged battery terminals, scratched
body screws indicating that the cell phone has a history of tampering and scratched
battery consoles indicating an old set being pushed as new.
• =oo)ing the part -" Aes* it does matter as to how you come across in your looks.
;hoddy clothes are certainly out and so are garishly vulgar ones. The important word
is !neat" which is essential for any kind of communication leave alone this story.
• i!ing 25 The time which you go to the market is important and a time of 32. &% is
suitable as by this time small time vendors start panicking if they haven"t made a sale
so far. While it may not be of earth shattering benefit to stick to this timing but it can
certainly be advantageous if it is convenient.
he afore!entioned (an be thought of as a general .ay to approa(h su(h a
transa(tion$ ,o.ever hu!an (o!!uni(ation is highly non linear and hen(e even a
syste!ati( analysis or approa(h (an often ba()fire$ ,o.ever .e possess the
advantage of (onte4t and spe(ifi(ity$ ,en(e .e (an be reasonably sure of
effe(tiveness of afore!entioned ta(ti(s$ <onetheless- instin(t plays its role in any
human situation and it does so here$ #o .e should be fle4ible enough to fun(tion
freely even )eeping these guidelines in !ind$
9ow we come to my e#perience with truths and lies in $affaar market.
+y story-"As mentioned before needed a 7ell phone very badly and could not shell out
more then Rs3000 and also was not prepared to settle for a piece of oversized anti/ue
machinery. Then a friend narrated a killer bargain he had struck in %adras which left me
wondering if similar e#ploits were possible in (elhi. ;o we narrowed our scan to $affaar
and &aalika by virtue of their reputation. A happy coincidence occurred in the form of a
friend in a similar /uarry and we both hunted in our happy pack around $affaar.
After many shops where people were /uoting down2market cell phones at e#orbitant rates
0even the first types3 we came across a counter where we sighted a phone knew had
decent features and could be had. %eanwhile my friend also had his sights on a higher
end second hand model. erred in letting my e#citement show for the other model which
the shopkeeper picked on. ;o this effectively negated our advantage of looking for two
phones and was thoroughly avoidable. %eanwhile continued with my inspection of the
phones and kept asking /uestions which he rather intelligently replied.
The dialogue went something like this scaled down in time
%e= s this is the new %itsubishi %ars<
)im= Aes* 3days battery life* WA&?blah..blah?????.
0I pick it up and begin my lengthy examination3
4riend= ;how me that one
%e= Wow* this is a great phone
0This is where I go wrong and the !wow" could cost me dear but I try to recover and keep
asking #uestions about this and that$
%e= $uarantee<<
)im= 3 days return* not after that.
0%e shows elements of firmness and arrogance..3
%e= )ow much for this one and that<
)im= This one "ll give you for Rs3,00 and that for Rs.000
%e= 9,A<<< Bya Aaar sardar1i theek theek lagao* This price i"ll get in &alika yaar *
why have come here <<
0I try to apply the disgust routine3
)im= 9ahi 1ee..t is not possibleI Hook at the piece* fresh and with H7( light
0This continues for some time where he"s becoming increasingly reticent so I try to
engage and bring him back to the table3
%e= Aaar this is a good set* but when )no. it is worth +J00 only* how can buy it <<
Dk Aou want me to come up ..Aou also know its real price?7"mon
)im= 9o* no am /uoting fair price?
4riend= ;ee* we are buying two so? kuch to karna padega aapko?
)im= 9o
0We go round in circles for some more time?.3
%e= ;ee we will buy now:: Take this sum of K,00 and be done with it.
)im= 9ot possible.
0Walkout begins3
%e= Dk* then you are not being fair yaar..
4riend= Het"s go?.
0We physically withdraw and turn3
)im= Histen?come back. ;ee ,000 is fair.
%e= 'rother it"s not. This should be for +,00 and that for J+00 0 increase slightly3
4riend= ;tudents hai yaar hum
)im= 9o* 9o..Dk L+00 final.
0This is a ma&or step down despite him knowing I am gaga about the phones3
%e= Dk* chalo
0I am running out of patience, another avoidable negative trait3
0/eal done3
9ow this reproduction is of a +. minute episode and finer points of conversation are
missing but these have already been emphasized earlier. What"s important to see that my
mistake of showing my liking nearly cost me the sale. And it took us a lot to recover from
that and even prevented us to get a further lower price. We had the upper hand as we had
to buy two and we lost that and recovered much later.
Post!orte!-" Again we see that faulted on many guidelines of patience and subtlety
but recovered by not giving up. This engagement is /uite important and even if the seller
seems to be breaking off* you must try to bring him back. An introvert is no bargainer.
There is no humiliation in this but only some money saved for you which you can use
elsewhere. ;ince there is protracted communication involved and you chose to come to
the bargaining market in the first place* time will necessarily be spent. Again when the
seller dropped a ma1or chunk of the price in the end* chose to clinch the deal as was
happy paying +,00 for that phone and on the edge of my patience. ;ome one else might
still find it worthwhile to negotiate further. he .hole point of bargaining is to pay a
pri(e .hi(h you feel happy about paying- .hi(h depends upon person to person. %y
price here was +,00 as know in retail this phone costs RsJ000. ;o it all is to a large
e#tent person dependent. )ad we been more nonchalant about the whole thing* we could
have e#tracted a better price and someone with better patience probably can.
he Classi( &/ebate*-" )ere wish to bring in the /ire(t v>s ;ndire(t debate on this
problem and decide on their respective merits and demerits. 9ow in a negotiating
situation like above we see that it will not help becoming strictly direct or strictly in
direct. t will not even help acting in alternate compartments of direct and indirect styles.
Rather a blend of both these styles interlaced with each other to a microscopic degree will
do the trick.
Well* when you need to convince the seller of your sincerity you need to be pretty direct
and when you need to stay in the game after his first price you need to send out subtle
hint wave packets not by speech. 6ven when making a direct communication to the seller
your body could be hinting in indirect style either reinforcing the same view or adding an
au#iliary one. ;o it is not that one has to consciously try to be indirect and direct at the
same time* rather this is a basic human trait which is embedded in everybody anyway. ;o
it is something which you don"t really have to try hard for. What you do need to
remember is to engage the seller and let him form a view about you which you want.
hus through (o!!uni(ation you need to (hange the vie.point of the shop)eeper
about you fro! default to one favouring you in that situation$ Also- this is a(hieved
not only .hen you are a(tually negotiating but !ore i!portantly .hen you are in
the initial stages as)ing all sorts of 7uestions before the pri(e pops up$ 0n(e you
effe(tively trans!it your position and standing and )no.ledge and &gullibility*
fa(tor- (han(es of a better deal in(rease !anifold$ Again consider three keywords*
sincerity 0or the pretence of3* engagement and patience. These three collectively form the
foundation of all there is to bargaining. And see that your style has to be a generous blend
of direct and indirect as is the case with most communication situations. his brings us
to the point of the fa(ade the debate bet.een &dire(t* and &indire(t* really is$ )uman
communication usually is far from binary outputs and is e4tre!ely conte#tualized with
people departing from characteristic traits under the influence of a pressing circumstance.
;o there is no point in analyzing this situation with our directMindirect hats on 0or any
human situation for that matter3. Dnly thing left to be said that there is some merit in
closeting in one style in particular situations as when you want him to convince the seller
of your sincerity 0direct style3 or react to the price initially 0indirect3 but in general your
style should be a holisti( one not biased to.ards any one of the t.o$
he 1nd25 Although hope this little effort is useful for people who are really interested
in getting that cheap phone* again point out this was developed on my e#periences in
$affaar market and &aalika and is hence most relevant there although most techni/ues are
obviously effective elsewhere. )owever you should notice how techni/ues described
before need not apply to any other arbitrary items* one poignant e#ample being the overt
display of money on the table. 9ow this works fine in $affaar for the point of sincerity
and as an immediate deal clincher* but it is certainly not advisable in say* a reasonable
sized shop or a garments store 0or even a non electronic street vendor3. #o this paper is
highly (onte4tuali?ed and that is ne(essary for it to have any se!blan(e of use.
Another foot note "d like to add is that you should haggle about prices only when you
actually see yourself buying the same phone for a price which you find reasonable for it.
Cnnecessary bargaining when you are 1ust window shopping is a time waster for you as
well as the seller. Another avoidable habit is to arbitrarily as) the pri(e of ea(h and
very ite! at the (ounter in a rapid fire session. This 1ust brands you as a vagrant by
passer. Also it doesn"t pay to belittle the seller or unleash technical wizardry in the form
of specifications on him 0applicable to engineers perhaps..3 as that simply doesn"t count
for the fellow. t might be pointed out that /uite a lot of the techni/ues and do"s and
don"ts mentioned are obvious and even known* but are marred by the lack of patience and
invisible communicative barriers people set up for themselves or simple lethargy.
6ven though finally got what wanted by summoning as much patience and brute
mental energy at my command but as realize now* could have done better had
understood our transactions better and what was really going behind the scenes. &eople
tend not to retain their cool when sums of money involved are large enough to concern
them. 9ot to be taken as the bible for buying* this effort is intended to let your mind start
thinking in the right direction and in the right mode. f you successfully realize as to how
every innocent /uestion and reply you and the seller e#change* guises unconscious 0or
conscious3 moves and signals from you and him* you can develop your own
interpretation of them and what strategy suits your behavior and attitude. Dver a period of
time some people develop into seasoned campaigners 0as you may have seen3 by virtue of
their unconscious sense of two way communication and instinct. This instinct is generally
a result of e#perience and grows on you as you play the game more and more. ;o if you
think this is fun* then it really is* as this has the potential of saving you a whole lot than
you !'argained" for::::
>9hat is Past is Prologue@