Negotiating with a Boda (motorcycle taxi) can be a cool endeavour at the start. Testing your bargaining skills, seeing how low you can go, and calling out ridiculous prices can be fun. There also comes a point where you are exhausted or frustrated with having to spend the extra 3 minutes required to get a fair deal, and either walk away, or just pay up and go.
Worth noting here is that a fair deal is often made by paying 1,000/= less on a ride. This is essentially $0.40. And yet there are times when I find myself walking away, unwilling to pay 6,000/= for a 5,000/= ride. Why so stingy? Clearly, it isn’t about the price, but about dignity and respect: For a 5,000/= ride, I have been asked for up to 15,000/= at the start of negotiations. Because I am a foreigner, I must have money, and must not really care about it. Or I must be stupid, and don’t know what a fair price is. Usually greeting a driver in Luganda helps curb this.
How important is this dignity, though? After a few months here, I find myself caving quicker. Not out of exhaustion, but from realizing that, well, I know the price isn’t the lowest it can be. But does it need to be? At the end of the day, if you are willing to buy, and they are willing to sell, what does it matter if you are getting the lowest price you can. I know what it is, and I know it is a bit lower than the 6,000/= they are charging. But at some point, I stop worrying about that, and realize that it really is worth more to someone else than to me. Let them laugh.
Aaron Wolf is working with Dalhousie IDS and South and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute as an intern in Rural Livelihoods.