Everything is negotiable in terms of price – watch out for discounts (dees-conts)

In Israel, everything with regards to pricing is negotiable. Unlike the United States or Canada where the price is set, everyone overcharges. Therefore, in the game of survival of the fittest, one needs to be tough and one of the signs of toughness is bargaining down a high price and getting a discount, or dees-cont. The mentality is that, if you got ripped off you probably deserved to be ripped off since you were Metumtam, stupid.

A few years ago, I visited Israel for a week. While there I wanted to get gifts for my siblings back home in New York. Due to my limited Hebrew and lack of negotiation skills, my mother offered her assistance once she got out of work. We walked into a jewelry store on Ben Yehudah street to get cheap earrings for my kid sisters, a cheap watch with Hebrew numbers (a cheap wallpaper), and some other things. Well, for starters, the watch, $10 or less elsewhere, was selling for a whopping 360 NIS, or $90 USD! The earrings, each a couple of tiny slivers of gold, were also very expensive. My mother screamed at the guy at how much a Ganav he was, etc. The guy replied in Hebrew, “Mah at rotzah mimeni? Zeh haparnasah sheli!” What do you want from me? This is my livelihood.

In any case, the prices were negotiated to half the value and, while it was still a ripoff, it wasn’t as bad. This was someone who was looking to fleece an American tourist like me.

During that same trip, I had with me a fairly new digital camera and was taking tons of pictures. Eventually the AA batteries died and I needed to get a replacement. At the same Ben Yehudah street, I saw a sign that roughly transliterated into “Bazaar.” I then walked in and asked the store owner to provide me “battariot l’matzlemah sheli,” or batteries for my camera. When I showed him my camera so he could see the size, he wanted to buy the camera off of me, used, on the spot for full value! I thanked him for his offer but explained that I bought the camera to use, not to sell, and needed it. But, that’s the Israeli mentality. Nothing is too holy to be negotiated for a good price.

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