Ever since I arrived in Bali, there was one thing constantly getting on my nerves and making me really uncomfortable: negotiating prices.
In Bali everything is negotiable. I mean, literally everything: transport fares, accommodation and trips prices, everything you buy on streets, even water. Prices vary a lot depending on the city/village, the customer, the seller, the location of the shop and probably other factors. Some supermarkets are expensive and some local shops are even more expensive. There just isn’t any rule or sense to all of this.
In fact, I am beginning to really understand that this isn’t just economics, but a culture of debating the value (price) of an object or service.
But why does this make me so uncomfortable?
At first I was annoyed. Then I got furious, really pissed off and … scared. I had the feeling that everybody around me wants to rob me. I had thoughts that people deliberately offer me high prices to make large profits on things that otherwise cost very less.
One day, after about three weeks of being in Bali, I exploded. I allowed myself to get really furious after I made a deal I was not satisfied with.
I wanted to go to one place and Grab (Uber equivalent) could drop me there, but could not pick me up. So I discussed with a local driver. He offered me a very high price, more than double of what Grab would cost. I felt cornered and without alternative. I accepted the initial price, did not even bother to negotiate it. In my mind, I did not want to risk not getting there. And anyway, I thought that the driver wanted to rob me and he had the means and was in the position to do it.
So while I was living my fury in my hotel room, I remembered how „good” life was back home, financially speaking. I had a fixed income. I had fixed expenses: the rent, the prices of food, clothes, internet, everything was more or less fixed and … predictable.
In Bali everything is negotiable, thus unpredictable. I just can not use a simple mind formula like: income – expenses = I have enough money to survive. The expenses (prices) are all over the place and I need to constantly balance this equation in order to survive.
So I realized I was afraid of death as I did not know how to protect my money.
And I was furious not on the person offering me a „bad” deal, but on myself. For not protecting my money, for spending too much on something I felt was not worth it.
That precise moment I started seeing negotiation not as a theft act, but as a means of valuing and protecting what I have. Now I negotiate more and more.