On haggling

‘How many pounds is that?’ your son asks.

You are at the Car Boot Sale and you have given the Star a pocket full of money. He is looking at a small plastic dinosaur and a sheep.

’20p each, ‘ says the stallholder beaming at your child.

The Star rootles in his pocket. He holds up 10p.

‘Nope, you need more than that. Get another few coins out,’ you say, cheerfully.

The Star rootles around for quite some time. He looks concerned. The woman knocks the price down to 30p all in.

Whereupon the Star brings out a fistful of change, including some pound coins. You point out the necessary shape and he hands it over, oblivious to his success in haggling.

But he is quite pumped at buying his own, so he rushes you round the stalls until he finds one with something that catches his eye. ‘Look Mama, they have Thomas! And Percy.’

He crouches down and studies the trains carefully. The stallholder tries to interest him in a couple of other bits of tatty plastic. The Star fixes her with an earnest glare.

‘What many price is it?’

’50p each,’ the woman declares to you, confidently .

The Star also looks at you. You shrug. ‘You need a big fat one for that,’ you say.

The Star finds a 10p. And then a 20p. And then another 10p.

‘Nope, fatter than that,’ you say.

The stallholder shifts, uncomfortably.

Your son finds the right coin and gives it up, happy with his purchase. The stallholder offers him an additional formula one car for free. The Star thanks her (you nudge him) and goes on his way, oblivious to his success at haggling.

Round the corner there is a box with all sorts of plastic knick nacks. The Star pulls out a largeish red car.

‘What is that money?’ he asks.

‘A pound,’ the stallholder says.

‘I think you need your second question now,’ you say. The Star looks at you blankly. ‘Is that your best price?’ you prompt. The stallholder snorts.

‘Is that best… you price best?’ the Star repeats, eventually.

The man beams. ‘Yes!’ he says, promptly. ‘Oh,’ says the Star.

‘That’s OK, because what you do now is say that you’ll look around a bit more and think about it.’ you counter. The man snorts again, nods encouragingly, and perches a model of a footballer on top of the toy. The Star asks what it is for. The man tells him it’s a sweetener. You snort. The Star is not really into football. You and the Star walk away, carless, but happy, and he is still oblivious to his success in haggling.

A few stalls on, the Star spots a mouse.

It’s on the box of Mousetrap, that ubiquitous and terribly fiddly boardgame. The Star closely questions the stallholder about the picture. You mention what a nightmare it was to set up when you had one as a girl and look at a cookery book instead.

The man offers it to you for 20p.

The Star finds the right money first time and you leave.

You are satisfied with your haggling.

Total number of toys acquired in the end, six. Total number of times you pointed out a toy and the Star turned his nose up, more than you expected. Total money spent, less than the three pounds you gave the Star at the start and considerably less than you have sometimes spent on random toys you think might amuse your children.

You could get used to this outsourcing of the toy acquisition process.

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