Looking back at these shots from a market I visited deep in the heart of Tunisia, made me think about the way we buy and pay for things in ‘the West’. The cart piled high with fennel fresh from the fields, or fresh bread from the oven is honest and simple. If you fancy some you haggle with the man who grew it or baked it, and he doesn’t try to ‘up sell’ or add other things he thinks would go well with fennel or bread. Very refreshing. Okay he might try to get you to buy twice what you were originally asking for, but you’ve got to love a tryer.
The fennel or bread itself has no intrinsic fixed value, it’s simply worth what you will pay for it. If you desire it you strike a bargain which the producer feels is fair and everyone leaves happy. There is no right and wrong price, just an arrangement of exchange agreed between two people, the buyer and the seller.
I always find I come back from trips to countries where haggling is still the norm, to a feeling of being duped. Who says that’s ‘the price’ for those shoes? Where did this ‘price’ come from? It’s the price the seller would love to get for his goods, so that he can make a fixed margin of profit…..and so on down the supply chain…until of course you reach the producer who is paid what he is told is the fixed price for his produce. So wait, who is doing all the price-fixing? The Market of course silly. But who is this market? In reality its the money markets, who buy and sell commodities before they have even been produced or grown. People risk fortunes gambling on futures, and usually not their own fortunes of course!
So if we come back to the idea of the ‘Market Value’ of something it really has nothing to do with markets and haggling any more, in ‘developed countries’. It’s a chain of price-fixing which facilitates modern economic growth. So my feeling of being duped might not be that far off the mark. It seems so much more civilised to pay what something is worth to you, and its also a lot more fun than filling a trolley with food from shelves and then watching as it beeps its way beneath the scanner, escalating a digital total price at an alarming pace, right before your eyes.
There is something tangibly satisfying about markets and haggling, something much more connected on a human level, than shopping malls and supermarkets. It always makes me think more about what I’m chosing to buy, and how I’m chosing to spend my money. Call it an exercise in mindful shopping, which is no bad thing. I could certainly do with taking more responsibility and thought about how and where I shop….or ‘consume’ as it’s now called. Being labelled a consumer always makes me feel like a greedy gobbling monster…but that’s just my vivid imagination off again.
So next time you are shopping, before you blindly buy, think about what you really feel the object is worth. This will bring you a little closer to its true ‘market value’, the price you would agree it’s worth. Think also about where it has come from and who produced it, as shopping mindfully might make the world a nicer, fairer place to do business. After all nothing truly has a fixed price, it’s only fixed if we agree to allow to be told what things are worth…
I looked these photos out in response to the Weekly Travel Photo Challenge: Display.