Here are three sets of girl’s Indian bangles (bracelets). The first set was bought by me in Commericial Street, a touristy shopping area in downtown Bangalore. I forgot to bargain and paid the asking price (50 rupees) for them. The second set was also bought by me, in a small shop near my house. They were 30 rupees. The third set was a birthday gift to Maggie from our house helper. She told me she paid 20 rupees for them at a shop in her neighborhood.
Overpriced souvenirs are to be expected for foreigners – especially in an area like Commercial Street. What’s more frustrating is the price difference everywhere else.
Mysore Palace is the second most visited tourist attraction in India (after the Taj Mahal). The entrance fee is 20 rupees – if you’re an Indian citizen. For foreigners the price is tenfold – 200 rupees! No hidden extortion or begging of tips. It’s on the sign – foreigners pay more. I reasoned this away by saying that taxes go to support the Palace, but we not only pay plenty in VAT, we also have to pay Indian income taxes.
It wasn’t just the entrance fee to the palace, either. The camel and elephant rides within the palace grounds also had higher fees for foreigners.
A group of my husband’s coworkers – Indian and white – went on a river rafting trip recently. They set it up and paid ahead of time, but upon arrival the proprietors tried to demand more money from the white participants.
I don’t think any of this extortion is racism. Being white is a perceived sign of obvious wealth. They think we have money and they’re right. India has no middle class – you can either afford things, or you can’t. It is, however, extortion.
As I mentioned in my recent post Frugal Foreigner: A different Kind of Bargain, the starting point for purchasing something if you’re white is often three times what an Indian would pay. This is especially the case (and especially frustrating) with auto rides.
I know many foreigners who just pay the asking price. After all, they can afford it, and who needs the bother? But just because you can pay that much for something doesn’t make it right for them to overcharge you. So I bargain, not just because I’m frugal, but on matter of principle.
Then there’s also the issue of “they probably need the money more than you do.” I prefer to give my money to people not trying to rip me off.
What do you think?