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We we walked to the Ben Thanh Market this morning. Imagine the biggest flea market you have ever seen. Double it, compress it together some, add on food stalls and a produce market, populate it with assertive, tough negotiating sales people and there you have it. 

Ask for a price on something. Look horrified and start to walk away. What price you want sir? You say a number about a third of the one she started with. Game on. Sir, my best price. She holds up a calculator with a number close to her first one displayed. You turn to your partner. She doesn’t want to do business with us, let’s go. Sir what number you want? You budge a little. She budges a little. You say it’s my wife who likes shopping but I have the money today and I’m out of patience. You give her your best number – your first best number that is. She gives you her first best number. You sigh and say sorry we’re going to go. She grabs your arm. First customer, she says, first customer. Ah, she is supersticious. She wants this sale. Back and forth, back and forth. Best number. Best number. You reach a deal and hand over some dongs. She tries to hold back some change. I give you a good deal now you give me tip. You ask too much – we have a deal. You give me my change. She appreciates you are holding the line, secure in the knowledge she is still taking good profit.


  1. You obviously have to have your game face on to shop in Saigon! No running out in your pjs for a carton of milk.

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