While visiting the Deira Souq in Dubai, I decided to haggle for a particular item - a plain pashmina shawl made with "100 per cent cashmere" - and discover what kind of discount the merchants were willing to give me. At Bin Khaled Trading, the salesperson enthusiastically showed me different styles of shawls, and told me one cost Dh50. I asked him for his best price, which he said was Dh30. I asked him to go lower, but he said Dh30 was the best price. I said I would think about it and left, and he didn't try to stop me.
The second store, Adel Belal Trading, was selling similar shawls for Dh35. I asked the salesperson if he could give me one for Dh20; he countered with Dh25. At this point he asked me where I was from, and after finding out I was also of Pakistani origin, he started talking to me in Urdu. He then offered a price of Dh15. "But don't tell anyone, it's just a special price for you," he said. I decided to buy one.
At Hassan Ahli Trading, shawls cost Dh65. I told the salesperson the price was too high, and other stores were offering it for much less. He told me it was better quality, but I felt sceptical. I negotiated, but he wouldn't go lower than Dh50. I decided to leave, and as I did he called out: "How much do you want it for?" I said Dh30, though I probably should have quoted an even lower number. "How about we meet halfway, and I'll give it to you for Dh40?" he said.
I felt obliged to purchase the shawl, simply because we had haggled for so long. This proved unwise. The last store I visited, called Muhammad Gul Sheikh Hassan Trading, was a wholesaler. I decided to tell him what I was doing and ask him what I should be paying for a 100 per cent cashmere shawl. He looked at the shawls I had bought, and said I had overpaid because they were not, in his opinion, real cashmere, but likely a synthetic material called viscose.
I touched a shawl that was supposedly pure cashmere, and there was indeed a huge difference; it was thicker and much softer. He said 100 per cent cashmere shawls cost about Dh350, and perhaps Dh100 lower with a discount. And if a customer wants to buy a viscose shawl (such as the ones I had bought), and bargains aggressively, he would consider selling it for as low as Dh8.