Sunday, June 24, 2012


In a recent discussion about haggling in a Pathfinder game the following comment came up

People don't get discounts in real life based on how likable they are unless they are a close friend of the business owner so diplomacy would not drop the price in my games either....

Today in modern (first world) life haggling doesn't exist largely due to standardized prices

Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price, is by far the most common.
but you can't walk into Walmart and generally haggle over price, because the price is fixed by the manufacturer, going to another Walmart in another town/city/state won't give you any improvement, the seller knows his business is secure, and can stand fast on his price. And even competitors at other stores, assuming they buy from the same manufacturer/brand, would be held to the same MSRP.

However we are speaking of a different time and a different economic model, Capitalism was barely a twinkle in anyone's eye at this point, and John the butcher, sold his meat at what he considered a reasonable price, without any clue at all what Hal the Butcher only a block away was selling the same meat for, he had no clue, short of walking over there himself, he likely was not getting his meat from the  Same farmer. Quality was not standardized, even weights and measurements were iffy at best.  in some parts of the world this is still true.

I think that most people might benefit from comparing a medieval economy not with modern commercial box stores, but equating it more to a flea market.

There were no laws protecting buyers or sellers. Each merchant was on his or her own when it came to setting, and enforcing prices.

Modern stores because of all the reasons mentioned above, can afford to piss off customers, and even send them away in hundreds.  not so much our friend John the butcher.  Perhaps in a very small hamlet where he was the only Butcher he would have the ability to control the market, as people could not freely travel to another city just to get meat.  but as long as there is even one other competitor, John the butcher has to realize that one unsatisfied customer, will mean him losing at least 5 customers.  Assuming the woman of the house did the shopping as was customary, she would immediately tell her two best friends, and her husband & children.  Her husband in turn would tell his closest 2 drinking buddies.  Assuming it spread no farther than this ,that’s 5 families no longer Buying from John the butcher.

So John The butcher, is likely going to haggle, if he’s a kind man ,he’ll do so because he’s willing to work with the people in his community, many of whom ARE his friends and DO know each other by name, and because he is willing to help out when times are tough.

If he is a shrewed businessman he will STILL haggle if for no other reason to let his customers perceive him as being reasonable,  he might start by over pricing goods, and allowing them to haggle down to a “normal” price, just so they go away feeling good.

In short, there’s almost no reason I can think of in a medieval economy, that a given merchant would not be open to at least some amount of haggling

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