Alternative Way for ‘Shopping’

When people in the earlier civilizations centuries ago decided to barter their crops with other’s products, they communicated and perhaps, to a large extent, negotiate to achieve the settlement for standardize transaction with each other. In doing so, they fulfilled two basic human’s characteristics, which are social and economic being.

So, on what degree they differ from us today? Why is talking or bother writing about this at all?

Beforehand, I declare that I am not against the concept of “shopping”, in fact I think we need it for the same reason why people make business at the first place. So, again, why bother?

First, to answer the question I asked myself above, and now you share the question and also the inquiry for reason behind the question as well, we need to know, or in fact, we are already knew that it was ‘money’ that make difference. Money, bills, credit card, debit card and their derivatives products are omnipresent today to satisfy our needs for practicality and efficiency. Second, consider any form of payment methods and the current technological development for distant transaction, we now can ‘barter’ via virtual world that connects thousands of miles in reality. It is not imaginable how advance the Roman Empire would have been if they could deal with import papers from ancient China civilization, or on the other dimension, we would never know the fact about Silk Road that stretched throughout many dangerous areas from West Asia (alternative way to refer to Middle East) to the Central Kingdom (meaning of China).  Finally, the third point that can be considered as the answer to the first question is essentiality of purpose, in other words, the very reason why people make transaction at the first place.

Elaborating more on the third point, I would like to take you to Siem Reap, Cambodia. This city is located in the northeastern part of Kingdom of Cambodia where the famous Angkor Wat aided magnifique scene in the Tomb Rider movie is located. Unlike many other cities in the Mekong area of Southeast Asia or in the Archipelago states of Indonesia and the Philippines, Siem Reap is not that developed in terms of public infrastructure and the complexity of gap between its citizens and the foreigners who eager to witness historical remnants of ancient Hindu/ Buddhism artifacts.

Having said so, I focus the story in the locus where these two economically affiliated societies are actually met. This is about the meeting of the first and the third world in the very actual sense possible; we’re not talking formalities within the diplomatic relations here. We are talking about the physical contact people made when they passed the streets of Old Market area.

When you pass this area, it would pretty much feel like being in Malioboro, Yogyakarta. It is the location of Siem Reap Night Market and the polar magnetic spot for Siem Reap’s economic gravity. Here and there you’d see tuk-tuk (motorbike with cart attached on its rear), many vendors for fish-massage/spa (actually certain kind of fish that prey on the germs on our feet), souvenir shops, bars, and open-massage-services. Also, in Cambodia, you’d find tremendous amounts of French tourist visiting their ex-colony. But the tourism is lively only during dry season according to a tuk-tuk driver in the Old Market area.

Observing the surrounding area through objective and ocular lens of a DSLR camera, I dare myself to share the economic dimension of the market. It is widely known especially among locals and backpackers that in the central spot of tourism activities, souvenirs are overpriced, or at least overbid. This fact is showing growing tendency in the past years. Some years ago, when you come to a central market in a city known for tourism, locals would tell you to that the BEP price is one-half of the first offer. But today, it is common when you noticed that the sellers give you a three-fold price from the BEP. Somehow, this fact is permissible especially when you take into account the income gap of, say, the people of France and the people of Cambodia. Again, we’re not focusing on the economical issues.

As former and prospective students for social sciences, I offer perspective from my field of study; because it’s yet to be field of exercise.

From several experiences of shoppers I observed, I figured that having efficiency as our character in the modern society, we tend to make functional approach to the event. It is in an acceptable condition as long as it’s done within the time limit, reached compromise or single-handedly agreed to the first bid, or collected as many items as you could possibly make.

With this nature of straight-bargaining, we limit ourselves from making interpersonal interactions with other (read: sellers) to be within only the economical context. Or perhaps, when we do make more personal contacts it’s to serve the goal of the needs to buy stuffs.

As an observer and the doer, this is my proposal to you in the form of perspective.

When we slightly detached ourselves from the economical obligation, that is the must to buy, we have allowed ourselves to more options in our economic-lead-purposes to negotiate. That is still on the shadow of gain perspective, I know. When we, once again, not becoming a mainstream on the case of “shopping”, there’s more to offer. The extension of offer here lies more on the personal networking and interpersonal connections from various levels of people.

Imagine what it means to have known and talked to several guys from local tuk-tuk groups  in the main district of tourism in Siem Reap, and other places when in the future you’d make an appearance again in the place you have had a contact. As a person working closely in the field of international networking, I can’t help but to express the concerns of the long-timers on the meaning of network.

Just hours ago, I have a dinner with two prefessors from one university in Malaysia. One among the two spent four hours yesterday to find the place we decided to go for dinner tonight. With the help of a hotel bellboy to get a nice deal of tuk-tuk to a Muslim restaurant in Siem Reap, we arrived but to find that the restaurant was closed. It was a very devastated moment after you have gone quite some distance. The sunk cost was just big.

However, it turns out that the personal connection the female professor had made yesterday was coming handy. The owner of the restaurant was willingly to serve the hunger of four people from two nationalities including their local driver. Not to mention the greatness of the foods served, the acceptance of the businessman to provide additional services without additional charge on the brink of disappointment means such a wonderful feeling and it’s justified to be exaggerated.

Having said that, I do think that if we show an honest personal interest for good network like friendship to the people we meet, we’ll reap the benefit sooner or later.

Therefore, the lesson learned here is customized your way of “shopping”.


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