Who Should Make Money?
A taxi driver cheated me. We were coming from the airport and as we spoke English with Carlo the driver must have figured out I was living abroad. I actually had an idea about the prices; I said “How expensive is this!” The taximeter read 15 TL whereas it should rather have been 5 TL. So three times as much. The man complained about the price of oil going up, he claimed that the government had recently increased the taxi prices after having kept them so low for so many years.
I said to myself, “Okay, so it is.” After all, I had been away for six months.
I don't know how he did it, it wasn't the typical night tariffe. But the next time I took a taxi, I found out he had lied.
The next time I was taking a taxi from the airport, I bargained beforehand. It was after midnight and I asked if he would turn on the day tariffe. He said okay.
“How much would it be?”
The driver said “It would write 50-60 TL.”
I said “I'll give you 50 TL. Is that fine?”
He said fine. We got on. I asked the driver again. Just to make sure we had agreed. Even though it was past midnight on a weekday, there was some traffic. When we came home, the taximeter showed 58. The driver said “If it wasn't for the traffic it would have been 50.” He said he did the route often and knew the price.
Now... Here was a decent man who did his job properly. The other man had cheated me and I had paid him. Was I to punish this man for his honesty and modesty? Sure, I had bargained, and sure, he had agreed. That's a deal. Free market.
However, I didn't feel it just. So I took out 60 TL and gave it to him. He wanted to reject it. I said “No, take it. The cheaters take away our money and we cannot do anything, modest and honest people should be making money.”
He said “Hakkını helal et.” That's an expression people use when they receive something from someone that they have not deserved, or when you are parting with someone who has done so much for you, you ask them to give you their blessing so that they will not be going to the afterlife with undeserved, ill-gotten money or favor.
Of course I did give him my blessings. As for the other cheater... Italians would wish him to spend it on medicine.
I called a plumber to fix a tap that was leaking. Apparently it couldn't be fixed, the tap needed to be changed completely. So the boy went to the shop and brought a couple of taps for me to choose from. However, this was a sink in front of a window and required a low tap; otherwise, the window wouldn't open. As the boy did not have the appropriate tap, I had to go and buy it. So I did, and he came back to fix it the next morning. When he said “80 TL” I was surprised. It was too expensive.
“We came twice,” he said. “The bike does not run on water.” What kind of a remark is that! It's just 3 km. Besides, if it was so, I could have gone and picked him up to take him home and back. Or, if he had told me he'd be charging me a fee for coming home again, I would have made him wait, gone out and bought the tap right away. What could I do? I gave him the money he asked.
I had a radio-torch that did not work. I took it to a mechanic. He was an elderly man. To be honest, I didn't give him much credit. The place was a junk, and I doubted he could fix anything. Still, I had nothing to lose. I was ready to toss it away anyway. But it would have served. After examining, the uncle, -that's how we address elderly man in Turkey,- said the charger needed to be changed. “It costs 20 TL.” I said OK.
When I went to pick it up and asked “How much is it?” the uncle said “25 TL.” And repeated that the charger was 20 TL. Well... He had fixed my lamp too. 5 TL for his service? So little? For both? I gave him what he asked for.
But then, I still didn't feel okay. It bothered me. It was again the same thing. Why would an honest man be cheated? True, he wasn't being cheated. He set the price. Still, the price was not fair. Perhaps he didn't need the money. Didn't he have grandchildren? Wouldn't he do something with some more money? Anyway... I went and gave him 20 TL more.
Why would an honest and modest man not be making money when the cheater did?
An American I met in North Korea had recounted a story. He was climbing Mount Everest. There were young sherpas helping the older ones.
“These kids would run down to the base camp and back up, they would do the two-day hike we did in a day, bring you coke and sell it to you for 50 cents. You would say 'No no, I don't want this, I want that one,' showing a diet-coke and they would run back and bring you what you asked for. And it was 50 cents.”
“Weren't you ashamed to pay that to the kids?”
“I would have paid more if they had asked for more. I would have paid 5 dollars. They were happy, it was 25 cents at base camp and they were making a 100 % profit.”
“You still should have paid more.”
“I won't tell you any more stories.”
“Am I that bad?
“You are so very critical.”
“I know, I am so. But don't worry, I am critical of myself too.”
I don't know... On one side, I know it's not good to spoil. Because such behaviors spoil these people for the next traveller, for the next customer. When they see that foreigners are ready to pay such a price, they want to make as much money as possible. I was so hassled in Sri Lanka by the stick-fishermen, it was disgusting. They were asking for 100 USD to let you climb on the stick and have your photo taken. I wish they could be content with what each one can afford and/or is willing to pay for something. There is a difference between men going around with three cameras hanging from their necks, staying at the luxuries hotels nearby, and someone going around with little staying at dorms in hostels. Of course, however poor you may be, you are still so much more well-off than them in economical terms. That's another story...
I wish prices of things were not fixed. They should vary according to the worth the buyer sets. You may say it is that way anyway. It's supply and demand. But supply and demand does not take into account the buying capacity of the buyer. There should be a minimum and a plus.
I remember a tourist of mine once... I carried my book around as people were interested in reading it when they heard my stories. So this guy asked the price. It was 5 USD.
“What?” he retorted. “A book cannot be 5 USD.” And he took out 20 USD from his wallet and gave it to me. I couldn't refuse. And I certainly appreciated the gesture. He was a businessman, I was a student.
But again, on the other hand, as my husband reminds me, there is also the fact that some people may try to crash one by their generosity. It may hurt one's dignity to be given more money than what is asked.
There is also another side... What if the buyer says “What is the work you have done? I'll give you this much money,” and if it is so little? When it comes to the price of labor, I believe only the laborer has the right to set the price. That's why I didn't argue or try to bargain with the plumber. Still... That doesn't mean I find his charging me double the service fee just. If his service fee was twice as much, that, I would have accepted.
Anyway... Still, next time when you bargain, or when you pay someone much less money than what you would have actually paid for it, think about it... Whom do you want to make money? The honest and modest, or the cheat and greedy?