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Feb 21, 2013

Haggling on the Champ de Mars

Not many things get me riled up easily. Chewing with your mouth open? Gross, but tolerable. Leaving the toilet seat up? Annoying, but I can overlook it. Crappy drivers? Ok, bad example. I do have some wicked road rage when taunted, but that's a character flaw I'll leave unexplained for another day. BUT the people who sell things where they're not supposed to be selling things and incessantly pester you about them, also known as "hawkers," "peddlers," and "mongers," I want to KILL THEM! Ok, so maybe not kill them, but I like to give them a taste of their own ridiculous medicine from time to time. 
Case and point, our first lovely evening lounging on the lawn of the Champ de Mars in Paris. After spending a day sightseeing, all we wanted to do was grab a few crêpes and plop down on a patch of grass to relax and bask in glow of the Eiffel Tower. Sounds nice, right? Well, it was until the sun went down and we were pestered to death by stealthy international hawkers (I say international because they weren't French, in any way) who roamed up and down the length of the Champ de Mars trying to sell their "goodies" to every person who made eye contact with them. As we sat, trying to enjoy our Nutella and fruit filled crêpes, we were hounded by EVERY SINGLE HAWKER in that friggin' place! "You need Paris keychains, I have keychains! You want cigarettes? I've got 3 kinds!" All they were selling was crap. Total crap. Like those silly spinning glow-light thingies you get when you go with your mom to the Ice Capades...only they were shaped like the Eiffel Tower. Being shaped like the Eiffel Tower doesn't make me want to buy it more, for the record. One thing that these hawkers did have that I wanted though? Wine. We forgot to bring wine. Even after roaming around the local grocery store stocking up on cheese and fresh baguettes, we forgot to buy wine and bring it for our picnic. And after sitting on the lawn staring at all the happy tourists who were enjoying their overflowing glasses of Bordeaux, we had to have it. Fortunately (or unfortunately, I'll let you decide) these traveling salesmen were pushing bottles all over the place.

Now, as we're sitting there, laughing and chatting about our day, I'd been surveying the wine hawker situation. Quiet a few people around us had been purchasing wine and champagne bottles from them, so I started to get curious. I asked D if he thought we should try our hand at getting a bottle from one of them. I mean, it was only a matter of time before the cops came to shoo them off, and I really didn't want to walk allllll the way back to the store just for wine, so I was on board. He said, "No way...they probably jack up the prices so high that it wouldn't be worth it." What I really heard in my head was CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!...and then proceeded to wave over the grodiest man I'd seen in the history of ever.

Almost instantly, I began to regret that decision. He sauntered over with a smug look on his face and a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth, like some Parisian slimeball hanging out in the alley behind the Moulin Rouge. This is how our conversation played out:

Me: How much for a bottle of wine?

Slimeball: Well, if you want champagne, it's €25 a bottle.
Umm, what? Highway robbery. D was right and this already wasn't looking good.

Me: Yeahhh, no. No champagne for us. What about the wine? *holding my breath*
Slimeball: So, uhh, the red is €20, the white €20, but the Rosé is uhhh...€18 for you.

For me? Oh well thank you dude, but NO THANKS! Do I have sucker written across my forehead? Every single price he quoted was complete bull-honkey. That little grocery store was selling wine AND champagne for €3 to €5 a pop, even for decent stuff. Marking up your junk 200% is laughable. He was trying to take the wrong girl for a ride.

Me: Holy cow, nevermind. Nope. No wine for us. Thanks anyway! *now please go away*
Slimeball: Ok so maybe I make you a deal. You get a bottle for €16. Final offer.
Me: Nope, we're good. We don't want the wine now. Thanks. *now you should really go away*

We all turned away from him and started engaging back in our previous conversations, but dude wasn't getting the hint to get lost. So, I put my mean face and my haggling pants on. It was go time.

Me: Listen. No one on this picnic blanket is paying €16 for your wine. So, either make us a real deal or you can go find some other person to bother.
Slimeball: How much would you pay for this wine?
Me: €5. And you'd be getting a bargain.
Slimeball: No, are you crazy?!  I can't do that. No profit. I pay more for this wine than that.

Lies. No way in Hades did he pay more than €5 for one bottle. I watch the Price is Right. I know these things.

Slimeball: €14 for the Rosé. No less.
Me: Guy, I'm telling you. No sale. You can go. Not interested.
Slimeball: You're busting my balls here, lady! I won't make profit. €12, no less.
Me: And you're also not making a sale! If you can't give me this bottle of wine for €7, you can keep walking. I'm throwing you a bone with €7. I'm not paying €12. Move along.

Lots of eye rolling and "ay yi yi's" started happening here. This guy realized he had met his match. D, my friend Nancy, and her hubby all started shaking their heads wishing this whole interaction would just end already. I was ready for him to start kicking rocks, too. He kept saying "Lady, lady, no profit!", but I knew he'd already made plenty of profit from the poor schmuck behind us that actually paid €25 for that bottle of cheap champagne. That guy paid my "profit" two-fold! I could see the hawker wavering, but he wasn't going to leave us alone until he made that sale.

Slimeball: €10 please. Final offer. I can't go lower.
Me: €7. And then you can leave and go hassle someone else. I know you want to get away from me just as much as I want you gone...so lets be done with it at €7. And you walk away with one less bottle to schlep around. All we have is €7 (and then we each pulled our lowest euro coins out of our pockets to physically show him that's all we had). FINAL OFFER.
Slimeball: *sighs* Ok. This is no good, but ok. You only take the Rosé. 
Me: Good, fine. Rosé is fine. Thanks. Goodbye!

Ho-ly-crap. Battle=won! He walked away with whatever shred of dignity he had left as we began to celebrate our win with the newly acquired bottle of Rosé. This is the point in the story where I don't tell you how incredibly AWFUL this wine was, but instead how we gulped every ounce of it down in sweet victory. Even though it was the worst wine ever and we probably paid a bit more than we would have if we'd bought a proper bottle in the grocery store, I still wouldn't have changed a thing. Talking the creeper down 10 euros tasted better than that wine ever could, and that was just fine by me. What's even funnier? Not a single hawker stopped by and asked us to buy anything else for the rest of the night. I don't know if it was because we already had wine or if word got round to stay away from the crazy girl in the red sweater, but no more annoying sellers came to bother us. Believe me, we weren't complaining. Haggling for wine on the Champ de Mars will forever go down in our memory book as the ballsiest thing I've ever done while on vacation. Nancy even said, "I've never seen this side of you, Casey!" Not gonna lie, I shocked myself, too. Just proves I'd do just about anything for wine! Kidding! Don't test me.

Needless to say, night 2 on the Champ de Mars...we brought our own wine. If you ever find yourself picnicking below the glow of the Eiffel Tower, I suggest you do the same. :)

{Blurry proof of our victory!}

Have you ever haggled with a hawker? Live to tell of your victories? 
I'd love to hear all about it!


  1. Oh so glad you stuck to your guns! You really have too because theres enough stupid tourists around to keep your money in your pocket.

    This one time I was in Rome for a class trip (I lived in Naples for 6 years) I was with the rest of my american classmates outside the Pantheon. This group of guys from Algeria came up to almost every female in the group trying to sell us friendship bracelets. Correction: They forced a friendship bracelet on your wrist and then wanted money to leave you alone. I was not going to pay for it. The guy haggling me said something to the affect that I was american and had lots of money. To which I retorted 'Yes but I'm an american teenage girl and I just went shopping. You do the math.' He litterally dragged me to every male classmate trying to get them to pay for it for me. I just told each guy to not pay anything and kept telling the guy to leave me alone. He finally left me alone after he realized I was not going to play his game.

    Thats just one story, sadly I have a lot more. It really is a pet peeve.

    Thanks for sharing your Paris photos, so pretty!

    Bonnie Rose | The Compass Rose

  2. Hahahaha working those deals can seriously take it out of you somedays! But so glad you won! Ridiculous how much they charge. It reminds me of a friend who was living in Paris who said they made it a game to see how many of the little Eiffel Tower key chains they could get for 1 Euro. Apparently their friend groups' record was 17 hahaha

  3. I've never done that because I get so scared. My sister doesn't either... even when she was in Zimbabwe (where haggling is expected!) My mom is a master at it, however. One day I will be gutsy enough to haggle for merchandise.

  4. I'm so jealous! When we there during Thanksgiving week the park was closed off. I don't know why. I want to go back during the summer and do just what you guys did. Where did ya'll stay?

  5. haha i love these stories. i lived in shanghai for about 3 months, and i got my haggling skills down! it got to be such a game, it was pretty humorous sometimes. love it! way to go!

  6. Those peddlers annoy the crap out of me. When we went to Florence, they were the worst. I wanted to scream stop coming up to me and stop staring and making me uncomfortable. I don't want your flying things or your splat stuff. Ugh. Glad you won your battle.

  7. The hawkers in Vegas are CRAZY!!!!! One of the reasons I am glad I don't live there anymore haha.

  8. Wow. WOW. That was incredible! Not to mention incredibly ballsy and brave and talk about guts. I am so impressed. I don't think I'd ever have the nerve to take that on, especially seeing as the guy kept hanging around like that. But I must say the night did look magical. Not many people get the opportunity to lounge by the Eiffel Tower and drink (albeit awful) wine. That was definitely an awesome "Go you!" story. You can do anything you put your mind to!

  9. Ugh! We used to call them the seagulls - because they flocked to the tourists! They bothered us really badly around Sacre Coeur. We also had lots of gypsies and their kids bother us for money around Notre Dame.

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  11. bwahahaha " Lies. No way in Hades did he pay more than €5 for one bottle. I watch the Price is Right. I know these things."

    HILARIOUS. I almost snorted out my coffee with that line. We were in Milan a few weeks ago and this guy came up to me and offered me a braided bracelet. And by "offered," I mean he grabbed my hand and started tying it on. I'm a friendly gal, so I went along with it. But then he asked my husband for money. And my non-confrontational husband gave him TWO euro for it! I was in too much shock and probably would've tried talking him down, at least, but he was still tying the darn thing on my wrist.

  12. I've never haggled, I'd just walk away or tell them I wasn't interested.

    Your pictures are amazing! While Paris isn't one of the top places I'd like to visit I definitely would not turn it down.

    Ashley @ Forgetful Momma

  13. I currently live/work in Senegal (West Africa), which is where the majority of the "hawkers," as you call them, come from. And yes, haggling is a way of life here and honestly, now it seems to me like it's no big deal, since that's what I'm used to after 4 years since you can't buy ANYTHING in this country without haggling the price.

    However, with that said, these guys are working their butts off trying to send money back to their wives and kids living in a village somewhere back home in Africa. So, while they are indeed annoying at times (even for me - someone who's used to them), it helps to keep things in perspective.

    And typically, if they see they're annoying you and can push your buttons, they'll keep going. If they realize you're totally ignoring them and not talking to them at all, they'll usually leave. That's what happens every time with me and that's what I've had multiple Africans say to me too...

  14. What a great memory of Paris! And I'm glad you got to haggle the price down.


  15. I LOVED reading this. 1. What a fun experience. 2. It gave me a good idea of what I will be experiencing when I go next month. 3. The slimeball dialogue was pretty entertaining too. I can't believe he actually said you were busting his balls bahahaha:)


  16. I am catching up on all your Paris post for my trip at the end of this month! So helpful. And I feel the same way about "hawkers". I am usually not a person to lose my cool, but last year in Rome at the Spanish Steps...oh my word, I snapped. They would not leave me alone!! You almost have to mean to get them to stop! :)

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