The news of over-enthusiastic shoppers swarming all over the shelves in a new Bahrain supermarket makes one wonder – is it bargains that they were after or was it a lack of alternative entertainment in the middle of an over-heated summer that drove grown men and women to scramble under semi-opened shutters in a race to get inside? And all for what? The same bananas, onions, tomatoes and potatoes that they could get with more dignity at another store?
We humans simply cannot resist a bargain! When a big local brand opened its hypermarket in Juffair some months back, the usually crowded entry road reached bumper-to-bumper levels and you could have simply walked over the car rooftops to reach the place quicker, done your 45-minutes shopping and returned to find the traffic jam in the same state – much like those television soaps which draw out one emotional scene for three episodes.
And what of those so-called deals? If you enter a store and find what my father called a BOGOF counter (Buy One, Get One Free), you can bet at least three out of five shoppers will be hooked whether they love that particular brand of biscuits or that shiny silk shirt or not.
And the siren call for a bargain is globally irresistible. In Oxford Street, London, a couple of years ago, I remember watching in amazement one rainy evening, as shoppers came with layered clothes, giant umbrellas and sleeping bags to spend the night in front of a Nike shop because there was a sale offering 70 per cent off the next day, on those coveted shoes. Turns out they are not Nike lovers who were queuing up for a discriminatory shopping spree. When the shop opened the next day, they would rush in and simply sweep racks of shoes into their trolleys, regardless of size or style, and later, sell the stuff on eBay or any of the online almost-new sites at close-to-original prices, making a neat profit in the process.
These days, we can track people’s relocation plans online before they announce them because, unlike the early 2000s, everybody first puts pictures and prices online before calling in the auction houses. So when you see an ‘Everything Must Go’ advertisement on one of those Expat Buyers and Sellers sites, you know that the family or individual is probably leaving Bahrain – it’s rarely about updating the furniture.
One drawback with selling your much-loved possessions online is that when buyers bargain over the phone, they seem to be emboldened to ask for ridiculous deals. A friend who was selling her household goods before re-locating, had pegged her prices pretty low to simply dispose of the stuff. Still, people would not only try to push prices even lower but also ask if that sturdy double bed could be delivered to their door step or if the lovely side-table could be added with the sofa set to close the deal.
All this second-hand selling is a reminder that there’s money to be made simply advising people on how to discard stuff. Marie Kondo, the best-selling organising consultant, should come to Bahrain. With her famous KonMari method of simplifying and organising your home by getting rid of physical items that ‘do not bring joy into your life’, she could teach our compulsive online bargainers a thing or two!