Street Vendor in Delhi

Potatoes. A simple leaf bowl full of fried potatoes from a street vendor. That’s all I wanted last night.

And while I did indeed end up eating a plate of potatoes from the potato street vendor that I encountered while wandering around the streets of the Pahar Ganj neighborhood in Delhi, the truth is, I probably paid more for those potatoes than anyone has ever paid for such potatoes in the history of potato street vendors.

Here’s the mistake I made. After walking up to the vendor, I immediately asked for some fried potatoes and it wasn’t until the vendor had already begun the process of preparing them that I asked for the price. When I did ask “How much?”, he answered with “100 Rupees”, which I knew to be a highly inflated amount created just for foreigners like me.

I replied with a “What? That’s not the normal price”, to which the vendor, without ever hesitating, smoothly stated, “Normal price sir, everyone gets same price”. And then my potatoes were ready and because I wanted to eat those eleven small pieces of potato, I just handed over a 100 Rupees note and walked away.

Okay, paying 100 Rupees, which equals about $2 USD, is not the end of the world of course. However, overpaying for things everyday is certainly not something that any of us wants to become a regular occurrence while traveling.

And as I walked back to my hotel last night, while munching on those potatoes, I realized that there is a very simple method, one that I had in fact used before, that would have made it very easy to avoid being ripped off, not only by this particular vendor, but by anyone I buy something from while overseas.

All I needed to do was wait and watch.

Yes, had I stood next to, or nearby, the potato vendor and simply waited thirty seconds or maybe one minute until a local person ordered some potatoes, I could have then approached the vendor and observed how much the local person paid. Had I done this, I would have quickly learned that the local price is 20 Rupees and then I would have simply handed that same amount to the vendor upon receiving my own potatoes.

But enough about potatoes. What if I was buying something else?

Well, this method works for just about anything. Even today I used this method when buying an egg sandwich from a street vendor, while buying fruit from a fruit stand and before sitting down for a shave at a small barber shop. And in each case I simply took note of how much a local paid and then I asked for what I wanted and paid the normal price myself, without ever having to utter the words ‘how much?’, a question that often invites others to try and get a little more money out of us travelers.

(I’ve mentioned trying to avoid asking this question in an earlier post about how to not get ripped off by taxi drivers around the world.)

Just to recap… All you have to do is wait a moment or two and then watch a local make the very same transaction that you want to make. Observe how much money exchanges hands and then go for it yourself, confidently paying the very same amount. It’s so simple, but so very effective, and it will absolutely help ensure that you don’t have to eat 100 Rupee potatoes during your own adventures around the planet.

What do you think? Do you use this method already? Does it make sense?