Monday, January 28, 2013

Roadside Stalls Cheaper Than Shops?

Here's a post about big brands being ripped off because people buy fakes. To my mind, if fakes are cheaper people will buy them. However morally wrong we might feel (and say) it is, we'll succumb.

The same applies to buying goods from roadside stalls rather than shops. We, the consumers, know those aren't legitimate businesses, but we can't resist the cheaper prices. 

If shopkeepers present us with the facts about their overheads forcing them to make goods more expensive, we might make sympathetic noises but when it comes to shelling out a hundred rupees more for the same item from our tight budget, that's all it will remain - sympathetic noises.

Shops have to factor in the rent of the shop, the electricity, employee wages, (the extras like a cup of tea to beguile the customer, plush seating), tax, a minimum profit margin... BUT, that's their problem. 

How do shops compete with that mindset? How do shopkeepers coax the budget conscious Indian consumer to buy from them and not from illegal stalls? Very difficult, unless they put up their own illegal stalls outside their shops.

Would shopkeepers be able to rely on the police to stop these illegal stalls from stealing legitimate trade from them? They haven't been able to as yet. We see roadside stalls filling every inch of the footpath that isn't occupied by beggars. We, as pedestrians are relegated to the roads.

We, as consumers, love our bargaining prowess - the adrenaline rush from stealing a march over other, "weak" bargainers or over the stall owner by driving a hard bargain, is irresistible. Besides, in India, we happily bargain at shops too. The thought of not being able to bargain is alarming to us.

So, why stop roadside stalls at all? In one word, middle(wo)men. The mafia is definitely part of the scenario now. The roadside stalls pay a hafta to gangs so that their stalls are ‘safe’ and so that they are allowed to operate. And if there are rival gangs trying to gain control of a road, the cost to the original gang to keep the roadside stalls in their own hands increases. Wonder if a cut goes to the police and some shadowy ‘leaders’.

The result? Not only inflated prices but a mafia that gets bolder by the second. They’ve taken over our roads. We are so busy bargaining to save our pennies we don't want to know.


  1. hmmm,

    You are bang on! It is very hard to be moralistic when you know you can fill up your bag within 1000 bucks where as same will look like chiller when we go to a legitimate shop. But isn't the same fake business is making prices go upwards!

    It is a coincidence that I have written a short story on the same topic.

    Do have a look: It does Make a Difference

    1. Thanks, Meenakshi. Even if we look at it practically I think most people will say - let the others go to shops. Just one person - myself - buying from illegal stalls won't make such a difference.

      Oh and btw, just visited your interesting post and left a comment.

  2. I'd rather buy an original. They last longer and have a feel and cut that justifies their high cost :-)

    1. And if we want our cities safer so should we all. Good to see you here, Purba.

  3. Maybe a concerted effort by the authorities to give them space in dedicated streets might help.

  4. I think illegal stalls would still operate in non-dedicated streets. Wonder if this problem can be solved at all unless the Indian public feels it is better to give up convenience and cheaper goods for safety. Or, if the authorities decide on greater enforcement.

  5. I prefer buying in shops. If something goes wrong with the product, we can complain about it and take a new piece(There is a chance). This is not possible with roadside stalls.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment :)

    1. True. Still they do a rip roaring trade so quite a few folks seem to prefer them.

    2. BTW, that was a beautiful poem on a hijra's feelings.

  6. I always go for original unless I turn completely greedy. :)
    For example, I know that downloading torrents is a really bad habit, but then I cannot buy all those movies. I don't have that kind of money and I can't live without the movies either. So, what do I do?
    And yes, I agree that roadside vendors cannot provide that kind of a quality.
    p.s. Can you remove the numbers that we have to enter to post a comment? I am not able to understand them most of the times. :(

  7. I guess the idea behind the post was for us to consider the hidden consequences of buying from illegal outlets.

    Re the word verification - someone else had complained and I'd removed it only to have spammers take advantage. You can imagine my delight at receiving and then disappointment at having to delete generic comments - (very nice post and if you want an easy way to make millions, find a life partner, buy a house, get a degree, buy something very cheap, click on this link.)

    Still, I've removed it again.