Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Hate Emporiums

One thing I really hate about India is the emporiums. If you're on some sort of guided tour or have hired a driver, they invariably want to take you to one. If you've been to India, you've likely visited one of these horrible establishments. Often it starts as a demonstration where you see how the local tradesmen labor to produce the local handicraft of future heirloom. Shortly after the demonstration you're ushered into a showroom where you're presented the option to purchase any and all of your Indian souvenir desires, from overpriced elephant statues to overpriced "real" pashminas to overpriced silk rugs to overpriced inlaid marble tables.
Phase One, the demonstration
So why would anyone go there? It's easy (and probably obvious): commissions.

Let's say I was hypothetically having a conversation with a driver. Let's say hypothetically he offered up what his commission is when he takes customers into emporiums when traveling. I always knew the concept existed but had no idea exactly how it worked. Yesterday, I hypothetically found out (I'm sure if a driver were to actually give away this secret, they'd be blackballed from the hypothetical drivers' union, kind of like when a magician gives away how tricks are performed.)

With commissions, there's nothing too magical. It's a fairly simply two-tiered commission approach. For getting a customer in the door, the driver receives Rs. 200 (about $4.50). That's Rs. 200 for the entire car, not per person. For any item purchased, the driver receives 20% of the sales price.

This explains the drivers' incentive for hauling customers into these shops. There's a relatively rich reward (while Rs. 200 might not sound like much to you, it actually makes a difference to a driver) just for getting someone there. In the off chance the driver is lucky enough to have someone purchase something, the reward quickly escalates into weeks or even months (if there's a particularly gullible mark) of wages.

While I still hate emporiums, I now see limited value. If you have a driver that you particularly like, emporiums become an easy (and cost effective way) to put a little something extra in their pocket. Just make sure you walk in, feign interest for no more than five minutes, and walk straight back out.

Just don't spend too much time. There are far better things to see in India than the inside of an overpriced store full of knick-knacks.

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