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Lessons Learned from Ghana: Knowing your worth

2008 July 7
by Freedom

Before arriving in Ghana, our trip planner informed us of how purchasing works in Ghana. We were told to bring American-style paraphernalia to trade, and to get use to the idea of bargaining. When we arrived, we were also advised by our Ghanaian tour guide that once they realized we were Americans, we would get the initial offer price jacked up on us (Yet another reason why I should have taken up Twi). I thought this was straight forward, but I had not anticipated one thing: The fact that I am terrible at asking for what I want.

At one craft village, I fared pretty well, mainly because I didn’t have much money to begin with. I got several necklaces for less than $8, and I got a necklace for myself that I adore for $13.

Part of the reason that this negotiation worked out so well is because I only had 25 Ghana Cedies (dollars) in my pockets, and I refused to go higher than that.

The store owner was a young, attractive man. He saw me eying the necklace, and said that he wanted me to go home with it. I named a price: $5. He looked like I had called his mom a trollop. “No,” he said. “I carved the beads myself.” I could tell that a lot of work had gone into the necklace. The beads are a beautiful peach-rose color, with amber-ish streaks.

“$30″, he said.

“Look, chief,” I said. “All I have is $20, so maybe I should leave.

“Wait,” he said. “$25.”

“$10″

“$20″

“$11″

“$18″

“$12″

“$15″

“$13, and that’s the highest I’m willing to go.” He agreed, we shook hands, and he asked me if I would stay in touch with him. I told him I would.

My trip to the next craft village, however, was not as fruitful. I attribute this to two things: 1) This time around, I had been to the ATM, and 2) I fell for the okey-doke, plain and simple.

I got a drum for $20. Not bad, until I found out someone else on the trip got a very similar one for $12.

Wall wooden sculptures: 4 for $25. Nice, until I found out another trip mate got two of comparable size for $10.

The last straw? A leather case, which wasn’t even very attractive, for $20. The folks on the tour bus got really silent when I told them what I paid for it.

What had changed, between the first craft market, where I bought my beloved necklace, and this one? The simple answer: Before, I was prepared to walk away if I did not get the price I wanted.

A lot of negotiation is ignoring what you think you can get, and just asking for what you want. Another aspect of negotiation is preparing to walk away if you are not okay with the terms, and having unwavering faith that there is something better for you out there.
Fast forward to today: I am still job searching. I was offered a position, but I knew it wasn’t for me.  But I decided that, unless I want to be on the bus of life, plugging my ears while other people talk about the good deals that they got, I need to be patient and willing to ask for exactly what I want, and not just what I think I should ask for.

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2 Responses Post a comment
  1. ANN permalink
    August 5, 2008

    How does a craft village looks like?

What do you think?

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