Why Nigerians Haggle Over Prices of Peppers

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It is not unusual for Nigerians to haggle over prices of petty items like peppers, tomatoes, fruits etc with hawkers. Whereas the same Nigerians could buy similar items from supermarkets like Shoprite without haggling. This phenomenon is sometimes posted as memes across various social media and if you are active on social media you might have seen one. This post explains why Nigerians haggle over prices of peppers and other commodities.

Why Nigerians haggle over prices of peppers

When hawkers approach Nigerians to sell, Nigerians are very likely to haggle over the price

This is often the number 1 reason why Nigerians haggle over prices.

If you have ever been held in Nigerian road traffic, you must have seen hawkers approaching vehicles and offering items for sale. This phenomenon is not peculiar to road traffic alone. Its quite common as well in market places and some high streets where there are many shops. Sellers would often approach people passing by and offer things such as wrist watches, belts, phones etc for sale. When sellers market their goods in this manner, Nigerians are inclined to haggle over the price for these reasons:

  1. The person probably wasn’t genuinely interested in buying the item in the first place so he/she would be quite confident in making a counter-offer with a much lower price.
  2. The person to whom goods are offered does not have the amount demanded by the seller. In such case, haggling feels natural since the goods are brought to the person by the seller.

Nigerians would haggle over price if there is no price tag on an item offered for sale

When people talk or post memes about Nigerians haggling habbit when buying petty items, they often fail to note one important thing: a price tag!

Take for instance newspapers. It is rare to see someone haggling over the price when buying newspaper from vendors or hawkers. Though a petty item, newspapers usually have prices printed on them. Likewise if tomato/pepper hawkers display prices for their goods, I doubt if people would haggle over the price. A practical way to display prices for peppers, tomatoes, garri etc, is to display price per kilogram or gram. But this is not usually the case with hawkers in Nigerian markets. The norm in most Nigerian markets is that customers would ask for the prices of specific items since prices are not displayed.

The point is that no one likes to be cheated. Buyers wouldn’t feel comfortable paying an excess price for something that is usually sold at a lesser price to others so they haggle about prices.

Why hawkers are less likely to put price tags on their goods

If Nigerians are much likely to buy goods with price tags without haggling, so why can’t hawkers just add price tags?

Well it’s not that simple. Some sellers like to sell goods or services to people at different prices. They determine the price based on the potential buyer’s financial status. Actually, knowing how to sell to people at different prices is an art and I respect how hawkers are able to do it at the flick of a switch.

From a hawker/seller perspective, leaving room for haggling leaves chance for potential huge profits to be made from wealthy customers or clients. Using price tags on the other hand means you would have to sell to everyone at a flat rate.

However, the bigger the business, the more likely price tags would be used. For instance, a supermarket that sells groceries would end up wasting manpower if it were to sell tomatoes without price labels and leave room for haggling. Imagine having to negotiate tomato price with thousands of customers daily! It’s just not worth it.

It is not only when dealing with hawkers that Nigerians haggle over prices

Nigerians also haggle over house prices

The technique of selling goods or services to people at different prices is not only used by hawkers but several people from various trades and professions use it also. Examples include Estate agents, lawyers, doctors etc. I don’t remember who, but I do remember someone once said “billing should be a special course module in the law school”. This was said in cognizance of the intricacies of offering similar services to people at difference prices based on the client’s financial status.

You need to be able to assess a client at the flick of a switch and come up with a suitable price. If your price is too high, the person might just leave without even bothering to haggle.

Perhaps it’s easier for street hawkers to assess your financial status quicker since they get to see whether you came with okada (motor bike) or car. And of course, if your car seems to be fitted with an air conditioner your price threshold would be a bit higher.

Many estate agents likewise usually have similar advantage when they set up a rendezvous with potential tenants/lessees. For other professionals that often operate from the comfort of their offices, they often have to make a bit more of guesses in assessing financial status.

Why Nigerians haggle over prices of expensive commodities with displayed prices

Why Nigerians haggle over prices of expensive commodities with displayed prices
Though cars are not petty, It is not unsual for people to haggle over car prices

There are circumstances however, when Nigerians would still haggle over price even where prices are displayed. Such circumstances include, when buying expensive commodities such as cars or houses. While some would shy away at haggling when prices for such commodities are displayed, others would still ask if there is a discount.

Expensive commodities like cars, parcels of land, houses etc are usually unique and thus have varying prices. For instance a sachet of water might usually be sold at 20 Naira in a particular region. When you pay that 20 Naira, you receive a 50cl of water.

Vehicles on the other hand (even if of the same brand) usually have different specifications. For instance, one Toyota Camry might have a reverse cam while another doesn’t. Also consider the following examples:

VehicleMileageModel Year
2nd Hand Honda Accord45,000 km2018
2nd Hand Honda Accord123,000 km2018
2nd Hand Honda Accord26,000 km2017
While the above 2nd hand cars might look similar, mileage might affect their prices.

Similarly houses are not usually identical. For instance a duplex in a rural area would cost less than a duplex in the city even if they both have same number of rooms. For these reasons, vehicles and similar commodities can’t have fixed prices and dealers/sellers usually offer varying prices. This is why potential buyers would haggle over the prices to ensure that they are not paying more than the actual worth.

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