(Through Rose-Coloured Glasses)

Everybody loves a bargain.

When I was small, mother used to bring us kids along, for an excusion of whole day shopping. Hong Kong was known as the Shoppers Paradise, with shops everywhere, selling all sort of merchandise, from jewellery, clothing, shoes, toys to food and dried goods. Street vendors were at every street corner, yelling and selling their “Jump Off Building”, world cheapest wares.

Selling and buying in Hong Kong is an art. You stopped and looked at some merchandise, the shopkeeper would suddenly appear from nowhere, right away started listing the qualities of his ware.

You cut to the core, “How much!”

“10 bucks.”

“Too much, 3.”

“Oh, no, too low, can’t survive. How about 8 bucks.”

You started to leave. “All right, final price 7.00.”

You kept walking, shaking your head. “OK, ok, 6.50”

You stopped. He smiled. You smiled. Another transaction completed.

That is the technique of a bargain hunter.

But when we first moved to Canada, we completely lost this magic touch, because here it was one set price policy. If you asked the salegirl for a discount, she just stared at you, wondering what planet you from.

With the economic ups and downs of the past few decades, advertising marketing keeps evolving. Now we have Scratch and Save Days, discount coupons, and instore on sale items with door breaker prices, “we will match the price of competitors,” “Don’t pay till 2012” etc, but all these are initiated and controlled by the merchants and stores, not by the customers, and completely took the fun and art out of bargaining.

Until one day, a patient walked into my office, with a sore throat.

He opened his mouth. The tonsils were red and angry, with pus. I did a throat swab.

Then told him, “You have tonsillitis, need antibiotics, I am going to give you 30 pills, you take 3 times per day for 10 days.”

He raised his hand with five fingers, said hoarsely “50.”

“What? You only need them for 10 days.”

“40.” He lowered one finger.

I stared at him. Silently I wrote the prescription: Amoxil 250 mg 3 X per day for 10 days total 40 pills.

I stared at him. The bargain hunter has finally arrived.

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