I hate market bargaining: the sellers always win

By Khanh Huynh   February 11, 2024 | 04:00 pm PT
I hate market bargaining: the sellers always win
A man buy veggies at a market in HCMC's District 5 in 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Efforts to attach tourism values ​​to wet markets to attract more customers only shows that they are struggling.

Before now I only knew "the market."

It was a place to buy different types of goods, along with some services such as dining, nail salons, and haircuts. My small neighborhood market was like that every day, and the same during Tet, with only a few extra flower pots.

Now, we call the market "traditional market," like a desperate attempt to add some value to it. To me, things associated with "tradition" are those that are disappearing. And it’s true in this case, markets are losing their stand.

I hated the wet market long before it was a "traditional market." It was my familiar destination every morning for breakfast, and in the afternoon, my parents also often sent me out there to by some stuff they forgot to buy in the morning. It's where I bought snacks, groceries, and even toys.

You would think I must love it for all the memories.

But I hate it because it involved bargaining where the loser was usually the little child: me.

I remember when I had just entered college and moved to Ho Chi Minh City, I often went to supermarkets, where full prices were listed, just to walk around and look around.

I hoped one day I could afford to go shopping in such places.

Now that my dream has come true, I no longer think much about the wet market in my hometown. That market is still there, becoming increasingly deserted, and the last time I visited my hometown, I found it not much different.

Wet markets are dying. And the biggest idea for rescuing them so far is turning them into tourist attractions. In other words, everyone agrees that the "wet market" is a concept that is fading into the past, and the only way to preserve it is by assigning new value to it.

Wet markets are no longer something that can live on its main function of selling goods. The word "traditional" has been attached to it like a cultural label or an antique. People buy bowls to eat, and also buy antiques like Qing Dynasty bowls to display. The wet market is gradually moving to the position of antique.

Wet markets have served their historical mission and should now step back to make room for supermarkets and convenience stores. Small traders should also consider changing careers in the near future.

I can say that frankly because my family also went through manual jobs that are now obsolete. Letting go is not just an emotional concept, it is also a necessary concept in business.

The flow of time never stops. If you don't follow the flow, you will be swept away.

*Khanh Huynh is a Vietnamese lawyer living in the U.S.

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