This sad, sad day occured back in May '99 when I entered the island paradise of Bali.

After getting over the culture shock of the hordes of Balinese 'hawkers' trading their wares on every street corner, their snapping cases opening and shutting so often as to resemble a crocodile at feeding time, I started to get a taste for haggling, arguing and generally thinking I was a bit special at street trading.

Soon I would leave my hotel filled with a rush of adrenaline at the 'tasty' deals I was going to pull off in order to purchase countless fake watches, ornaments, baggage, linen - you name it I fucking wanted it and I wanted it cheaper than the man before me.

Sometimes I would leave the hawkers broken men as they literally spent half an hour rowing with me just to come away with a few pennies more than they had paid for the goods.

In fact, I know for a fact that on at least one occasion the poor fellow sold the watch to me at less than cost just for good luck!

For four weeks I continued (with some not inconsiderable help from the gazelle) to feed my new hobby, filling my newly purchased carpet bag (£4 worth £40) with half of Taiwan whilst laughing a demonic laugh at the misfortune of my 'rivals' on the streets.

When I look at my actions in the cold light of day I can only wonder at how I managed to get so 'in the zone' and worked up over what, in most cases, came down to a disagreement over no more than probably 40 pence (65 cents).

The average Balines adult male earned on average around £30 a month ($45) and here I was determind to keep their extra-curricular earnings as low as I possibly could just in order to sate my own ridiculous craving to own truckloads of imitation jewellery which I didn't really want in the first place.

Still, if it helps to even the balance a little bit, you'll be pleased to learn that a week after my return to British soil that my bulging carpet bag of ill gotten gains was promptly stolen out of the back of my car with all my booty ensconsed within its spacious storage areas!

My friends and I stumbled on the concept of sport bargaining, or catch-and-release haggling recently while lording it over the natives in Bali, Indonesia.

After bargaining for the required half hour, it is entirely possible to get a Balinese merchant to agree to a third or so of his asking price, especially if he has not yet made a sale that day (this is the famous "morning price," given as a loss leader so that the seller will enjoy good luck for the rest of the day).

When the money is actually exchanged, simply give the seller his next-to-last asking price or a little more, with a big smile, and tell him that the rest is to ensure your own luck. No-one is insulted, everyone is happy.

Granted, this practice smacks of noblesse oblige, and is not particularly enlightened in a western economic hegemony sense, but it takes a bit of the sting out of the encounter. It also allows one to bargain hard, which is expected in Bali. If you insist on your first offer, you are being insulting, but if you pay the first asking price, you are unworthy of respect.

The marketplace conveys tremendous power on the buyer in Bali, because almost anything you can buy there can be bought from a dozen other stalls within sight. It makes no difference to you, whereas to the seller it means food and petrol for him as opposed to food and petrol for the seller at that other store; he is 100% invested in your buying from him. Time and again I saw this power inspire ugliness in tourists, who will stalk away in a rage from a man who dares to ask $20 for a month’s work when they suspect they can get it for $18 next door. Sometimes this tourist was me.

My own shame is that it didn't occur to me until I had returned that the sums I had paid for my mahogany and ebony wood carvings went, at least in part, to reward someone who had taken a chainsaw to the rainforest in nearby Borneo. Asia is a moral minefield.

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