Behaviour at the markets

I often chuckle inwardly when I’m on a market floor listening to a negotiation between the salesperson and a buyer. The exchange frequently differs dramatically from what I teach about customer relations.

What the two say to each other and how they say it can be highly amusing. And certainly none of it ever appeared in any training manual – mine or anyone else’s.

To the observer unfamiliar with the ways of a market, the exchange could even sound shocking in some cases, given the language used. I don’t condone bad language (or bad manners), but you need to see it in context. These are down-to-earth folk who are trading in fruit and vegetables. The niceties of ‘polite society’ are irrelevant.

Both buyer and agent are there to do business – the one seeking the lowest price possible, the other striving for the highest price for his producer. This is potentially ‘mission impossible’. It also sets the scene for an intriguing exchange of words, sometimes in different languages. The situation can occasionally become heated and even physical, although this is very rare, and quickly nipped in the bud.

Add the natural rough and tumble of a busy market floor and you have a recipe for an entertaining sideshow. I recall a veteran market agent, who has since passed on, talking to his buyers in such a way that an observer would have been astonished.

Look closer, though, and you would find the buyers quite relaxed and content, because they knew he was being ’normal’. In fact, when he hadn’t spoken to them in his own distinctive coarse style, they would have been concerned. And they all loved him because, despite his rough exterior, he did his best for them, and his farmers were loyal for the same reason. He was probably among the most adept agents at getting the ‘mission impossible’ formula right.

True competition

An outsider might find behaviour like this difficult to cope with, but it’s simply too hectic and competitive on a market floor to worry about the niceties of language and behaviour – as important as they are – when you’re trying to clinch a deal. This is well understood by anyone who has ever traded in this environment.