From The Man Who Was Thursday

The man was a Norman, taller than the average French, and very angular; and his swarthy figure stood dark against a square of sunlight, almost like some allegoric figure of labor frescoed on a ground of gold. ‘I have an idea,’ called out Dr. Bull suddenly; ‘how much would he take to give us a lift in his cart? Those dogs are all on foot, and we could soon leave them behind.’
   ‘Oh, give him anything!’ said Syme eagerly. ‘I have piles of money on me.’
   ‘That will never do,’ said the Colonel; ‘he will never have any respect for you unless you drive a bargain.’
   ‘Oh, if he haggles!’ began Bull impatiently.
   ‘He haggles because he is a free man,’ said the other. ‘You do not understand; he would not see the meaning of generosity. He is not being tipped.’
   And even while they seemed to hear the heavy feet of their strange pursuers behind them, they had to stand and stamp while the French Colonel talked to the French wood-cutter with all the leisurely badinage and bickering of market day. At the end of the four minutes, however, they saw that the Colonel was right, for the wood-cutter entered into their plans, not with the vague servility of a tout too well paid, but with the seriousness of a solicitor who had been paid the proper fee.

– G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday

This was interesting to me as I sometimes have less patience than I ought with clients who want to barter about pricing, my general attitude towards them being “Sir, don’t you know this is America?” But it is always interesting to see a thing from another angle… the idea that ‘He haggles because he is a free man’ gives my view on the matter a new perspective. My new and enlightened interaction will likely proceed like this:

Mrs. Gupta: “Is that being the very best price you can give me?”
Me: “Yes, Ma’am, it is the same for one and all. I do understand that you are a free woman, but don’t you know this is America?”
To which Mrs. Gupta might aptly answer: “Yes, I do. It is indeed America, which is the land of the free”…

🙂

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