On haggling

The taxi negotiation post was unexpectedly popular. My fabulous host in Addis, Owen, reminds me of a scene from Life of Brian, where our forlorn hero is being chased by Roman centurions through a market when he spots Harry the beard merchant.

Brian: How much? Quick!

Harry: What?

Brian: It’s for the wife.

Harry: Oh. Twenty shekels.

Brian: Right.

Harry: What?

Brian: (putting down 20 shekels) There you are.

Harry: Wait a moment.

Brian: What?

Harry: We’re supposed to haggle.

Brian: No, no, I’ve got to …

Harry: What do you mean, no?

Brian: I haven’t time, I’ve got to get …

Harry: Give it back then.

Brian: No, no, I paid you.

Harry: Burt! (Burt appears. He is very big.)

Burt: Yeah?

Harry: This bloke won’t haggle.

Burt: (looking around) Where are the guards?

Brian: Oh, all right … I mean do we have to …

Harry: Now I want twenty for that …

Brian: I gave you twenty.

Harry: Now are you telling me that’s not worth twenty shekels?

Brian: No.

Harry: Feel the quality, that’s none of yer goat.

Brian: Oh … I’ll give you nineteen then.

Harry: No, no. Do it properly.

Brian: What?

Harry: Haggle properly. This isn’t worth nineteen.

Brian: You just said it was worth twenty.

Harry: Burt!!

Brian: I’ll give you ten.

Harry: That’s more like it.

(outraged) Ten!? Are you trying to insult me? Me? With a poor dying


Brian: Eleven.

Harry: Now you’re getting it. Eleven!?! Did I hear you right? Eleven? This cost me twelve. You want to ruin me?

Brian: Seventeen.

Harry: Seventeen!

Brian: Eighteen?

Harry: No, no, no. You go to fourteen now.

Brian: Fourteen.

Harry: Fourteen, are you joking?

Brian: That’s what you told me to say. (Harry registers total despair.) Tell me what to say. Please.

Harry: Offer me fourteen.

Brian: I’ll give you fourteen.

Harry: (to onlookers) He’s offering me fourteen for this!

Brian: Fifteen.

Harry: Seventeen. My last word. I won’t take a penny less, or strike me dead.

Brian: Sixteen.

Harry: Done. (He grasps Brian’s hand and shakes it.) Nice to do business with you. Tell you what, I’ll throw in this as well. (He gives Brian a gourd.)

Brian: I don’t want it, but thanks.

Harry: Burt!

Burt: (reappearing rapidly) Yes?

Brian: All right! All right!! Thank you.

Harry: Where’s the sixteen then?

Brian: I already gave you twenty.

Harry: Oh yes … that’s four I owe you then. (starts looking for change)

Brian: It’s all right, it doesn’t matter.

Harry: Hang on.

(Pause as Harry can’t find change. Brian sees a pair of prowling Romans.)

Brian: It’s all right, that’s four for the gourd — that’s fine!

Harry: Four for the gourd. Four!!!! Look at it, that’s worth ten if it’s worth a shekel.

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