I get to have the whole kitchen to myself on Saturday mornings which dictates making breakfast with coffee to the background of Jazz music.

I usually make omelettes with a generous side dish of boiled and peeled tomatoes and never had second thoughts until a dramatic spike came to light with 90 Br for a kilo a few months ago.

Although the price has declined to 70 Br a kilo, it is not conciliatory considering the food item that grows in all parts of the country including in urban backyards should be affordable and accessible for all economic class.

The ubiquitous retail shops have little control over the compounded price of food items which has increased significantly as it grapples with several intermediaries that add little to no value. Ultimately the end user is burdened.

If a middle-class family like mine is mindful of the subversive pricing of basic menu items like onion, food oil, and teff flour one can only imagine the suffering felt by those with meagre income. It makes advancements in livelihood and quality of life difficult depriving society of opportunities for growth and presents a bleak prospect for future development.

Apart from food items, volatile prices that may change in a matter of days are felt in rental fees.

In my days as a tenant, the unsound pricing was exemplified by the landlady who summoned an abrupt meeting three months into living. It was an early morning visit foretelling a sense of dire emergency. Her agitated and fidgety disposition made it clear that the issue had no pleasant import.

She delivered a lengthy speech that hovered over increasing monthly rent fees, citing the rising cost of living, the scarcity of rental houses, and the prime location as a reason while emphasising her magnanimity as a God-fearing woman.

Although it was not clear how she was forced into this “unfortunate predicament” by anything other than personal gain, I waited anxiously for the new rent figure, unsure if it could be affordable.

After undergoing psychological preparation, she finally revealed the adjusted figure, effective immediately. I had to take the bull by the horn as there was no room for negotiation. Yet, her last statement indicating that the price is subject to change based on market prices left me muddled and in a precarious state.

As she left the house, she muttered words conveying that she was as much the victim of situations in a botched attempt to save face. I believe my stay was cut short two months after the discussion, before moving to another location. I had to salvage peace of mind, at least for a while.

I wonder if the Addis Abeba market would fit in any theoretical model. But it is a far cry from the theoretical model of Adam Smith's invisible hand-free market price driven by positive self-interest.

The ever-soaring price tags often leave people frustrated and uncertain about the end of the upward trajectory. It does not take to be an economist to observe the show is run in an illogical manner, driven by selfish forces usurping demand and supply.

There is a Syrian-owned restaurant and pastry in the suburbs surrounding Atlas Hotel that makes my argument sound. The place offers Middle Eastern cuisine and delicacies at reasonable prices. I appreciate their delicious baklava and pastry with moderate sugar.

Despite the prime location and ex-pat owners, the price of a kilo of torte cake is 800 Br, which seems to be lower compared to the average price in the reputable pastries of the capital.

It raises questions about the rationales behind profit margins expected by local businesses and consumers' ability to afford high prices without sacrificing quality.

The overall integrity and ethical nature of business transactions is observed in Merkato, where haggling for pricing is common. Sellers are skilled in bargaining and can be persuasive enough to follow the buyer around to make a sale.

The largest open market evokes nostalgia when I visited the place with my mother, who was an expert in bargaining tactics that often led to vendors calling after her to close deals. The "shock and awe" tactic, involving lower prices than the vendor, often caused offence. The process lasted several minutes, with my mother feigning departure and the vendor persuading her to return.

Merkato's business transactions are rooted in traditional practices that prioritise mutual respect and fairness. Vendors are highly regarded for their reputation, and individuals are encouraged to pursue their self-interests.

In high-end markets, vendors may display a "take it or leave it" attitude, causing consumers to feel intimidated. The vendors tacitly imply a psychological game of fallacy to induce a feeling of guilt as if consumers are unable to afford their price and even may suggest looking elsewhere for a lower price.

The buyer must assess if the fixed price is the best value for their money, in spite of the intimidation. Both the seller and buyer have the option to find a better deal or leave the plan altogether.

Negotiation for a deal encompasses all aspects of life, including salary raises, job interviews, and dating; it is a necessity, as what one needs is always in the hands of another. In times of inflationary economy, it is crucial to be mindful of where and how to expend income, while a concerted effort to get the best deals across our lives can accumulate significant yields.

The Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) is a crucial concept in corporate and personal negotiations to protect against bad deals and provide an alternative method of fulfilling requirements; a higher BATNA increases power.

Nevertheless, experience shows that people often underestimate their power to demand better deals in exchange for their hard work and settle for less than what they deserve in transactions and life-changing decisions.

Reality exists in infinite arrays of options, and some even claim that "Your Reality is Negotiable," which carries wisdom in the realm of pragmatism. Nonetheless, it's important to remember that transactions should have a human element, as selfish interests may not bring about the common good.

A few verses from the track titled Desert Sand from the famous UK reggae band, UB 40 1993 album, Promises and Lies strikes a chord reminding humanity to be considerate. It is no surprise as the song was authored in the backdrop of the end of the cold war, with many lives across the globe facing tumultuous changes that reverberate to this day.

PUBLISHED ON Jul 15,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1211]

Bereket Balcha works in the aviation industry and is passionate about fiction writing and can be reached at (bbalcha5@yahoo.com)

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