Pilgrim Shopping

Rachel Westmaas, Blog Assignment #4

To be a tourist means to travel to see. To be a pilgrim means to travel to grow. If these things are true and our interim is a class offered for credit, then we ought to be pilgrims for the most part and tourists on the side.

Often while in Cambodia, we have spent our nights in the marketplace, bartering for gifts and trinkets and trying not to be too easily worked over by the experienced (and convincing) sellers we meet. There are aisles and aisles of enticing colorful scarves, bags, chopsticks, watches, backpacks and hammocks. Each new small booth holds one or two sellers, each of whom are quick to appear at our sides, unfolding and re-folding each thing we touch and offering, “Good price! I make you good price!” Often they do make us good prices, sometimes shouting lower and lower numbers after us as we try to walk away.

It’s these lower numbers that scare me a little. My accounting class from last semester haunts me: it is possible to sell an item at a price too low to make money. Do these sellers know at which point they are selling something too cheaply? You cannot make a profit no matter how many items you sell at a loss. That two, three, or five for the price of one deal just got a whole lot uglier. How can we navigate this as responsible pilgrims? I confess: I don’t know the answer to that question. But I hope that I and my fellow pilgrims consider it the next time we’re offered a “good price.”

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