Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A "Little" Garib

In India there is this ridiculous phenomenon of sellers of goods and services not carrying any change. It happens most commonly with rickshaw drivers. And when I mean no change, I mean literally you can’t pay if you don’t have a “little” note. Unlike in other countries, over here it’s a distinct question the buyer has to ask the seller – “Chuttha hai?” - anywhere else in the world you hand over payment and just expect that you will get back your change.

But not so with rickshaw drivers. Several times I’ve had the peculiar experience of having over Rs.1000 in my wallet but still not having enough money for the Rs.5 rickshaw ride. It’s ludicrous, preposterous. There’s absolutely no reason for this, yet it happens all the time. So I’m sitting in a rickshaw, nervously waiting for the end of the ride where I know I can’t pay the man unless he has change, which is 50/50 at best. It’s like a 5 note is worth more than a 100 for that moment because the note is in shorter supply. I’m no economist, but this has got to be some sort of market disequilibrium at a fundamental level.

And in case you’re wondering, I’ve never had the situation where I’ve had to just pay more than what is owed, though I have gotten away with being a rupee short at least once.

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