Nolan on the road: Economy of the hard sell

India is home to the hardest of the hard sellers. Even in New York, known for pushy street vendors, hard sellers will usually leave you...

India is home to the hardest of the hard sellers. Even in New York, known for pushy street vendors, hard sellers will usually leave you alone after tell them no three or four times and walk away quickly with a pissed-off look on your face.

Not in India. Here, vendors of miscellaneous street crap will walk with you step for step, chattering constantly and presenting you with the same item you have already shaken off a dozen or more times."Postcards. Look. Mumbai. Postcards. You look. Postcards. 100 rupees. Look. Mumbai postcards. You hold. Here, hold. 150 rupees. You hold," etc. Shops are no better - Owners declare you their brother, their family member, their dear friend for life. One shopkeeper today told me he wanted to sell me a statue not for my money, but simply "for the smile on my face."

When offered my smile as payment, though, he declined.

Still, the hard sell works. Buying something turns out to be the easiest way to be granted the chance to walk in peace. I was ambushed by a "holy man" at Mumbai's Gateway to India, who quickly tied a colored string around my wrist and recited a blessing before I could get away. I paid him for it, and later my wrist turned yellow. I was given the blessing of jaundice.

I've decided that the mark of a strong economy is one in which you can walk into a store, look around, and walk out without buying anything, and nobody gives you a second thought. In tighter economies - like India's - such an action feels like a grievous personal insult to your new best friend.

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