I Wear Many Hats

Khiva, Uzbekistan, on Saturday, October 25, 2014.

There are several vendors in old Khiva selling hats made of Uzbek fox fur, sheep leather, and/or wool. (Cotton is also a big industry in Uzbekistan.) I have my eyes on one in particular, so I inquire for a price, after trying on many hats. The teenager running the stand quotes me $50.


“Oh, I think that’s too expensive,” I tell him.

“How much you want to pay?” he asks.

Usually my bargaining strategy is to start with half of that. “Twenty five.”

“No, no. That is too little. This is no synthetic,” he says, showing me the craftsmanship. I try a few variations of the hat while we bicker over price. I won’t go over $30 and he won’t budge under $40. Usually in those situations I decline and walk away, and the vendor always chases me down and succumbs to my price. But that wasn’t the case. He put the hats back on the rack as I leave.

I come back later thinking he has a change of mind, but he won’t budge. At this point I’m trying for anything under $40, but in the local Uzbek som currency. I pull out my iPhone 5s to make a calculation and his eyes light up.

“How much is that?”

I don’t want him to think I’m loaded so I tell him $200.

He wants it. He wants it more than I want the hat. He pulls out two hundred dollar notes, USD. “Okay, thirty and I give you two hundred for the phone.”

“It’s not for sale,” I tell him. But he’s confident it’ll be his because he has the cash. So I explain the truth that many people outside of the US don’t quite understand: “In America, it’s $200 with a contract, but with no contract it’s $600.”

He doesn’t comprehend, and still wants the phone. “Okay, the hat is a gift, and you give me the phone.”


He still won’t budge under $40, and I leave. No hat deal. No phone deal.

I go back a third time and am ready to just pay the $40 after a Google search reveals that’s still a good deal — but the teen isn’t there. His father is instead. “Fifty dollars,” he quotes me.

In the end, I got it for forty.


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This dispatch is one of over 70 travel dispatches from the trip grouped and titled, "The Global Trip: 'Stan By Me." It's an archived compilation of Instagram and Facebook posts which chronicled a trip through three countries in Central Asia: Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.

Next entry:
Last Sunset in Central Asia

Previous entry:
The Wedding Dancer


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