In rural South India, the shops have their own distinct style. The customers gather in front of the shop and tell the clerk what they want. He, in turn, will search for the goods and if required, weigh out the correct amount for them. There is no browsing as we know it in the West. There are limited choices. Merchandising is very basic. The goods hang off hooks, perishable goods are stored in plastic containers and other things are piled indifferently wherever there is space.. Different shops are known for carrying specific brands and many savvy shoppers visit a few assorted shops to get a particular item.
Naturally, in a small town, everyone knows each other and it is a chance to gossip with other shoppers and chat with the merchants. If you are a loyal customer, you may even get special treatment. He might throw in a little extra rice for you or give your child a piece of candy or select the choicest fruit for you. The shopping is leisurely and the merchants and clerks don’t take well to being hurried.
Although this shop doesn’t sell foodstuffs, he too, displays his wares in the front of his shop and no customer actually enter his store. Once you make your selection, he wraps it up in newspaper and ties it up with the string that you can see hanging in front of the merchant. This man does his own framing and only carries Hindu religious subjects.
For the Westerner, this can take some getting used to. We are always in a hurry. We like to have the goods visible so we can read labels or compare prices. This method makes that nearly impossible. But developing a rapport with your local merchant has its own charms. It is a direct and immediate interaction with your supplier. It doesn’t take very long for him to recognize you, welcome you, ask after your family and if you buy the same thing frequently, get your items without even asking. This personal touch is what we have lost when we shop in the huge mega markets that are springing up in India too.