Accepted Paper:

Haggling over values: contesting and unintentionally collaborating on price-creation in Manchester  


Siobhan Magee (University of Edinburgh)
Chris Speed (Plymouth University)
Eric Laurier (University of Edinburgh)
Mark Hartswood (Edinburgh University)
Andrew Hudson-Smith (UCL)
Martin de Jode

Paper short abstract:

This paper uses ethnographic data collected in shops in Manchester UK to explore ideas about and practices surrounding haggling, discussing how it fits with local ideas about 'fairness' (cf. Smith 2012) and often constitutes unwitting collaboration between shopper and shop staff.

Paper long abstract:

Anthropological research on, for example, stock exchanges (e.g. Zaloom 2006) illustrates the complex ways in which new technologies can alter how those who work professionally with markets both assign value to commodities and deal with changing hierarchies and temporalities in day to day life. Less attention has been placed upon how 'amateurs' use increasing access to new technologies, and new uses of older technologies, to contest the prices and values of things whilst shopping. This paper addresses this gap by detailing and unpacking the increasingly common practice of using smartphone-enabled access to online shops such as eBay and Amazon to compare online prices with those in high street shops, and attempting to 'haggle' the price of goods down when they are cheaper online. The paper describes how this transgressive practice can be aligned with recent work on the centrality of 'fairness' (Smith 2012) to class and kinship in Manchester. Further, it argues that subversive practices can unintentionally give rise to collaboration, as haggling constitutes the co-creation through speech acts of an item's price (see Clark and Pinch 1994), because of - rather than despite - the actuality that the two haggling parties are usually opponents.

Panel P017
Generating value and valuation as collaborative practice