If you travel a lot, you'll know that being trapped inside a textiles and / or carpet shop is a common occurrence.
This particular incident in India began innocently enough. I decided to catch up with emails when we arrived into Agra early evening and, after settling into my room and making plans to meet the rest of the group at 8 for dinner, I wandered outside the hotel to the rickshaw rank and asked one of the drivers to take me to the nearest internet cafe. We bartered, agreed a price and then we were off. There was something niggling me about this chap, nothing sinister, just that he'd mentioned a carpet shop and I only had a couple of a hours to spare, so I paid more attention than usual to the route we took just in case I needed to abandon my rickshaw and walk / run back to the hotel.
It made sense when I realised the internet cafe was in the back of a textiles shop, so I logged on and got busy with emails and must have been at it for a good 45 minutes when I noticed my driver along with the shop owner were now talking with a few more men who had come inside for a chat. Nothing unusual, just friends getting together after a day's work, but still. Alarm bells started going off inside my head and I wrapped up my work and made to leave, but I totally knew what was coming. I never got anywhere near the door before the hard selling began. After several futile attempts at saying "No thanks" and tapping my watch, I caved. No big deal, I did want to get some presents, but I ended up buying something from each of them, except my driver. I gave as good as I got and bartered hard, which is my first bit of advice - however "wobbley" you feel, don't show it. Satisfied, I was then allowed to leave the shop, but I noticed my driver was excitable and, as soon as we were back on the road, he started to babble about his Manager's carpet shop and lo and behold, that's where we were going next. I was told I must buy something otherwise his Manager would punish him. I mean, this guy was either a great fibber in line for some great commission, or extremely and sincerely desperate. The more I insisted he take me back to the hotel, the more he begged and pleaded.
We ended up driving by his Manager's place because he wouldn't take my multiple "NOs" seriously and his Manager came out and was shouting at him, so there I am caught in the middle of this dispute. What would you do? For me, annoyance and anger crept in (time was ticking along and it was getting dark) so I got down from the rickshaw and started to walk in the direction of the hotel, refusing to pay my driver. He obviously feared going unpaid more than he feared his Manager's wrath because he came after me and took me back to the hotel. I did have to make an empty promise I'd check out the carpets the next morning, but once inside the safety of the hotel and back with my travelling companions, I didn't have anything to worry about.
Looking back at this now, I know I made several mistakes - taking off on my own at that time of day, not remembering to tell anybody where I was going... but I also made some good moves like tracking the internet cafe so I knew how to get back to the hotel and remaining firm but fair throughout the whole thing. If I was going to have to buy from each of them before being able to leave the shop, I was going to get the wares for a decent price. What happened here is a regular element of travel and part and parcel of travelling the world, so I didn't feel like I was compromising any of my values or principles. If you do make a mistake, as I did, take back control of the situation as soon as you can - and stick to your guns. You're always going to come up against locals looking to get as much money from you (the tourist) as possible.
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.