We have an Ethiopian housekeeper, Saga, who comes in two mornings a week. She sweeps and mops the house one morning and washes and irons the laundry the other morning. We pay her the rate she asked for when we hired her--about ten dollars each morning, which comes to a little less than 3 dollars an hour. I have worried about whether we should have offered her more or whether we should simply pay her more. Until I had a conversation with another mom at play group. She was aghast at how much we pay. She has a housekeeper forty hours a week, and she pays her about 6 dollars a day, which works out to about 75 cents an hour! And her Sudanese neighbors pay their housekeeper less than 70 cents an hour.
After my initial indignation that we’re overpaying, David and I decided that, while next time we hire help we might try to negotiate a little harder, we are definitely happy that we are not paying at the bottom of the pay scale. David compared it to the feeling when we go to the souq and someone quotes us what we think is an outrageous price (doubtless because we’re kawaji—white foreigners) and we bargain and negotiate and get a much lower price and walk away realizing that we were just arguing over 50 cents. And 50 cents that the vendor probably needed a lot more than we do!
On the other hand, I have never been shopping or riding a taxi with an African where they have not negotiated the price—and negotiated much harder than I ever would have. It appears to simply be the way business is conducted.
So, we’ll keep on negotiating as much as we can stand to and we’ll continue to almost always end up paying more than we probably need to and we’ll try to remember that we probably have more than almost anyone we’re negotiating with.