“Markets are conversations” is one of the rallying cries of the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto. I posted a bit on that here. I have been thinking more about that – especially as a number of readers have commented about privacy issues, getting more transparent, open, public in our lives (online) and so on.
It seems that what is happening is that the extended, revealing and potentially powerful ‘conversations’ the Internet has allowed people to have are becoming less ‘virtual’ and more real. If that is true, it impacts the marketplace from all sides. Not only do businesses have the responsibility (and opportunity) to be more transparent, but we regular people have the same. A true marketplace is much more than a sterile environment where information, money and goods change hands. It is a place where people meet to be people.
I remember once I was in the crowded open-air market in Zagreb in Croatia. I really did not want to buy any souvenirs or carved plates (beautiful as they are there) that morning. But a very persistent woman kept putting them in my hands, lowering the price, adding more value – by putting more there – and still lowering the prices. I was not haggling, I just had not planned to buy. But she wanted to sell them to me – actually – at the price she got down to – she was practically giving them to me.
I ended up buying – it was a whale of a deal and she wanted to deal so badly. I tried to pay her more than the final price and she would not accept it. I said to her “you cannot have made any profit at that price.” She answered that it was not profit she was after. She wanted to make business – and I helped her do that. She was happy. I was ecstatic – had all my holiday shopping done in one armload. I walked away feeling good, lucky, and very warmly human. The marketplace in Zagreb taught me that.
I have often thought of that when shopping in the US. I often feel our marketplaces lack the humanity of that one in Croatia that cool morning.
I welcome the marketplace filled with conversations. I am glad the Internet, or whatever, has brought back all the talk that many cultures never lost.
It may be between amateurs. Good.
It may be ‘virtual’ or real, or a strange mixture of both. It may be scary because we have to reveal more of our own humanity than we often do in our semi-autonomous-shopping-cattle-chutes here.
But it is good.