Reporter's Journal (February 5, 2014)

It pays to have a pretty girl with you. Sometimes, it pays less.

Tuesday, we stopped by the largest Afghan bazaar at Bagram Air Field. Locals have the chance to set up shop and show off their products, and there were plenty of trinkets, figurines, cloths and clothes on display.

We got there right as the bazaar opened, so it wasn't very busy. The male shop owners were very happy to see us. More specifically, they were thrilled to see my "battle buddy" on this trip, Rachel Cox from KWTX.

It's apparently common for the first person to buy from the shop that day to get offered a discount, at least if you show (or feign) disinterest at the first offer. We heard "first customer" followed by a lower deal a few times, including at the first shop, where Daduallah the shop keep took a shine to "madam" (Rachel). Standing next to her, not only did the first customer discount come my way, I got in on a minor "I'm with Rachel" offer.

Daduallah invited us in to his shop's backroom for some delicious bread made by his business partner Mohammed, along with some chai tea. Daduallah had earned certificates of appreciation from different American units for treating the troops well, which he was proud to show us. We also learned a bit about his immediate family, the 24 people he works to support with money from this shop, one frequented by Americans who may soon be gone. He said he'd have to rethink things about his business if that money goes away.

Afghans work at faciltiies across BAF. Most notably to our crew, the food you get at the cafeteria comes off the scoops, tongs and spatullas of locals. They're very reserved, don't talk much (and not on camera), but are very efficient. Whether that's the training from the cafeteria management on display or the culture, I can't say. If the Americans leave in the coming months, they're looking for new work, casualties of an ended war.

Next shop at the bazaar was a jewelry and antiques place. Rachel was in heaven, and the shop keep was thrilled with the browsing. Again, she got a discount for first customer status and for being her. Again, I got a discount for being in her vicinity.

The owner then brought Rachel to the backroom to look at an ornate necklace and its matching piece for the forehead. She was taken by it, but knew it was going to be expensive.

First offer: "$95."

Yep, too expensive. Rachel and I thanked him and got ready to leave.

"$40."

We stopped. Rachel thought about it, said thank you, but again, no.

"$30!"

Persistence did not pay off for the shop owner Tuesday. We left...but we may be going back. Big discounts can weigh heavy on one's mind.

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