Kharab Chai


We’ve seen sellers fighting to be the best in the competitive market, trying to serve the best of products and services at customers’ disposal. But how many of you have observed sellers trying to sell the worst?

Years back I was traveling by a train to the holy city of Varanasi. We had entered the borders of Uttar Pradesh and I started observing vendors selling different specialties of their cities. While some offered the famous ‘Agra petha’ others resorted to tea/coffee. Needless to say that Indians, who start their day with tea, wouldn’t deny for a sip or two. Myriad of sellers came to offer tea claiming to be the best. Some accepted the offer, some didn’t.

Then came a vendor shouting,”duniya ki sabse kharab chai”,”kharab chai le lo” (Try the worst tea of the world). Everyone started staring at him. After all, what sort of image was he creating for his product? He was actually using REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY to intrigue the passengers. Reverse psychology is a technique involving a behavior that is opposite to the one desired, with the expectation that this approach will encourage the subject to do what actually is desired: the opposite of what is suggested. Everyone ordered a cup of tea out of curiosity to know how bad the taste of tea could be. This would work for the seller in two ways- first; nobody could claim their money for bad taste because he had already apprised them of it. Second; if they liked the tea, they’d recommend it to others or easily identify him the next time they travel by that route. With loyalty of customers it also provided him an edge over his competitors. I had the chance to taste the ginger flavoured tea and I indeed recommended it to others. I even heard a passenger praising him and advising not to claim his tea the worst as it could be misleading. Now when I recall the conversation I realize little did the passenger and I know how these sellers used smart marketing in a common market to survive. The strategy might have been copied by a lot more train vendors but I never saw any other line of business taking such an intrepid step.

A while back I was traveling via Madhya Pradesh when I heard a tea seller shouting ‘Kharab chai’. I smiled; reminisced the incident that took place ten years back; ordered a cup of tea appreciating the existence of this gimmick; looked through the window as the fog covered the stalls; and enjoyed the ‘kharab chai’ voraciously.