Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
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A team of seven 62nd soldiers made a marketplace foray Sunday in a pair of Humvees, with an interpreter and two journalists along for the ride.
As on every trip into the city, the soldiers attracted a lot of attention, drawing crowds wherever they stopped.
The party visited three stores along electronics row on Al Zahoor Street in search of the refrigerator. At the first place, the guy wanted $175 for a half-size, used icebox. At the second, the proprietor wanted $350 for a standard full-sized fridge.
"When we went through contracting class we were told not to pay more than what we'd pay in the United States, and if possible, pay less," said Maj. Leslee Sanders, the brigade headquarters purchasing agent.
"If we're quoted prices above that, we're supposed to just walk on to the next shop."
At the third they found what they wanted: a new, three-quarter size refrigerator at the reasonable price of $175. It will provide the troops welcome relief from the bottles of warm water they've been drinking here the past 12 days.
The shop owner, Hazim Ismael, said he was happy to do business with the Americans. He said he might sell 20 refrigerators a week when it's hot. But in the winter, he might sell none.
Though Mosul is in the far north of Iraq and cooler than the rest of the country, summer temperatures still top 100 degrees daily. On Sunday it reached 101.
Ismael, not one to miss an opportunity, spotted some of the sweating Americans eying the fan mounted on his shop wall. He said he had stand-up models at home that he'd sell for $16 a unit -- a better price than the $20-$22 per unit they were being quoted at other shops during another foray Saturday.
Toilet seats proved more elusive. Sanders and Schrader checked a half-dozen plumbing supply places spread over a couple of blocks. None would sell a seat separate from the whole porcelain apparatus.
None but one. That guy wanted $100, Schrader said.
Perhaps he'd read those old exposes about the Pentagon paying $400 for toilet seats and figured he was offering the Americans a deal. Schrader moved on, seatless.
Capt. Stacy Mosko, the brigade's preventive medicine officer, was in the market for something to put a dent in the camp's fly population. He found what he was after at a storefront market just across the Ninevah Bridge over the Tigris River, in the city center.
"He wouldn't bargain with me," Mosko said of the proprietor. "The translator said `No bargain, no bargain. This bargain already."'
So he paid the man's price: $25 for a case of 10 containers.
"He looked like he had an honest face," Mosko said.
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