I sort of knew I wouldn’t really be shopping in the month of July on account of my sporadic income generation. I am a self employed writer and filmmaker, so there is no monthly salary coming in. I am not even a shopper to begin with, I only buy things I absolutely need after a lot of deliberation; and after I see how high it ranks on the necessity list. I just do not enjoy going to the market.
The Ethical shopping challenge, a Micah Challenge for the month of July has however given me the opportunity to pay attention to things I normally wouldn’t pay attention to. This challenge is very important. It is also an interesting one because I want to see how I can add to the discussion on how Nigerians shop and interact with the market place.
I wrote a Facebook post on July 3rd about how we do not have the credit card system in Nigeria but we have an internally generated credit system which is truly damaging and adds to the poverty situation in the country.
Today, I want to write on something else which is still in line with The Ethical Shopping Challenge.
I have seen a great difference between an elderly person shopping in the market place and a younger person. The elderly person usually fifties and above, walks up to the seller, greets them warmly, asks about the market, asks how their sales are going and usually carries a lively conversation with the seller during the time they are trading. When they are done and the elderly person has walked away, you can still see a residual smile on the seller’s face. The mutual respect between buyer and seller is also evident during their transaction; but this is becoming lost. A younger person usually walks up to the seller, any conversation they have is during bargaining and the younger person expects to be served snappily. The seller may sometimes deliberately waste their time or refuse their offered price because of their attitude and at the end of the transaction neither is smiling or satisfied. To be honest, I have mostly seen these types of interactions in the North-Central part of the country with traces in the East, and not so much in the West but I digress.
This could be because we have created a hierarchy of jobs in Nigeria. If you work for an oil company or an oil servicing company, you are on top of the ladder and some how revered and respected. The bankers follow closely behind depending on their station within the bank (Mangers on top, Cashiers at the bottom, Guards and Doormen not considered), along with people that work in some well paying government agencies. I have heard young people say “I am just managing as a Teacher,” a job that used to be well respected. Basically, it all boils down to how much an individual earns at the end of the month. It is no longer about the quality of the service you are providing to society and its ability to transform lives.
My mother has a shop in our neighborhood and it is amazing to note that every time we employ a sales girl there is always some “well intentioned” neighbor who comes to tell her, she can do better. They ignore the fact that this person has been living in the village with no opportunity to go to even a primary school and they are presently working to save money and better their lives. A lot of them come to work for a year or two to save up for school but these ‘Do-Gooders’ wont stop filling their ears with how degrading it is to be a sales girl in a shop. Anyway this is a long story for another day but the point is to show you the mind-set that accompanies being rude or acting uppity to people that sell in the market place and shops.
The bible in Ephesians 4:29, talks about how we should watch our words and use it for the edifying of each other. The King James version adds “that it may minster grace to the hearer”. Hopefully we all know what grace is and that it is not given based on merit. The bible has called us to love and value each other, it does not ask us to be selective.
For these reasons, I feel another way we can shop ethically in this country is by the way we interact with sellers in the market place. I am not saying pretend to care because truly once the love of God fills your heart, you can’t help but care. But how about giving a warm smile and a greeting, speaking with respect and being patient with the seller in the market and in shops even when they are ‘a bit slow’. Then before you leave, why not wish them a successful market day.
There is dignity in labor but in this country, our culture likes to trample on that dignity. This is a form of oppression and poverty thrives on oppression. Let’s stop this and give back dignity and strength to people who work so hard to give themselves a better life and to provide for their families.
Shop ethically with a smile this July and do it always, for the rest of your life. You are making a difference, i promise.