Hustlers or Customers?

Everyday, if you are open to it, you will learn something new…

This is my new discovery about living life and I am embracing it along with the complexity that comes with learning new things.

The original post has changed. I was going to write something entirely different but I decided to take a long walk before settling down to write and that changed everything. Somewhere along one of my walking routes is my Balango customer. Balango for those who don’t know is the Hausa word for barbecued meat. There are a lot of open air barbecue spots in Jos and it is a thriving business especially if the maker can get the meat right and juicy.

Before I go any further, I feel like I need to explain what a customer is in the Nigerian context. For some odd reason, when we say customer here, it is both the seller of the commodity and the buyer. What makes both of these parties customers to each other, is the frequency with which one patronizes the other; usually the buyer.  Another factor of consideration in this relationship is how familiar the buyer and seller are with each other. It is not strange to find a seller who knows all the names of his customers kids, the schools they go to, if they have health issues and a host of other personal information. This is because for the past say twenty years, the buyer has been coming to the same shop or stall to purchase whatever they need.

Back to my story. As I walked past my balango customer, I was happy to see his business thriving as usual but just as I walked a few steps further; a new development unfolded before my eyes. I had not walked that way in over ten days and during my absence, a new balango seller had erupted near my customer. And I was immediately pissed. I had half the mind to walk up to the new guy and ask him questions like, “What nonsense is this?”, “With all the free spots from here to Hill Station Juction, did you have to pick this one to start your own business?”, “Are you just an evil man or what is this rubbish?”.

I’m not sure I should tell you the caliber of purely wicked thoughts that were going through my mind over this guy who was, I feel, stealing the food from my customer’s mouth. And as I was trying to find peace within my spirit over this earth shattering development, I noticed the new balango man calling customers to himself and I heard a voice say, “walk away and walk away fast”. Now this is what irked me more, I was walking against traffic and this means, people walking with the flow of traffic on that lane would get to the new guy before they get to my customer. And the fact that the new guy picked that spot was all the proof of his intent as far as I was concerned.

Nevertheless, I kept on walking and thinking and having an imaginary dialogue in my head with the culprit. It was a forty minute walk and by the end of it, I had asked and answered some questions for myself.

One of the questions I had to face was why my customers are my customers. And these were my honest answers.

1) They are familiar and I love how we interact and the camaraderie between us. It helps make the whole market experience pleasant for someone like me; I hate going to the market.

2) I do not have to bargain with them because I feel we have gotten to a point that they like me enough not to cheat me. So I feel a bit safe in their hands.

3) They give me a lot of ‘Jara’ which means extra stuff. This I must confess with my new understanding is no longer something I am comfortable with.

Bottom line, I always get low prices with them, great customer service and a pleasant experience.Customer.

Now a few days ago, I read Proverbs 11:24-25, and it talks about scattering your seeds to sow more and invariably reap more as oppose to sowing in one place. And what do you know, the verse popped into my head during those forty minutes of walking along with some accusations.

First, what do I really know about what transpired between the balango sellers before the new development. It is possible that my customer knows the other guy and even invited him to do business with him. It might be an expansion. It might also be a man doing a neighborly thing to help another brother out. I do not know but I assumed the worst. I may still be right but the truth is till I go back and investigate, I will never know.

Another accusation that also popped up was about the many times, I saw sellers in the market who looked like they have not had any sale. And even though they had the same things as my customer, I walked past them because of my own above mentioned convenience. And no matter how frantic they looked as they tried to get my attention, I ignored them. This is because i saw them as trying to hustle me from my customer and I wasn’t having it, I felt like it was my duty to defend the pockets of my customer.

See I am not going to lie to you, the convenience of having a customer is numerous and bountiful. And we should cherish and keep those relationships. We can however be deliberately about trying to balance things out. I plan to start praying and asking God to direct my steps every time I go to the market. I will always ask his help to locate sellers that really need to have a good sale that day and maybe you can do the same too. Once in a while let’s try to look around and see if there is someone who may just have something to take back home because of our purchase. It can be one of our ways of shopping ethically and spreading seeds of hope. I believe this way we can reap the benefit of reducing poverty as we spread our resources far and wide.

What do you think?