George Davis | Scammers run the markets
Like business people in every other country, I am sure Jamaican business people are very dishonest. Ask around and your friends and family will testify about the integrity of only some of the people with whom they do business, while writing off the majority as opportunists, pulling you in with a broad smile and words of endearment, only to give you less for your hard-earned money.
We blabber about the lack of customer service in business places, not realising that the building block of good customer service is honesty. It's really simple. As a business person, you give me, the customer, full value for the money I spend with you. There cannot be any greater display of good customer service than that.
Because of the dishonesty, trickery and downright 'ginnalship' I have experienced at the hands of persons who do business, my suspicion is on a hair trigger, and sad to say, I expect every service provider or seller of goods to be trying to bilk me of my money.
It may seem like paranoia, but this state of mind is down to some harsh experiences. Living in the Liguanea area, I used to do my fruit and vegetable shopping at the Papine market. I used to buy from different vendors to get a feel of who appreciated my business and wanted to give me the best items in exchange for my money. I then stopped at one lady - let's call her Joy - from whom I made all of my purchases. After settling with her, I noticed that the prices I was being charged were high. The cost of scallion, thyme, onion, and tomato would be fine, but pineapple, naseberry, sweetsop, mango and plantain would have me scratching my head, wondering why a dozen of this and a half-dozen of the other - enough for a family of three - was costing me $4,000 and $5,000.
After satisfying myself that I was indeed being taken for a ride, I asked myself why Joy would rob me when she was guaranteed my patronage every Saturday. Rather than confront her, I did the cowardly thing. I stopped buying from her.
I switched to Coronation Market and learnt some early lessons. I don't know about anyone else, but when I appeared like someone who had bathed before walking into the market and used my radio/TV voice when talking to the vendors, the goods I bought were seemingly sold at a markup by the vendors.
I know the prices other people get, because I walk around and hear them being quoted. Yet when I buy, I have to pay more. I changed tack and asked a handcart bredren to buy the things for me. I let the vendor write the price on the piece of paper I gave him every Saturday morning and he brought that paper to me when he was handing over the goods on Saturday afternoons.
Things were going well until one afternoon, the vendor had to bring the goods directly to me, because the handcart man was spending some time with the lawmen at the Darling Street Police Station. I was coming off a TV gig, so was still wearing makeup along with my 'good clothes'. I swear to you that after that day, the prices went up. And don't believe the prices rose because of scarcity. As a country man, I know when it's sweetsop season, naseberry season or when melon and East Indian mangoes are in the market 'wagga wagga'. I abandoned that arrangement after a dozen naseberries were sent to me for $600.
Having tasted the same treatment at the hands of other vendors in my efforts to put fruit and fresh vegetables on the table, I have settled on a method for the past year and a half. I only go to 'Curry' on a Saturday morning after I've played football. That's when I am at my worst - dirty, scruffy and looking like I haven't had a bath in weeks. I swap my football boots for a pair of old, lean-heeled shoes. I chat straight Patois and address vendors with, "Oi, mooma/poopa, uh much fi dat?" It's only since then that I believe I've been getting a fair deal.