Those days long before Kampala became what it was many shops were fronts and disguises for their real operation. Many may have forgotten it but even conversion of foreign currency into its local equivalent was of critical importance. And so you would easily find yourself with FOREX which would be totally useless if you had no street smarts.
Conversion of currency became a black market activity preserved for hard nosed operatives who knew their way in a Luwum Street. The exchange typically followed the following narrative:
Street Chap: Am looking for Moses.
Vendor: He does not work here any more…Taakyaa koleela wo eno!
Street Chap: I have been here before.
Vendor:(glances furtively scanning the clients in the background) Ok… How much do you have?
Ere long the money changes hands and both parties hence to their particular activities. This was during the time when FOREX was obtained under the window system; window I and Window II.
In order to mask their behind the counter activities, it was not uncommon to find that the chap would have on his shelves some rum items with little, to no chance of being sold! The side mirror of a train, Clippers for dog nails and spare wheel for the forker plane. This would give the officious investigator or police no purpose to over indulge in the speculation of the activities of the shop; hence keeping away unwanted suspicions an unwarranted attention. The occupants of the shops kept themselves in desultory chitchat and kept on waiting for the bringers of Moses, not bothered whether the side mirror of the plane sold or not.
This attitude seems to have been carried on even with all the fundamental changes the country is going through. I went to a company after making a phone call to one of its office bearers. She, beautiful heart, gave me directions to the company location. At the reception I was informed of her absence. When I put a call to her the told me to speak to her colleague a one Mr G, who also happened to be absent. I called Mr G, using company airtime, he asked me to deal with Mr A who was unfortunately not in the country.
I asked to speak to the deputy of Mr A and was told he has no deputy. “Well then give me someone to talk to!” The pot bellied Pajulean demanded. Ushered into a dry room, completely lackluster, no piped music, no newspapers or magazines but full of cameras I awaited for the anonymous one. The receptionist came back and asked me where I from. I told her that my name was Mike and where I came from did not really matter. If she was how ever keen it was Pajule. A most beauteous location where if she bother to go she should ask for the grandson of Fidele Lodi. With this useful ground breaking information she went and returned saying there was no one to help me; I must await for Mr A.
I did a Balam’s ass thing; that is refusing to budge or move an inch. “Bring me someone who I can talk to.” I demanded defiantly. “You cannot say, nor purport you do not or cannot help me if you have not heard my problem.” I made further astute arguments on the potential continued absence of Mr A. What if Mr A does not come back…is the company’s fortune tied to his life. I must be heard. And so she went and came back and led me to one office of Mr S.
I do not know if it was Mr S who was making her do the back and forth but we had a most pleasurable meeting. Not wanting to be intrusive I made sure my issues were on point. This was to avoid the problem that befell one Munyakole man who wanted to borrow his friend’s bull and fell into the luxury of chitchat. He was given a cup of milk and the chit chat continued. Whilst he was chitchatting there came another man with a sense of urgency and purpose, he quickly cut through the decency of pleasantries, refused the cup of milk citing a home emergency. He lamented of the problem he had with his cow which was desirous of a bull. “Oh take, my brother take…!” His good neighbor said while turning to the milk holding chap who was muttering that he had come for the same thing.
This got me thinking why are we not more enthusiastic about selling our goods and services. Why do we open our doors if we do not make the risk factor of our goods being sold at its highest? Why do we have customer service agents who are better at repelling than attracting clients? Why indeed do we light the candle and put it under the table.
It is not everyday that one will find a client so fixated on buying like i was. The onus, therefore, is on the business or corporation to seek the client and convince the client that the product or service it is selling is more suitable for the clients’ particular need. With this in mind it no longer amazes me when shops close. When the cash flows, the life blood of the enterprise, dry up. The problem is not in the stars; but in ourselves that we are underlings.
Oh, and unless you have a very key differentiation in your product it is not every day you will find a client who insists on buying. Indeed such a customer might not exceed. The company is better relying on putting its finest foot in-front. Competitive advantages are soon eroded and we know competition is dynamic and evolving continuously.
Till next time.