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Are your clients stingy or enlightened?

By XN Iraki | March 3rd 2021

Recently, I went to buy a pair of shoes in one of the leading shoe company outlets. My interest was in a particular pair of shoes but another one caught my eye and I put both pairs in my basket. Mental math showed that my total bill would come to Sh10,000 and I was so impressed with my picks that I walked to the counter with a big grin on my face. Then at the counter, I was asked to pay Sh50 for a bag. I asked the attendant to do some quick math and give me the percentage of the price of the bag from the total amount I was paying. Of course she couldn’t be bothered to do it. I wanted a free bag to go along with my purchases. Ultimately, I walked away not having bought anything. Someone could label me as mean, figure that if I can afford Sh10,000, why not Sh50?

You could also argue that buying the bag was a choice. That I could bring a bag or just carry the shoes without the bags. But well, it was more than just about the bag! It is the principle. Companies often make lots of money from the margins, by selling small things whose prices do not typically bother customers. But they bother me.

The “small things” are complementary, they go with the main product. They cost the business owner almost nothing, they take no space and need no extra employee. That includes the sweets next to cashiers in supermarkets.

Let’s think deeper. If you drove into the mall, parking fee and the shopping bag would cost you Sh50 each, inconsequential compared with the cost of shopping, right? You could even argue that if you can afford the car, why be bothered with small things like parking fee or a bag? Others could even argue that I am reasoning like a hustler. But who said that as we get affluent, we should not be bothered by small things, especially when spending your hard-earned money?

 The same argument can be extended to selling things in small quantities to appear affordable, the “kadogo” economy, which in reality costs you far more than buying the bigger item. Who bothers with maths we hated in high school?

In urban areas, tea is sold in small fancy cups, so tiny that even holding them is a problem. It is pricier than a bigger cup of milkier tea in the rural areas. And since you want to appear cool, you might have no problem paying more. Heck, you will even boast about it. The same applies to mandazi, samosas among others.  

 Do you think that there is some conditioning at play? With time, we learn not to question those who make money from us. It is considered old-fashioned. With time we learn that getting less for more money is cool and modern. Noted that expensive ladies’ shoes and clothes use less material?

 As we grow older, we come to accept that consumers should behave just like cows that rarely complain when milked. But there is a dark side of that. We become angry customers and our businesses never leave our home towns or cross the borders. Paid more for less? Talk to us. 

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