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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Business in Africa

Business as it’s done in Togo: 
  1. Yesterday I went to buy bread from a vendor on the side of the road. The loaf of bread cost about 25¢, I tried to pay with what is the equivalent of about $1.  The vendor informed me they didn’t have the change, so as usual I told them to go look for the change.  They asked about 3 people for the change, no one had it (at least that’s what they claimed) so the vendor comes back to me and tells me they can’t find the change.  So I tell them to give me my money back, take their bread, and then they tell me to try the vendor that is literally right next to them, selling the exact same bread about 2 feet away.  I ask them if they’re serious that they’re willing to not make a sell because they can’t find change and they tell me yes to go buy bread from the vendor next to them.  I’m pretty sure there’s no word for competition in any Togolese language....
  2. I went to a Bassar, a town in West Kara, for the yam festival.  Being a good little American, I called ahead by about 3 weeks and made reservations at a local hotel for two rooms.  I asked the owner if he needed my name and he said no that he took down my phone number and that was enough, that he’d reserve my rooms.  Friday myself, and at this point 7 other friends, arrive at the hotel to check in to our rooms and see if there are other rooms available for our other friends who decided at the last minute to come to the festival as well.  Upon speaking to the owner we discover that he has given our rooms away (it’s only 3 p.m.) and it’s my fault that he has given the rooms away that I called to reserve. I explain to him that I called him several times and text messaged him to reserve the rooms, his response “oh is that how a reservation works?”.  My response, yes, actually that is how one works, exactly how it works.  His response, “I can’t expect to keep a room available for you, what if you don’t show?” I ask him why he just didn’t call me to see if I was still on my way since he said he took down my number, his response “I’m too full of numbers”.  Yes, good job my friend, blame the client.  
  3. In doing a profit margin analysis with the weavers with which I work I discover and show them that they are making little to no profit on their product.  I tell them they have to increase their price in order to be profitable or find some way to cut down costs.  Their response, “we can’t increase our price, the clients complain already that it’s too expensive, no one will buy if we increase our prices”. My rebuttal, “but your not making any money, in fact you’re probably losing money as it is by selling to them, you’re going bankrupt by selling to them at this price, you either have to cut costs, increase price, or stop producing.” Their only response is that they can’t increase their price, no one will buy if they do...

1 comment:

SeaBagz said...

Much of that sounds familiar! I've experienced the "I dont have any change' scenario too, in very unlikely circumstances where its virtually impossible that they don't have change. I wonder if they're hoping the rich foreigner will say: 'Ok....keep it.' They know its usuallly a small amount to us. Possible????'