Living in Uganda, I’ve come to see the value in being someone’s regular customer.
I have a variety of motivations for consistently going to the same person for my purchases.
They are the closest, or most convenient.
They need the business more than others.
I know how to find/contact them, so I don’t have to find someone else.
They are friendly.
They don’t cheat me or charge me a Mzungu price.
They peel and cut my pineapple without any extra charge.
Their phone number is in my contact list.
In the past two days I experienced another little perk of being a repeat customer: bonuses.
Yesterday I was driving past the lady’s home who usually does my mending and peculiar American sewing projects, and she flagged me down. I told her I’d stop by on my way back, not sure why she wanted me to come to her house. On my way back, I parked the car and jogged down the dirt path to her door. When I entered, she gathered seven avocados and put them in a bag for me to carry home. I don’t think she even knows that I love avocados. She was just being nice to her client, and even provided me with a variety of ripeness.
This morning I had a couple of quick errands to run. When I filled my gas tank, it took more than I expected, stealing some money from what I had allotted for my purchases in the market. With the equivalent of about $4, I went to my usual spot near the front of the market to buy some carrots. (Yes mom, carrots.) Being a good business woman, the lady asked me if I wanted any cucumbers. I hadn’t wanted any…until she said something about them. But considering the limitations of my wallet and my list, I denied the suggestion. As she handed me the bag of carrots, she threw in a cucumber for free. A bonus for being her customer.
I picked up a couple more things, then headed back to the van. The last stop was a couple blocks away, where men park their bicycles, heavy laden with pineapples. Seeing me coming, a man came out to the road, beckoning me to him. I opened my window and asked for two pineapples peeled and cut. (I really don’t enjoy peeling and cutting pineapple, to the point of it deterring me from buying it very often. Then I realized that I could have the man selling it to me do the dirty work. Bliss.) Moments later he came back with a plastic bag, filled with the juicy fruit. But he quickly told me not to drive off yet. He went pack to the pile and picked out another pineapple, cut and peeled it, packed in a plastic bag, and thrust it through my open window, saying it was a bonus for being his customer.
I drove home very happy with these extra treasures in my bags. And I couldn’t help but reflect on the generosity I’d received. Sure, it may have been laced with an attempt to secure my loyalties,nonetheless it was good business sense, and just plain nice.
Am I as generous as these people? Considering my limited profit margin, am I willing to offer people such sacrifices? Do I make an effort to appreciate and bless people in my life? whether regular or just passing by?