Do you know, when those month-end or weekly promotions started with inserts in newspapers, Malawians were introduced to a whole new world of bargains and offers to give them value for their money. Comparatively, buyers became aware of where to go for particular products without necessarily having to go window shopping. That was ideal and it remains such until a new vice seems to be slowly settling in. And it is even affecting the popularity of a product that is not even on sale.
Let me elaborate. I was moving through the aisles of one popular shop renowned for its bi-weekly and month-end promotions. One of the attendants, in an apparent state of confusion and possibly greed, rushed to my aid inquiring whether I was the one looking for a bag of maize flour that was on promotion. He said the product had run out, but was willing to go an extra mile to look for some in the back store. I was surprised because I figured immediately that it was a case of mistaken identity, which is quite rare when assisting a client because you always ‘keep’ them at a particular spot for easy follow-ups. I later discovered why the inquest was haphazard. It was because this attendant hoarded some bags of the maize flour to offer it to any customers for an additional fee. Talk about cashing in. This is the same shop that is slowly, but surely becoming popular for ‘stocks running out’ each time it opens its doors at the start of the promotions and indeed throughout its supposed sales. But in reality, its attendants and managers seem to be very much on top of it. They either keep them for friends or simply for corruption.
Another walk through an aisle in the same shop revealed hidden boxes of cereals within shelves days after their promotions, probably forgotten by whoever hid them or the customers who requested for them simply stood attendants up. I have been told to come the next day for a product which I wondered how it was not on its shelf in the first place. Then, at a shop within the same block, people queuing at a confectionary area were being turned back the other evening for the lack of a popular product. Meanwhile, some attendants were seen carrying the same product and offering it to a few individuals within the same area, with puzzled looks thrown from direction to direction. I decided to give it a shot in ‘charming’ one of them to bring me the product. By golly, it worked. It did not take him two minutes to return with the product and make me one of the temporary ‘stars’ who were getting their way.
Now, I was appalled. Unlike the timid ones, my guts paid off in begging for a product I paid for anyway and which is supposed to be available to everybody without discrimination. I was also of the belief that the promotions are meant to serve everybody, but boy, was I wrong. They are seemingly not for the faint hearted let alone the ‘unknown’ or timid. They are evidently not for the poor who cannot afford to dig dipper into their pockets to ‘oil’ the very attendants employed to do their job.
These instances are rampant in many shopping outlets and the practice is further adding to our corrupt reputation as a country. Shop owners, managers and everyone of goodwill, report this vice if we are to stamp it out. It is getting out of hand and depriving many of their right to buy products of their choice at offered prices, nothing less, nothing more. n