THE EDITOR: If anyone should be given an award for community service this year it should be Salome Manoo of Hosein’s Doubles, Debe. She represents a breath of fresh air in a country polluted with “greedy” vendors and business people using the smallest pretext to raise prices.
For a cook in a doubles shop she shows remarkable good business sense in recognising, in the first instance, that greedy vendors jacking up their prices can only cause their businesses to fail. And secondly, that if challenges of one kind or another arise from time to time, as the flour hike, you need to adjust, managing your business more efficiently to still make a profit.
She is quoted in a daily newspaper of January 4, “If the price increases to $8 and $10, businesses may fail.” And further that “others can withstand the increase using various procurement and preparation methods,” managing the flour in ways known to her.”
But, significantly, underpinning her good business sense is a component almost incompatible with the essence of business – making a profit, at all cost – namely, the avoidance of “greed” which inherently carries a moral element of fairness as against exploitation of which doubles and other vendors are often guilty.
It is natural for vendors/business to want to make up for losses by increasing prices and sometimes with some justification, as currently with the supply/demand freight problem brought on by covid19, but it is not in the nature of business to balance profit margin with true “customer care.” The object is to maximise profit, taking every penny available with little concern for the human side of “easing” up on the customer at a time when he seems to need it most.
In Phillipine where I live, barring the idea that it is supposed to be a “big shot” area and prices should be higher than usual, the weather has only to change either way, either too hot or too rainy, the latter mainly, and the price of tomatoes shoots up from $8-$10 to an average $15-$20. And in the case of one vendor, she “digs out your eye,” to use local parlance, with higher than usual prices, especially at Divali time.
And now “digging out your eye” has become almost “cultural,” as the thing to do, the practice to engage in, with flour, beer, dairy et al. And exacerbating this culture of exploitation is the fact that there are no officials to monitor this price gouging, and if even there were we all know what a little “change” can do.
Just look at the contradiction in the supposed VAT relief with the reality in the grocery, and all this when people are losing their jobs and there is little money to pay. There is no more sorry manifestation of the plight of the people facing this barrage of rising prices from unrelenting profiteers than the news item on a 7 pm TV news clip of January 6, headlined “No Mercy.”
Which is why Manoo, the cook from Hosein’s Doubles in Debe, is special. She seems a simple woman without the “sophistication” to exploit the customer under all kinds of pretext and undetectable subterfuge. Making a profit, yes, but you can manage your business to do so and still be “human.”
Maybe she won’t ever be considered for an award for community service, not even make a lot of money, but she will, like Cordelia in Shakespeare’s King Lear (deprived of her share in her father’s wealth because of her honesty), be “most rich being poor,” in her honesty and concern for her fellow sufferers.
DR ERROL N BENJAMIN