Sunday, 18 December 2011

On the market stall

I set up a beach mat on a concrete step. Then I make the children sit by the roadside for five hours selling hand-made leather notebooks.

I call it an Education.

The Local Authority probably calls it Child Exploitation, but they can shut up.

I'm teaching my kids about the horrors of the business world and, because it's a Sunday, how hard it is to practice the seven virtues.

Great self control required to abstain from yelling at the passers by WHAT'S THE SODDING MATTER WITH YOU? WHY AREN'T YOU BUYING THE DAMN NOTEBOOKS? HEY! YOU'RE NOT EVEN LOOKING!

You bet. The Grit and the Gritlets are born to this virtue. None of us is giving up. After an hour I set the mini grits the challenge: make people STOP.

Shark suggests trip wire strung between our stall and the banana tree opposite. Yes, this would do the trick. I would try it, only I haven't wire long enough.

After some buyer enticement strategy thinking I decide to employ my endless capacity for charm, added to a little light nudity and some come-hither eyeball rolling. Shark made me stop. She became extremely agitated, shouting, Not the hand gestures, mummy please no no no.

That actually brought someone over and I sold The Dancer! Success! And only two hours in!

Shark wouldn't say it again so we had to wait another hour.

Not applicable. I am sitting on the road that leads to the beach. And ladies, round here it is the temperature of a warm summer's day in England. Of course I'm not going to stop my eyes wandering appreciatively to manly bodies and well-turned buttocks.

Problem virtue. I am not patient and neither are the mini grits. We want stuff now; preferably without mercy.

In fact, I consider sitting at the roadside for five hours being peaceably nice to people is a challenge in itself. Especially when I am not allowed to trip them up, knock them down, verbally berate them, nor show even the merest glimmer of hostility. This is a tough one.

But I am learning. I managed to sublimate some of my aggressions into a scornful commentary whispered under my breath at their departing rears, Of course he will not buy you Little Button because he doesn't love you enough and he thinks your arse is too big.*

Aha! I sell two notebooks in one go! Lady Musician and Shy Romantic. To a woman who is clearly a discerning person, appreciating the fine accomplishments of hand-stitched notebook making.

And as for the charity, not bloody likely. I'm here to sell the ruddy books, not give them away for the improvement of my soul.

My next customer, requiring only a small amount of marketing manhandling, is very soon desperate to possess Flowers (the one where I may have filled the inside pages with pictures of semi-naked men). However, she persists in haggling Hong Kong style. I feel sure she is putting off the millions of other customers who are surely desperate for my lovely notebooks. In the end I take two dollars off the price just to get rid of her.

I think that could count as charity.

I'm sorry? I'm here to SELL stuff. As far as I remember, kindness did not figure big in the selling world. I consider that making the damn things in the first place was an act of selfless love for which I am now seeking enough reward to buy more leather and make some more.

Well it is a humbling experience, sitting at the side of the road for five hours, growing colder and more desperate with overtones of hysteria.

At the end of the afternoon, the old farmer passes us, tugging his lettuces behind him on a trolley. He is thin enough to hide behind a broom handle, has no shoes, wears rags in winter, and what he doesn't sell, he eats.

I make Shark, Squirrel and Tiger consider how he has to work all day, everyday, in all weathers for a product that can be obtained free of charge by slugs. Today he'll probably make less money than me, and he won't while away the time by consuming the profit in biscuits.

Humbling, indeed.

By the end of the day, my arse was numb, my knee joints frozen up, and I felt obliged to give the mini grits some of the proceeds in ice cream, plus their desired notebook each.

But we sold five notebooks (and one book box), considered humanity, earned enough money for six more offcuts of leather in Sham Shui Po, and delivered an education suitable for a Sunday. On balance, sore bum excepted, a day well spent.

*Throughout the ordeal I felt increasingly like Bernard.


sharon said...

I took a stall at a craft fair once. The lady on the next stall (obviously an old hand at this) told me that most people visiting the fair practise the 4P approach - pick up, praise, put down and piss off without buying! Sadly she was right, at the end of the day after deducting the cost of the stall I had made the princely sum of $25!

Blue Dragonfly said...

Craft fairs are a fearful place for the new seller. Infact any face to face selling is often a trial, I applaude you Grit for managing to part with any of your lovely notebooks.
I found it very hard to part with my wares to unfeeling buyers.
I gave up and began selling on t'internet in the end, better for the nerves.
PS Sharon my Mum uses the 4P approach, generally to see if she can make the item herself instead, she never buys either!

Nora said...

I think persistence must be the greatest virtue to have when selling your own wares. Your time is your own so you don't have to drop the prices. Just return the next day and start all over again. Maybe you should have a table to display the notebooks on and a chair to sit in. It might be a bit more comfortable.