Welcome to South Africa. Welkom. Wamkelekile. I’m getting to meet so many of you at the craft markets lately, and some of you have travelled really far to visit us – from Portugal, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, the UK, the US, Belgium, Sweden, Japan… Thank you very much for coming, for liking what you see, and of course for spending your money here (not all of it goes towards firepools for the president’s personal estate or new Porsche Cayennes for all the top government officials)!
And, let’s be honest, you’re getting great value for your money, aren’t you? Our rand is a poor little sausage compared to your meaty euros and your hearty dollars – so then why why WHY would some of you treat some of us with disrespect?
Why would a tourist from Portugal try to buy something from me at less than the marked price? He wanted a pair of rhino-printed pillow cases, which cost R195 (don’t bother trying to convert that into your currency – believe me, it’s a very reasonable price for a top-quality, handmade, original item). He said, I only have R130 on me – here you go. As it happened, I’d gone to the loo and Rob was holding the fort at the time. He said, It’s R195. If you haven’t got the money, you can’t have it. “But it’s for my wife, she really wants it.” Then your wife must come and buy it. “Okay, okay, what’s your best price?” For you – R250. Now please leave. [He did, but came back sheepishly 30 minutes later with the right amount].
Why would an Asian tourist at the Kirstenbosch market pick up a hat that was already on sale and scream Cheaper??? Cheaper??? in my face? Any cheaper and I’d have to pay him to buy it.
A German couple recently wanted me to make them a huge bedspread with screenprinted designs and very specific colours, in just three days (they were going home for Christmas), and also to deliver it to them at their (second) house in the countryside. I worked out that I could manage it, at a real push, and quoted R1,700 (that’s 115 euros). Apparently it was much too much, and they huffed off. Rob suggested I should maybe have considered doing it for less – since, you know, income is useful for buying food and petrol – so he got this answer: No f**king way. If people don’t want to pay a fair price for something special, then they can’t have it. Or not from me, anyway. I would have resented every second I spent making that bedspread – so totally not worth it!
Is this common behaviour? Do some people think that haggling is the way things are done at craft markets in Africa? Or that, because they’re not in a fancy shop in a fancy mall, they can get something very special very cheaply? Because it’s not, and they can’t. I know many traders (who also make their stock by hand), and they have similar stories to tell – but the bottom line is that it’s insulting.
Not one single South African customer has EVER asked me for a discount. I do give discounts to fellow crafters, and if I really like someone and they buy more than one item from me, I am happy to reduce the price, unasked. I once offered a discount to a young woman at a market in Tulbagh who bought a hat for herself and one for her friend, and she turned it down – she said she knew how long it takes to crochet, and she wanted to pay the full price. Now that’s classy.
Right. Let me get back to work. I have three markets on this weekend (tomorrow is a public holiday here), and a four-day gift fair next week to prepare for. I’m looking forward to selling to LOVELY new and returning customers, wherever in the world they are from :)