The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: A Day in the Life of a Shopkeeper

It is best to experience some things in life. Who thought shop attending could be so complicated? Once, a gentleman came to the shop and asked for shirts and when I told him the price, he gave me the over-my-dead-body look.

He quickly stormed out of the shop cursing; "Babbi, amasaati ag'emitwalo kkumi' literally translated as "thieves, shirts for one hundred thousand!" I just smiled. Clearly, he had no taste in designer wear. He is in good company though; there are many more like him out there.

Then one rainy day, I desperately needed to make a sale. A sleek Toyota Harrier pulled up in the parking lot. Two ladies jumped out and walked into the boutique. I was excited. Their vibe about the upcoming Sean Paul concert made matters even better. I almost punched the air.

Judging from their dress code, I figured they would wish to look at some really cool stuff. I pulled up some of the best attire I had in the shop. They looked overwhelmed as they tried out the dresses in the changing room. "Kale these bu- dresses are hot but do you have others?" one of them asked.

"Oh, get me some other colours. I already have dresses in these colours," the second went. I feigned a smile, wondering why she had even tried them on if she had no intention of buying them.

I went ahead and got them the dresses anyhow, and I left them to continue "trying on". I guess most women just cannot make up their minds quickly. But I desperately needed the money.

Lo and behold, after going through all that trouble, the girls did not buy any dress, and they majestically walked out without the slightest concern. "Bambi your bu- dresses are nice naye we were just window-shopping. And your prices are too high," one said as they walked out. And I had to reorganize the clothes for the next customer! Life!

And as much as life can throw you some really annoying characters, there are some bold ones who will leave you shaking your head. One time this guy passed by the boutique to buy shoes.

He was Indian, the kind who deserves an award for driving a hard bargain. After choosing the pair he wanted, he asked for the price. I told him that particular pair was for Shs 500,000. Without blinking, he shamelessly offered Shs 50,000! Politely, I told him our prices were fixed. He could not back down.

He said: "Miss, you see these shoes I am wearing? I bought them at $20 in India." His shoes were not anywhere close to these designer shoes I was selling. Seeing I was not budging, he stormed out of the shop, cursing "Oh...African no good for business."

My friends, who were visiting me at the shop at the time, couldn't just hold back the laughter. Life can throw you some interesting characters once in a while.

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