Born into a female-dominated family, the norm was for the ladies to go to the market while the men stayed at home. If you see me at the market, it’s because necessity has called.
But this day was quite peculiar as I set out of my house with the ambition to experience what it feels like to be in the market for hours.
The trappings of a market in Nigeria are quite pronounced: the noise, the sweat, the rush, the push, the haggles, the bickers, the hollers, and, of course, the stench: all these are what you get to see whenever you simply pass by while in traffic or drop in to get one or two things.
But I wanted something more on this day. I wanted to see the world through the eyes of a trader and feel what it’s like to be one in a frantic market like the Asejere Ultra Modern Market in Ikorodu.
I got to the market at the time the sun was out with no mercy as I had an appointment earlier in the day with some people over a report that is bound to be intriguing to the people of Ikorodu and Lagos, by and large. As sunny as 11:55am can be, the vigour of the Nigerian spirit was so thick in the air that you could smell it without making an effort with your nostrils.
If you are a Nigerian and you have ever been to a Nigerian market, then being called out in both flattering and humorous fashion would not take you by surprise.
“Oga yellow, what do you want to buy?” “Sir, fresh tomatoes are here.” “Come, I get men’s wear.” “Oga, what do you want? I get am. ” “Fine boy, come, your size is here.”
All of these things and more greeted me at every turn and twist in the market. Being used to it makes me smile and even joke with these traders whenever they peddle their wares to me unsolicited.
I told one, “Oga, you going to pay for me? I like it, but I do not get money. ” He smiled. There was even one who had to call me to come repair my phone. I told him jokingly, “Shey na phone, wey no spoil I kon repair?” He giggled. I giggled in return. As they say, “Life is hard.”
I had been to this market before, but I had never seen the end of it—nor had I ever thought of seeing it. But on this day, history was made as I knew, felt, and smelt the end, and believe me when I say it’s a spacious market.
Sweaty and tan as a result of being beaten by the sun, I sought to take cover under a shade with a man who sells clothes; with my choice of taking cover therein informed by the overview vista into the market the spot offered me.
“Oga, you want to buy something?” He asked as I got into his space. “No, my oga, I want to rest here. The sun is too much. I just sit here for a little while before I continue my journey.” And trusting Nigerians and Ikorodu people to be hospitable, he offered me a seat, and I sat to catch my breath.
As expected, I was ready for the variegated dramas a typical market in Nigeria offers, as no sooner than I had sat down, a tussle broke out between a trader and another trader over the subject that the other poached their customer. Then there were some peacemakers who tried to mediate.
The row endured for 10 minutes or thereabouts, and then peace ensued as everyone went back to their respective spots at the market. I smiled as I looked on, waiting mischievously for someone else to make my day.
People trooped in to get commodities, and I was intrigued at the efforts Nigerians put into making ends meet for themselves, even in malignant conditions. In the smouldering sun, with sweat and palpable tiredness, you could see these traders tirelessly calling out and drawing the attention of passersby to their wares. If you ever thought that Nigerians are lazy, then a visit to the Ikorodu market is all you need.
Back to my day, while still taking a break, another incident occurred that brought to mind a “purchase hack” a friend intimated me with back in school as an undergraduate. He will tell me-as I was very poor in haggling prices of commodities-that whenever a trader calls, say, a shoe N10,000, that such is not the real price. He explained that they usually double the price with two theories in mind: one, that you are so rich that you would not mind paying the price; and two, that you understand the tactic, and if at all, there is to be a negotiation, they will still end up winning, as it will be almost both unthinkable and impossible for you to bring an asking price of N10,000 down to N5,000.
At the least, you will get to agree to N7,000, and that means N2,000 extra profit for them. I was astonished at this insight, and I must confess, I have used that tactic a couple of times in the market and it worked. I also remember him saying that if the trader refuses to budge to your held-out price, then you walk away in the pretense of getting it elsewhere, asserting that the trader will most likely call you back before you are out of their sight.
At this market, a woman came by to get a shoe and was dissatisfied with the negotiated price, so she left. I thought she was using the tactic – maybe she was. I waited for the trader to call her back, but he didn’t. Guess what? The woman came back herself to get the shoe.
At that moment, I confirmed that the walk-away strategy is not foolproof, and sometimes the trader themselves use it to their advantage, believing that you will come back and pay the negotiated price, especially having done their homework well to ensure they are not charging ridiculously.
I stood up after I had had enough with my hiatus with the man in his auspicious space, bid my unforgettable host goodbye, and as I was about to take my leave, I accidentally hit a woman on the side where her handbag was hung across her shoulder. You need to come see the look she gave me: scorn, suspicion, rage, name it! I said my apology and then muttered under my breath, “Obviously, this woman must have been a victim of thievery.” As I walked down, trying to make sense of why the woman acted the way she did, I remembered how my two-week old phone was pickpocketed some six years ago the same way I hit the woman—I shall tell that story extensively some day.
But for this day, I got into a shop, bought a soft drink and some snacks, munched them to sate my burning hunger, and thereafter found my way to the next appointment for the day.
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