‘RIGHT PRODUCT, WRONG STICKER PRICE’ By Mwangi Ndegwa

BValley line Super Select store was a major shopping mall located in the leafy suburbs of Nairobi, Kenya. It was frequented by the "who is who" both...


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BValley line Super Select store was a major shopping mall located in the leafy suburbs of Nairobi, Kenya. It was frequented by the “who is who” both in business, politics and the entertainment scene. The variety of exotic goods on offer, quality and the convenience of shopping was one of its major selling points. Its location also helped to keep off unwanted “hangabouts” who loved to prey on the politicians and the influential members of society who frequented the mall, for handouts. Accessing these premises itself was a challenge, if you were not driving.

For the high end shoppers who wanted to enjoy a walk to the shopping mall, their concerns were addressed. They were issued with special electronic cards which they simply needed to swipe at the main entrance and the gates would open. The prices of the products on offer were also very prohibitive. You had to be a top dollar earner to afford anything there. It was every citizen’s wish to work there. The working conditions were excellent, good salary not forgetting the generous tips from the wealthy shoppers. It was never easy even getting the chance to secure an interview there.

Thousands and thousands of application letters and emails used to land at the desk and inbox of the HR manager and it was not easy sifting through them, and picking out the most appropriate of applicants. Anyone who got the chance to be picked and called for interview had to have attained the highest level of qualifications.

Mpole was one such lucky lady. She secured the rare opportunity of being among those picked to attend an interview forum for the few vacant positions in the mall. She was over the moon with excitement for she felt her dream was slowly coming to fulfilment. She prepared herself well and polished on her communication skills. On the day of interview, she was up an ready by five am. She got dressed, took her handbag, documents & wallet, and by seven am, she was among other anxious applicants hoping, waiting, praying for a successful moment in office of the HR manager. Mpole sailed through the interviews and was among the lucky few applicants to be selected for a position in the mall. She started working a week after the interview.

One strange thing about Mpole was that her character and the meaning of her name had a lot of semblance. Mpole is a name taken from the Swahili speaking area of the Kenyan coastal town of Mombasa and it basically means the slow one. This character showed up in everything she did and she was always at loggerheads with her mum who always took issue with her sloppiness in everything she did. She never did things in the set time and she was always behind schedule.

This would soon cost her her job. Her job in the store involved putting sticker prices on products and making sure that everything was free of dust and was properly displayed. And as is with any economy, prices kept changing and price adjustments had to be done accordingly. One day, the store owner (a very wealthy man), brought some cutlery from the middle east. They were a limited and edition kind of products and very expensive. They had pure gold decorations and for a causal observer, they were just ordinary but for the schooled ones, they could tell these were top notch and high end products.

It so happened that they were to be displayed in the section that Mpole was assigned to. The supervisor gave her clear instructions on the way to handle the very delicate products and above all, gave her the new price stickers. Mpole in her usual slowness and sloppiness, forgot to stick the prices immediately. Then she made the mistake of placing them with other price stickers. The voice of the supervisor talking with one of the wealthy shoppers jerked her heart and to her utter shock, she remembered that she had not put the price stickers. She rushed to where she had left them and in a panic,  didn’t pause to check to see which sticker was supposed to be placed where. She just grabbed the cutlery and randomly picked the price, stickers and stuck them on, not caring to check whether the price matched the product. When the wealthy shoppers got wind of these new gems, they flocked to the store. Many were shocked by the low prices on the products but they thought this was a token of gratitude from management for their loyalty.

The shopping spree continued until the digital team manning sales noted an anomaly and alerted management who immediately ordered the withdrawal of all the cutlery from the shelves. Upon checking, they realized that Mpole had put price stickers of much cheaper products on the expensive products and the loss was enormous. The proprietor of the store could not stomach such gross misconduct and ordered the immediate sacking of Mpole with no benefits. The wrong stickers on the right products cost Mpole her job.

The above scenario represents many of us. Just imagine for a minute, you walk into a Range Rover showroom and find that the price on all of them is equivalent to that of a bicycle or a motorcycle? You will even doubt the authenticity of the products. It’s a sad state of affairs that we have allowed people to decide our value. We answer by the name people call us and literally, live our lives at the call and behest of the social police. Many have failed to live up to their full potential simply because somebody they “respect and look up to” told them they cannot be successful or that they will never amount to anything. We fear stepping out of our comfort zone simply because somebody we respect holds an opinion contrary to ours.

The so called people of influence have killed many dreams, for they believe that their word, however wrong, should be followed to the letter. We have seen it happening in the political scene in many countries in Africa. We make our decisions based on the whims and behest of the so called opinion shapers. Many have been reduced to voting machines or a testing ground of ideas and suggestions. It’s sad that we are highend limousines being auctioned at the price of a bicycle. We are the right products but with the wrong price sticker and many will sadly remain so until the day that we ourselves, know our value and refuse to be”bought” at a price lower that what we are actually worth.  To read more posts by Mwangi, click HERE

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