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Bazaar Love Triangle |

Young Star

Bazaar Love Triangle

- Paula C. Nocon of the Philippine Star’s YS -
Ah, the things you would do for family, for country, for personal growth, and for an extra buck this Christmas.

And the things you would do to write an essay that has a Christmas theme, a strange personal experience that carries a strange climactic epiphany, and a silly pun of a New Wave oldie for a title.

This past Sunday, I was a tindera in one of those omnipresent Christmas bazaars. I was selling all sorts of goods. Good goods. Goods made of genuine calfskin leather and all-imported materials, designed by a world-class designer and supplied by a world-class supplier, at very reasonable prices!

It was sheer nepotism that landed me the job. My cousin asked me to help her pinch-hit at the bazaar stall of her best friend, an accessories designer, who was vacationing abroad. I’m no salesperson, and neither is my cousin, but for some reason we were convinced that we could do it. As childhood playmates the only game we played that had to do with money was Monopoly, a capitalist propaganda tool at which I sucked, but when she offered me 10 percent commission for this particular endeavor I was instantly committed.

First, a bit of a backgrounder. My cousin (a year older than me) and I both have post-graduate degrees. She’s a lawyer, I’m a writer-teacher. She writes legal opinions, I write lifestyle articles. She litigates in dusty courtrooms, I lecture in my poorly-ventilated classroom. We’re both second children, we’re both Ateneo alumnae, we both like raw oysters, and we both had tsunami bangs when we were in high school.

Do these things mean anything when you’re sitting behind a stall in a bazaar? Nope. Not at all. Do these things mean anything in the grander scheme of things? Frankly, not a lot.

So there we were, up before 7 a.m. on a Sunday, setting up the stall. We first made an inventory of all the items, and then put our lovely merchandise on display. I’m missing The Buzz and S-Files for this, I grumbled to my cousin, to which she promised, "Don’t worry, we can gossip to our heart’s content here the whole day."

And so we sat, and ate, and gossiped, and waited. The people came in trickles, and then hordes, and then no people, and then one or two, and then nobody. It was a vicious cycle. Our main come-on was the scent of genuine calfskin leather wafting from our little nook, while our drawback was that we were forbidden by our supplier to give discounts. But most disheartening of all was the discovery that it was to our disadvantage that our goods were made locally; Buy Filipino, apparently, is a big no-no to many Filipino Buyers. An early exchange between me and a customer went like this:

Gawa lang ba sa atin ito?

Yes, but from imported materials!

Saan galing ’yung materials?

Uh, basta, ang alam ko imported po ’yung genuine calfskin leather na ’yan.

Eh saan ninyo nga na-source ’yung genuine calfskin leather na ’yan?

Eh di sa imported na cow!

Thank you ha! Goodbye!

Well, I got wiser as the hours passed. I just said to the others that the genuine calfskin leather was from mad cow-free Australia.

My cousin and I discussed other theories as to why the bazaaristas weren’t buying as much as we anticipated. Maybe it was just way too long before the last-minute Christmas rush. Maybe they didn’t like our stuff because they were vegetarian animal activists. Maybe our display was too Rustan’s; some people might actually prefer the rummage sale bangketa look. Maybe we were too busy gossiping that we weren’t noticing the customers. Maybe they could see through us and knew that we were complete pretenders!

So if anything, I learned that bazaar public relations is all about personal relations. Your attitude has to adapt to the customer’s attitude; you have to mirror them, be their best friend, their confidante. The communication has to be intimate and interpersonal. It’s all about the right thing to say at the right time.

For the matrons, make sure you show them bags that match their jewelry, makeup, hair dye, etc.: "Ma’am, this is the perfect shade of leather to go with your earrings/eyeshadow/nail polish! Imeldifique!"

For the teenagers, make a reference to their glamorous, fast-paced lifestyle: "This cell phone case is just tailor made for your new 7650!" Or, "Isn’t this wristlet just perfect for clubbing — just big enough for your credit card, lipstick, mobile, and birth control pills?"

For those with a terminal case of colonial mentality: "Well, these may be locally made, but look at the workmanship, the design, the quality! It just screams Ferragamo/Kate Spade/Coach/Longchamps/Hermes!"

And so on and so forth.

Finally, at the end of the evening, we counted our earnings with relief and exhaustion. We reached about 80 percent of our projected sales, which was not too shabby. We computed our 10 percent commission, which was just a little bit shabby, but good enough. We compared this to how much we would normally earn if we had sat in front of the TV watching Boy Abunda, which would have been zilch.

As I stared at the money in my hand I asked myself if it was worth it — dealing with horrible customers who scoffed at Filipino-made products and treated us salesladies like second-class crap, while going through the unbelievable agony of waiting for all that to happen.

And then I thought about three things: the lovely merchandise we sold, the lovely suppliers who lovingly manufactured the lovely merchandise, and the lovely bazaaristas who lovingly purchased the lovely merchandise.

It’s the Bazaar Love Triangle of salesmanship. You have to love your wares, your manufacturers and your customers. Equally. Sincerely. Wholeheartedly.

Just as lawyers should love the law, their client, and the justice system. As writers should love the word, their publisher, and their readers.

In a love triangle like that, Christmas season or not, you can be sure that all those things you love, are very, very likely to love you back. Regardless of what your job is, or where it is: courtroom, classroom, or your neighborhood bazaar.
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