Two social lessons

Yesterday, I stopped at a roadside bookstand. It’s one of those at Ikeja with a display stand by the road, the main outlet storing books hidden away among tailors, boutiques, and household utensil merchants in some shopping plaza.

I had bought books from the elderly owner in the past, but his son was the only one to attend to me. No, NGN 1,000 was way off. Could I see his father to negotiate a better price? He shrugged and agreed.

Yes, I knew the main shop and would see his father there. The man shook his head–it was as his son had told me. I walked away feeling the man lacked customer service. At least, I reckoned, he could have come down to NGN 900 if he had the slightest sense of customer service.

I ran on those fumes until truth dawned. I could have left that bookseller with a new book if I had done two things:

  • I should have made a specific offer. I never mentioned once what I was willing to pay. I depended on the man’s good reason to bring the price down.
  • I should have respected the son. Don’t go to the father to overrule the son. I think this one is more important. My action insinuated that I could influence the father to go against his son; that I could come between both of them and get away with what I wanted. I see now that the man fought for something more than the price of a book; he fought for his son’s dignity.

Next time, I will appeal to the son to lobby the father for a lower price on my behalf. I believe, sincerely, that I would have gotten a better deal if I had acted so wisely. I think this is like what we Christians say about The Father and The Son.

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