Having recently spent some time travelling in India it started me thinking how it would be to run our shop, Sugar and Spice, like a shop in a typical Indian tourist town.
We’ll need to redecorate; we’re going to need tinsel and lots of it. And fairy lights, we’re definitely going to need fairy lights in as many colours as possible. Next we need to choose our resident Hindu God (a kuladevi). I like Ganesh the god of wisdom and prosperity, who has the added bonus of being half elephant (the top half). Krishna the god of love adds a bit of glamour by being blue, he is however well known for his flirtatious dalliances with milkmaids, which could be a distraction. Hanuman is a monkey god and although very popular, he’s a monkey which I can’t see being very practical in shop keeping terms. Shiva the creator and destroyer, dances on the devil and has lots of arms and three eyes, which could come in useful for shelf-stacking. He is well known for being a bit of a hippy, and lives in the Himalayas, so the commute to work could be problematic. Parvati, Shiva’s wife, appears on one day as a beautiful kind Goddess, on another the fiercest of deities, who demands sacrifices and wears a garland of skulls. She sounds like any other woman to me. Let’s stick with Ganesh, I’ve always had a soft spot for Ganesh, he’s kind of cuddly and I like that in a god.
Next I’m going to need a tuk-tuk, or rickshaw. It will be my job to cruise around town and round up wealthy tourists (anyone who is a tourist must be wealthier than me, so they are all fair game). I will woo them with my witty repertoire. “Sir you want a ride in my helicopter?” “My other tuk-tuk is a Rolls Royce” “Madame, please come, I have ABS, leather seats and a mini bar”.
The commission only sales team, teenage boys, will need to be able to say, in at least 3 different languages, without pausing for breath the relevant equivalent of: “Sir where you come from?” “ Britain – David Cameron, Tony Blair, Princess Diana, William and Kate, London, Birmingham, Liverpool, UCL, Cirencester, lovely jubbly, okey dokey, David Beckham, Manchester United. Population 62 million but now only 61 million 900 and 99. Why sir? Because you are here. You wanna come and see my shop. Cheaper than Tesco’s Sir?”
Then we’ll need the hard-core sales team. The closers. Pre-school age, in flip flops 3 sizes too big. “Mister you look at my shop Mister?” Fighting off any other toddling rivals with “Sir I saw you first Sir. Don’t trust him, he’s a bad boy” “Maybe later? Look at my face sir, you remember MY face, you come to MY shop”.
Once the sales team have got them to the tuk-tuk the tourists will have to argue over the price of the journey because that is what the guide book told them to do. We’ll start at 10€ and eventually agree on 1€. I’ve managed to squeeze 8 people into my tuk-tuk made for 4 (plus 2 of my friends, riding half a buttock each on either side of the driver’s seat. When we get to the journey’s end I’ll tell them that it was 1€ per person. So that is 8€ but I don’t have any change, so we’re back to the 10€ that I started at. And they’ll just pay up because if they don’t I’ll wave my arms around and shout and they’re English and they don’t like to cause a scene.
In the shop we’ll have 1 person to open the door. Karen on the till, with one person to pack the carrier bags and a 3rd person whose job it seems to be to stare at the customers. Well need at least 1 person per section, so that is 4 more. If a customer needs help their job will be to call on a small nimble boy to provide it but under no circumstances to provide help themselves. Spare stock will be stacked under the floor, in the loft, under the beds and in every other available square inch. It will be accessed by the young lad through a series of portable ladders and death-defying leaps. The sell by date will give you a guideline of which decade the item should be sold in but shouldn’t be taken too seriously, it is after all only a guideline. If something looks as though it was made in the 1970’s it may well have been, it may also have been made yesterday, styles don’t change much (particularly styles in men’s jumpers and light fittings). None of the stock will be priced, the price will be determined when the customer walks through the door and based on what we think he can afford and whether we have had to pay (40% commission) to one or more of the commission-only sales team. The price will start at 5€ and increase in increments of 5€. We don’t want to clutter up the poor man’s holiday with coins. If we do our job right, he will spend his entire holiday in our country without even realising that coins even exist in our currency.
Outside the shop we will have 2 sweepers; one to sweep the dust in one direction and one to sweep in back in the other direction. Although if we were Hindu’s working within the caste system we would have 1 sweeper to sweep and a higher caste supervisor to hit him with a stick when he missed a bit. Also outside the shop covering every square inch of wall, canopy and pavement there will be displayed everything that is sold inside the shop, which makes you wonder why we need an inside? Another young helper will be required to get up at the crack of dawn to create this display every morning, by the time he has finished it will be almost time to start putting it away again. Andy
will also be situated outside the shop his job will be the Big Boss Man. He will stand outside and do nothing. Occasionally he will shout at one of the staff. His friends, other local business owners will from time to time join him. Their sole purpose is to look important. As the customer leaves the shop the sales team will spring back into action. “Do you need a newspaper sir? Todo Patel sell very nice newspapers sir, good price, very cheap” If the customer can be persuaded that he needs a very nice newspaper Mr Patel of the paper shop will need to pay not only the commission only sales team but also Andy the big boss man an introduction fee.
So, so far we’re employing 1 Big Boss Man, 2 sweepers , 1 display boy, 3 till staff, a door opener, 4 “helpers” an unknown number of young nimble helpers, a tuk-tuk driver and the commission only sales team. It’s quite a lot of staff for a village shop but it’s OK because the average wage for a shop worker in Asia is less than 1€ an hour. Also the price of a tin of beans for a tourist does start at 5€. Of course in the real world Karen and I would need to be men, because the women are too busy at home making chapattis and cleaning. Although home may only be one room, it houses 3 generations, so cooking takes a lot of time and as chemicals are beyond the budget of most families, cleaning takes even longer.
So there it is our Delhi style shop. But oh no I foresee a problem. Here comes someone who wants to help from thousands of miles away. He is going to save us all. He says that our shop is a sweat shop and that we have to close down. We are over-crowded, we don’t have running water or air conditioning, our pre-school children should not be working and we don’t have health and safety rules. So we are all rescued. Now our 1 Big Boss Man, 2 sweepers , 1 display boy, 3 till staff, 1 door opener, 4 “helpers”, unknown number of young nimble helpers, 1 tuk-tuk driver and the commission only sales team are unemployed. They stay at home all day which with 3 generations living in one room which is also over crowed. Where there are also no running water, air conditioning or health and safety rules. And now our pre-school children will never go to school and learn about David Cameron, Tony Blair, Princess Diana, William and Kate, London, Birmingham, Liverpool, UCL and Cirencester and the population of Britain, lovely jdubbly, okey dokey, Cheaper than Tesco’s.