Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cushty Canaries?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Despite all Gran Canaria has to offer, the impression I've returned to Britain with is predominantly one of aesthetically pleasing - though crumbling - shopping plazas full of dodgy Arabs hawking fake electronics at too-good-to-be-true prices. For reasons which escape me, electronics boutiques make up a third of all the businesses on the island - the other two thirds comprising 'international' restaurants (aimed at mindless Brits who don't find it at all odd that they've spent over 4 hours on a plane and flown thousands of miles to eat pie, chips and mushy peas and drink pints of Boddingtons) and purveyors of tacky tourist knick-knacks.

Drop your guard for a split nanosecond by revealing the most fleeting gesture of curiosity in something in the window of one of these out-of-their-time bazars and you're doomed. You'll be pounced on by a greasy wideboy replete with perma-grin and Euro symbols in his eyes. Then begins the patter; "Ah, I see you have a camera. Would you like to buy a camera, sir?" Letting them in on the secret that you already have a camera won't deter them. Next they'll want to sell you some useless gimmicky peripheral for it. If you don't bite their hand off at the first offer, the price will be slashed in half, and half again following the next rejection until it reaches a figure you could expect to pay in Jessops who aren't exactly known for their giveaway prices.

To them, if you've stopped to look at their merchandise they've already done you a favour and it's your duty to return it by letting them talk you into buying something you don't want. Tell them you're not interested, or you're just browsing, and you'll be interrogated within an inch of your life. They actually take it as an insult, or at least feign deep offense to make you feel guilty enough to change your mind.

One shop owner went so far as thrusting a video camera into my hand (which he claimed I could snap up for a meagre 20 Euros) and commenced dragging me into his den by the elbow to seal the deal. A dozen textbook scams played through my mind as I struggled to shake him off. I wondered if he was going to stage a clumsy fumble and blame me for dropping the camera on the concrete paving slabs and then demand compensation for the damage, sell me an empty shell or go for the fail-safe maneuver of stringing me upside and shaking my pockets empty. As it happened I somehow managed to walk away unscathed and unpickpocketed. "Can I interest you in a top quality Sony radio?", he pleaded desperately as I shuffled away into the distance. Ironically I was in the market for a radio, which was precisely why I stopped to gaze through his window in the first place.

Where they're going wrong is that they've spectacularly failed to associate their heavy-handed haranguing of potential customers with these walking-wallets scarpering for the Guanche caves. British people (who make up a large bulk of the tourists in the Canaries, I can't speak for the Germans) don't like to be told what to buy and when. If we want advice we'll ask for it. Likewise, if we've decided to buy something we'll attract your attention, cross your palm with silver and be on our way.

Clearly your current sales technique needs a drastic overhaul. You're not going to arrive at such a dramatic epiphany by yourselves so let me make some suggestions...

  • Mark your goods at the fixed price you'd be willing to sell them for, not ones which allow you to slice and dice them to the power of ten to make it look like you've been brow-beaten by a wily haggler.
  • Don't slap extortionate price tags on three-generation-old technology like cassette walkmans. What on earth is your angle here anyway? Nobody wants to buy this stuff so they're never going to engage in a bartering situation allowing you to play the amenable, fair shop keeper. If people see that one item is overpriced they'll assume all your stock is a rip-off and they'll spin on their heels in a heartbeat. Maybe we're supposed to see retro gear and high prices and think 'collector's item'?
  • Displaying fake iPods alongside the real thing doesn't present consumers with freedom of choice; it only serves to make us think that you've found a more talented counterfeiter, yet still have duff stock to shift.
  • Always put price tags on your goods. By not doing so you may as well display a flashing neon sign which reads, 'I've got something to hide'. Sensible people will not approach you to ask the price of an item because they know that once they do they'll be trapped like a fly in your sticky web.
  • One day even stupid people will have heard of eBay and you'll be up the creek without a rich mug to swindle. This one isn't so much a tip as a dawning reality I take great pleasure in bringing to your attention.
  • Quit it with the faux camaraderie and congeniality. Friendly strangers fall into one of six categories, none of which you should aspire to; cold-callers, paedophiles, muggers, rapists, politicians and bible bashers.


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