Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Made-to-Order

When you are in Apia it isn't possible to avoid the throngs of children vendors. Typically they are younger children between the ages of six and 12 with cardboard boxes filled with an odd collection of goods (typical offerings are Q-tips, called ear twirls, bandaids, matches and playing cards) or with plastic bags filled with lavalavas.

Usually we just give them a "Leai, fa'afetai" and continue on. However, a week or so ago one of the lavalava boys struck up a conversation with us. He is from a village just past ours on the way to the airport and knows that we often ride his village bus to town or home. We didn't have any need for any lavalava that day, but he was now in our minds as the kid to buy from if we did.

The next time we saw him was the day before Cale's mom arrived, so we decided to buy some lavalava for her. This kid is quite the salesman. First he started to display he wears. Then I mentioned that these lavalava were for Cale's mom. "Palagi or Samao?" he asked. When we answered palagi, he proceeded to show us his lavalavas that he thought were best for a palagi mother. Granted, there is no difference between a lavalava a palagi would wear and one a Samoan would wear, but it was a good sales technique.

We ran into this same kid when we were in Apia with Cale's mom. Annette wanted to buy lavalava with turtles on them. The kid had none with turtles, but being a good salesman, he takes orders. Annette requested five or six lavalava with turtles in a variety of colors. We were to meet him in town the on Monday to pick them up. It ended up only being three and they were all purple (I imagine that was the fabric the suisui he sells for had at the time), but it was still a pretty successful transaction.

He is definitely our favorite child street vendor. He has good English and he is quite the professional salesman. Unfortunately, where ever he goes, he is followed by an entourage of other less than likable child vendors. These kids don't know how to woo the palagi. Their sales technique is "Buy some lavalava? Please, please, please, please, please....." One of the kids was even trying to cut in on our kids territory. After Annette placed her order with him, the other kid tried to tell her that if he bought five from him the sixth would be free. I suppose that is a good sales technique, but also sort of rude to cut in on your friend's action.

Anyway, it was a unique experience. I imagine it is very rare to put in a custom order with one of the street kids.

— Sara

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