YOU know there was a time when it did not make sense to employ either male or unimpressive (in looks) female marketing and sales people. Okay, if it was insurance, where the rigours of hawking policies would break the firmest female spine, the chances were nine to 10 the marketers would be male.
It was so serious that even those people who used to vend obsolete chandeliers, rechargeable torches and other toys, which needed special Chinese batteries to work had to be female — pretty females.
Remember them? They would approach you and, talking like sewing machines as they simultaneously removed the merchandise from their polythene or leather bags, said they worked for something-international and they were doing a promotion.
The items cost sh250,000 on the open market, but since this is a promotion… blah, blah, blah. A beautiful girl, neatly turned out, but with dirtied feet/shoes and products she had walked the streets with for ages.
I recall going to a renowned café in Kampala for coffee with two friends. Wherever we turned, there was a pretty face on an aproned waitress, ready to ambush the client with service. One took our orders. Unfortunately, the kitchen staff took forever to be ready with the coffee and we were planning to leave when a huge, bright and gorgeous smile accosted us.
The waitress was returning with our coffee and samosas. We all slumped back into our seats, none of us pulling through with our threat to ‘leave, even if they bring the coffee now’.
I will never tire of telling the story of a friend who nearly bought all the bread off a supermarket in upscale Kampala because of one of the angelic attendants there.
He went there one late night and she sold him the bread. For the next six months, he never missed buying bread until the girls conspired to tell him that they knew he did not love salt bread that much; he was up to something.
Indeed he had been buying the bread and throwing it away… I guess after the revelation, the store started losing sales.
Then something went wrong. Maybe the men just got used to the pretty faces trap at the counter; or more and more women started doing their super-spending all over the place and did not do for/with the girls there as the men used to; or the pretty faces just decided they were tired of being used to advertise business.
Whatever the case, those girls are now the reason some businesses close the month after they were opened. Wherever I have gone and received poor, rude, slow or no service, it has been at the hands (or lack of them) of a pretty-faced attendant or waitress.
The restaurant you go to and order French toast and you are given a chilled Spanish omelette and when you complain, you are treated like an Old Testament leper; the café where you ask for English coffee and they serve you African tea, or the eatery you go to and nothing on the readily-availed menu is readily available in the kitchen… all these places have a pretty face to attend to you.
There was at some point a clothes chain in Kampala, mostly on Luwum and Market streets, where a wealthy friend of mine once went to buy shirts. He enters one of these shops and points out an amazing shirt he wanted to buy.
Hardly lifting her haughty eyes to look at him, the girl in attendance told him, ‘that one is very expensive.’ My friend stood there, agape, then walked out — of the shop and of town, back to the sanity and homeliness of his home.
Somehow I think that because spending habits have changed, with more women buying things only men bought once, and doing more shopping than the average man, yet women are not known to pamper fellow women, this thing of trapping clients’ money with a pretty face has outlived its time.