I mentioned in my last article that artisans were one set of people that made doing business in Nigeria tricky and frustrating.
I recall dealing with an electrician concerning a faulty connection in the wiring of my workspace and this guy practically diagnosed a problem that did not exist just to get some extra money off me. Every time he worked on something, another problem would arise, and I would have to call him back. It was only later that I realized he would intentionally find faults where they did not exist so that he would extort me and of course, I fell for it… I am not an electrician!
It took someone else looking at it with me to realize this and I never called that former guy back again. Have you ever dealt with people like that? I’m sure you have multiple experiences if you have survived in Nigeria this long; ranging from carpenter, a tailor, mechanic, or anyone who uses their handiwork as a means of livelihood. I know that it is not so straightforward to quantify the quality of handiwork (service) as you would for a product but really, some of these guys are just thieves!
So, how do you outsmart them? I have had quite an experience with many of them so I am sure that these tips will work out for you and help you play your cards right!
- Have multiple options – This is always my go-to option because having multiple options helps you to have a good idea of the real value of whatever you want to pay for. When an artisan realizes that you have only them as a contact, they can sense your desperation and take advantage of you because they know that you will gladly oblige whatever price range they give. However, when you deal with them lightly and in an offhand manner because you have other options, they will come correct because they do not want to lose you as a customer.
- Use referrals – It helps to have not just multiple options but referrals, if possible, from people you know too. For example, if you need a carpenter, it pays better to ask a friend for their carpenter’s contact than for you to go and start searching blindly. This option protects you because you will be working with an artisan based on referral, and he would not want to lose that goodwill and reputation he has already built up from the person who referred you. This also prevents the artisan from wanting to extort you because there will already be an established price range.
- Never be in a hurry – The thing about wanting to get things done ‘fast’ is that you may get it done fast, but it will cost you a lot that might not even be worth it. When you come off as desperate, even artisans who cannot deliver will want to take advantage of you just to make a quick buck. What happens is that they will take your money and deliver inferior quality or not even deliver at all.
So, take your time. Make sure that they see that you have enough time to spare if necessary and that “you have a strong head”. Having enough time will also make you explore more than enough options to find what you want at the value it is worth.
P.S – Having options is good, but ensure you do not seek too many options that will confuse you. Once you find a good option for a good value, take that and make sure not to over-stretch your luck.
- Act uninterested – This works like a charm as it works well into the earlier point of taking your time! If you have ever gone shopping with your Nigerian mother, where she priced items ruthlessly, then you have a good idea of this. Haha! I remember my mother would secretly ask me what item I wanted then she would start to price a different item. I always wondered why but I soon realized that she did that to shift the seller’s attention from what she was after. So, say she wants to get Item A for me, she would start by pricing something more expensive (Item B), then afterward, she would price the item that I wanted (Item A again). Because she had priced a more expensive item before, she could easily down price the item I wanted and get a good bargain.
When dealing with an artisan, hide how much you need their service or what they have to offer. Be very willing to let go of that thing you think you want because, trust me, you can always find it again.
- Do not decide on the spot – Sometimes, you may feel like you have gotten the best deal that you can, but it may just be butterflies – and that can be very deceiving. Sometimes you get a good deal that you feel you may not find it again… and you may be right.
And if you think you cannot find it elsewhere, go and return the next day. This will give you some time to think about it. If you go back and don’t get the same deal when you return… maybe it was not for you. Lol! At least you have saved your money!
- Act tough – The thing with artisans is that they will test your patience to see where it ends, like most Nigerians if you think about it. Your way out to this is to close your teeth and stop smiling too much, so they do not take you for a fool. This does not mean that you become unfriendly; it just means that you smile when you need to and frown when you need to. Show your craze if need be (Like Olamide expressed in that song in Yoruba “Ma rerin. Kala, Daaju :D). This makes them bring the much-needed discipline needed to carry out your job, so they don’t tell you “stories that touch” that the materials for making your order are still in transit for over three months after you’ve paid.
- Walk away – Many times, you may start off using an artisan for a particular work and notice that they are not delivering as they used to before. Sometimes they start well and just become something else down the line. What do you do then? Walk away.
I get that you may be reluctant because you got used to getting good services from someone, and you may be hesitant to go through the stress of finding someone new. But you may be costing yourself in the future if you keep looking back at past costs and investments. If the shoes don’t fit, get new shoes in new sizes.
What method did I miss? How can you ensure you get the best deals from your local artisans or vendors?
You can share your experiences and any point you think I must have missed in the comments.
I am Aunty Ronke, and I am here to help you on the journey to making your small business a big one! Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @auntyronke for daily updates and tips like this, and hit the subscribe button to be notified when I make a new post.