Saturday, January 9, 2010

Glad To Know I'm Not The Only Sucker Here!

A Burkinabè colleague came into my office a couple of mornings ago to talk about a difficult situation in which he currently found himself. Prior to going on a trip, an expatriate colleague had given him money to purchase a number of bamboo-type mats at the local market. To what purpose, I don’t know. But the amount of money given was equal to about a week’s salary for the Burkinabè.

Going to a local vendor, he found only a few mats in stock. The vendor told him to come back the next day since he was expecting a new shipment shortly. The next day, there were still only a few mats in stock. The vendor said that the shipment had come in, but had sold out quickly. He asked my Burkinabè colleague to give him the money for the mats to help purchase another shipment, and to come back the following day to collect both the mats and a receipt.

Can you guess what happened? That’s right. My colleague has never seen the vendor since. Oh, his store is still there, with someone looking after sales, but the vendor himself is never present.

I just stared across the desk at my Burkinabè colleague in utter disbelief. He is, after all, not an inexperienced child or a foreign tourist, but a grown man born and raised in this country. Yet he gave a large sum of money that doesn’t even belong to him to a man he doesn’t even know and walked away without even getting a receipt for it! I find it utterly amazing the number of times I hear of local people getting taken to the cleaner’s like this! It utterly defies explanation.

“So what do you plan to do about it?” I asked him. “Well, I’ve got a summons from the police to give to him,” he replied. “But whenever I go to his store, he’s never there for me to give it to him! If I don’t get this settled before the man who gave me the money gets back, he’ll never trust me again!”

“Is anyone from the vendor’s family ever there?” asked another Burkinabè co-worker. “Yes, his wife,” said the first man. “Well, give the summons to her, then,” advised the second man.

“Are there ever any mats when you go there?” I asked. “Yes, a few,” he said. “Well, take whatever there is whenever you go there,” I continued. “Eventually, you’ll get all the mats you paid for. There’s probably a better chance of that happening than of getting him to answer a police summons.”

“But what will I do,” wailed my Burkinabè colleague, “if the guy who gave me the money comes back before I either get the money back or get all the mats he asked me to buy?”

“Just tell him the truth about what happened,” I advised. “He won’t be happy, but he’ll probably understand.” (I hope!)

1 comment:

Laura Dun said...

what a story - well, I'm also glad I'm not the only sucker! Hope it gets sorted.