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A Web Site For The Young Ethiopian Professional.
    Volume II   Issue IV

Front Page
Table of Contents
Editors' Note
The Mail
My Story
Money and...
Imeri SuQť
Delala, NY Style
Thirty Questions
Selling Out
E Trade
The Hustle
The Profile
Corporate Arbegna
The 25K Challenge
A Kiss Without...
Top 10
MBA Woes
Do The Right Thing
Hamsa Lomi:
Back Page

By Teshome

When I got involved in this business, it was just for the fun of it -- not at all to be taken seriously. So, here goes the story of the corner shop and the guy who runs it.

I came to London 10 years ago.† Soon I was doing my degree in Economics part-time and working full time for a Race Equality Council (REC).† I gained a lot of experience in race relations and equality, but knew this wasnít something I wanted to do forever.† As soon as I finished my degree, I was given this opportunity to start working seven days a week! And the busy life I had had before continued.†

It is funny how time goes by; when I first took over this business, I did not think I would last this long. What is it that I do, you may ask? I have been in the business of selling Termus for the better part of three years. For the people who live in the UK, my suQ is called an Off License (the rest of you would call it a liquor store). It is an experience to have a shop and run it seven days a week -- you might say I go home just to sleep.

Sometimes selling meTeT for profit is good; sometimes it is a risky business -- but it always keeps me on edge. I have to keep my guard up every time a customer walks in the shop. My location is at the corner of a street adjacent to a busy high street. Unfortunately for me, there are at least three other, similar shops around me. So you can imagine the competition I am facing. I have a unique selling point but, as any business man/woman would say, I have no intention of telling you what that is Ė letís just say I survive. [Editors: ere, endew, afer sinihonÖnigeren!]

Over the years, I have come to know the local people; sometimes more that I would like to. Most of my customers have a tendency to divulge information about their day-to-day life. You might think that it is normal, but it isnít in London, as people who live here know. When I came to the States for a visit, I was amazed at how people tell all their business to a total stranger. Over here it is totally different; an English person would not talk to you, let alone tell you about him or herself. But somehow, due to the nature of my business, they talk to me.

The problem is that, as time goes by, I have information about the lives of most of my customers. I know who they are married to, who their mistresses are (if they have them), what they like and what they donít like, and lots of other things. Over time, customers would trust me (who wouldnít J ), and tell me when they have problems with their other halves. As if I have the solution! Well, actually I do: ALCOHOL.

I would like to think that Iíve acquired the skill of dealing with people. I am on friendly terms with the lebas as well as with others. The lebas come to the shop hoping to sell me something and, tekerakirť, I get my way. Donít get me wrong Ė itís not that I like what they do, but if I donít help out my local leba, then next time he/she will come to my store and tries to steal something. Now, the lebas stay away and never bother my store. Itís like having an understanding -- I even gain a local bodyguard since they help me out if I have any trouble in the shop.

There are difficult aspects of the job, too. I have one observation that I made based on my experience as a bale-suQ. What I am about to say may not be true in other places, but it is certainly true here. I am troubled by my own peopleÖI mean, I don't understand the attitude of black people here. Bear in mind that I am not suggesting all black people everywhere(in the States where, maybe, black people support one another, this may not be the case), but over here I see a lot of anger and rude behavior aimed at me. Wanting to know why, I made it a point to go to other shops and see how people behave, and I was amazed to see that, when a black person is behind the counter, most black customers behaved rudely. Here is an typical example from my own shop: a black man walks in, goes to the cooler and takes out a can, slams the door shut, comes to the counter and throws down the money, gives me a dirty look and even goes so far as to cuss me out. This occurs two to three times a week. Thankfully, so far I have not had to fight with anyone (knock on wood). But I find this very peculiar and puzzling. Why should I have a problem with blacks when I seldom have problems with the other races?

I feel that, maybe for them, seeing me behind the counter somehow makes them very angry. One person even went so far as to say, "We taught you everything!" -- I have no idea what he meant. It is like when they see another black person owning a business, they do not want to support you; on the contrary, they want to destroy you. I have had very few incidents with other races. Somehow it is my own people that tend to trouble me. Go figure.

On a final note, each day I wake up and think about what the day will hold for me. When you are dealing with the public, you always have to expect the unexpected. The best part of this job is the freedom and the flexibility that it gives me to do what I want.† If I ever pack it up, that is what I will miss the most.

So thatís it. I have shared this experience from my standpoint -- speaking to you live from my corner suQ in London. One final piece of advice: Always remember -- KEEP SMILING.

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