By Romanus Ugwu
Fruits are abundantly available in every part of Abuja, be it in the City Centre or the suburbs, that is a fact. Along the streets, by the roadside, in the markets, in barrows, trucks, cars, on shelves, just everywhere, they don’t actually come in short supply and they are in hot demand.
Fruits are so visible that some parts of Abuja are now easily identified as fruit markets. Although fruit dealers in Abuja cut across ethnic barriers and colorations, the trade, however, seems to be dominated by northerners.
There are intricacies and tricks involved in selling fruits to make it lucrative. For the dealers, it is a case of learning and understanding the tricks of how to make gain, distribute the liabilities or bear the brunt alone in ignorance.
In deciding how to manoeuvre the customers to reduce liabilities, dealers, especially those in the “survival class,” are haunted by the challenges of time and demand, which determine the longevity of the perishable goods.
Some of the tricks, according to the dealers, include the ability to categorise customers and pin them down to a certain status. It is practically impossible for a car owner, for example, to buy fruits at the same price as other beggarly buyers. The traders even go deeper to profile the class of car.
Customers who are not be patient and alert enough to watch the dealers process the fruit before taking away their orders usually regret their ‘arrogance,’ especially for fruits like watermelon, pineapple, oranges and mangoes.
There are price variations for every class of buyer, just as there are price variations for the fruits in their healthy or unhealthy states. Anyone who wants the best must be ready to pay more.
Even without a formal resolution, the dealers seem to be in agreement that the losses incurred through spoilt fruits must be shared or passed to the consumers. And part of their antics is to package the good and bad friuts and force them on the buyers through clinical sleight of hand.
A fruit seller at Kuje Forest, Musa, told Daily Sun that they would have closed shop long ago if they took on the liabilities alone, emphasizing that they usually sold the good fruits so expensive that it cancels the losses from the damaged ones: “Oga, to sell fruit, you have to use sense. If we don’t, customers won’t see us, if they come back tomorrow.
“Many of us have left this fruit business and joined other things because the losses took the money invested in the business. Selling fruits is not a business for everybody. You must understand how to survive in it before you make any gain from the business.”
Another fruit seller near the University of Abuja (UNIABUJA), Abuja, along Airport Road, Ibrahim, said: “Fruit business is capable of enriching or impoverishing the dealers, especially those without deep knowledge of the intricacies involved in the business.
“Selling fruits like pineapple and watermelon along this expressway comes with mixed fortunes. You have to understand the state of the fruits at all times. If we tap a watermelon, we can understand whether it is still healthy or not.
“Understanding the state usually will help us to know when we can sell. The good thing for us is that only very few buyers will insist we open the fruit because many of them usually stay inside their cars to bargain the price and tell us to park them inside the bag.
“Knowing the state of the fruit will help us know how to sell, who to sell and when to sell, to avoid them perishing in our hands. The bad thing about the business is that, no matter how healthy we buy the fruits, if they are not disposed fast enough, we will incur heavy losses.
“The major determinant of how we sell the fruits is to know their inner state. If they are no longer good inside, especially watermelon, we will use the size to sell them and pray that the buyer will not insist on our slicing them open.
“Regardless of the trick we use, the surest bet for us is to sell and recoup our money when the fruits are still fresh and healthy, and then sell the others at giveaway prices, so that we will not bear the losses alone.”
It is the same antics for mango sellers. They combine good and the bad friuts in one basket. Mary, a middle-aged mango seller in Kuje, said: “Oga, if I allow you to select the good ones alone, who will buy the other rejected ones? I bought them in bags at a very expensive price and if I open and remove the ones you rejected, how will I recover my money?
“As I usually tell customers, we bought this product both good and bad in bags and sell them in baskets or paint buckets. Anyone who is not ready to buy it like that can go.”
A buyer, Iyke, said: “Do you know that, sometimes, when you insist on even seeing the inside, for example, watermelon, there is a way they will tap it and open the good side for the buyer, leaving you to lick your wounds when you open the fruit completely at home?
“Forget it, they understand the antics of the business and, no matter how wise you may be, they will still cheat you. The only solution is to be ready to pay higher, if you want to buy the best of the best or to have a steady customer ready to tell you the truth.”