Poverty comes at a high price
ONE Marlboro Beyond Red cigarette will cost you R2.50 at one of the superettes in Salt River. A pack of 20 will set you back R35. So you’ll pay R50 for a pack if you buy them one at a time – that’s an extra R15 for 20.
“We sell loose items because some of our customers can’t afford to by a pack of cigarettes or 18 rolls of toilet paper,” said the middle aged shopkeeper with a black headscarf.
Some customers are able to buy in bulk at the end of the month, while others buy as the money comes in. Not everyone earns a monthly salary. Some earn weekly or even daily wages. They are thankful that these local entrepreneurs are aware of their needs and cater for them, albeit at a cost.
One Belux toilet roll costs R3.50, a Soft Feather R4 and a Twinsaver R5.50. “We charge a little extra when selling singles. It’s a give and take situation,” the shopkeeper said with an almost apologetic smile, before she helped the next customer.
It’s nothing personal, it’s business. But what if businesses and services are structured in a way that keeps the poor impoverished and perpetuates systems and practices that disadvantage those who, each day, have just enough to survive.
The shop is well stocked and busy. The shelves in the narrow aisles are stacked with a wide variety of goods, everything from canned food to fresh fruit and vegetables, making the compact shop feel even more tightly packed than it is.
A woman wearing an oversized, blue DA T-shirt doesn’t have R16 to buy a six-pack of Price’s Candles. She puts a R10 note on the counter and leaves with three of the fluted
Though the lounge suite was more want than need, Ouma bought it on credit
white candles and R1 change. When she buys three more, she would have spent R18 on six candles. Poverty comes at a price and it isn’t cheap.
My late paternal grandmother, Ann Helena Magdalena Barends, knew how to save. A slab of chocolate would last her a month: say. However, when she ran out of milk, eggs or sugar I’d be sent to our neighbour, Mrs Bruintjies, to borrow some essentials till the end of the week.
There was also the time Ouma replaced her ugly, old, orange lounge suite with a brand new green one.