It's Come to This



September 6, 2002

It's Come to This...

I'm ashamed to tell you this story, but I'm going to anyway. I'm embarrassed to say it's come to this.

In this country, every store sells things at the same price (they carry the same merchandise too - drives the business side of me crazy!). Coke is 300 cfa, toilet paper 250 cfa, detergent 200 cfa, yogurt 250 cfa, tea bags 30 cfa, eggs 50 cfa, etc, etc. (One dollar is about 650 cfa.)

No matter what you buy, you know the price you're going to pay. When there's a price increase, every store raises to the same price on the same day. (A lot like gasoline prices in Toledo on Thursday afternoons.)

So outside the bakery today I saw a young woman selling eggs. I told her I wanted six. She packaged them. I gave her 300 cfa. She said "They're 60 cfa each." What? I said. They're 50 cfa at the boutique. "Then go to the boutique," she said. I walked away. I was surprised she didn't call me back. She knows the price is 50 cfa. I know the price is 50 cfa. We both also know that she's not going to sell six eggs to anyone else all night; Africans are going to buy them one at a time.

I was walking with a friend at the time and asked her why the eggs were 60 cfa. I knew my friend would tell me if the girl had been charging me the "white price."

My friend explained, "She's a high school girl, and she buys eggs and resells them. She charges a little more because she's paying her own way through high school and she needs to make a good profit."

Now that I'm home and have had a chance to reflect, I'm mad at myself. How many times have I paid 3 dollars for a tiny box of Girl Scout cookies, or a dollar for a candy bar to help send kids on a school trip? And today I refused to pay an extra penny and a half per egg to help a girl go to high school. Not to go on a class trip, but to attend class period.

I'm afraid that's what living in this culture has done to me.  I am so used to being charged the "white price," to having people assume I am rich (see the water deposit posting), to having people ask me for money that I've gotten stingy. I've lost sight of the things I want to reward and support.

Guess where I'm buying my eggs next time.