My wife and I were staying at an “all-inclusive” resort in Jamaica. We had to wear pink wristbands to prove we were all-inclusive, which meant that our meals and some other things were prepaid. It also meant that all of Jamaica would know we were tourists — and therefore most desirable customers.
In Jamaica, if you stepped over the physical boundaries of a resort, then you were considered fair game for any street vendor, hustler, fortune teller, or whomever wanted to sell you stuff. We discovered that this was true even on the beach.
One evening we stepped across the resort beach boundary. Suddenly there appeared a tall guy claiming to be Captain Marley, owner of a charter boat. He smelled of alcohol and pot. “Captain Marley” offered to take us out on his boat. When we told him we weren’t interested, he offered to sell us some “ganja.” We quickly stepped back onto the hotel’s beach to get away from the guy.
But, I got tired of only walking within the resort. I decided to pretend to be a native (despite my pink wristband) and walk into town. So off I went, striding swiftly and surely as if I knew exactly where I was going. I was a man on a mission. I didn’t plan to stop until I got into town.
No one accosted me until I got to a wide intersection, waiting to cross the busy street. A short, dark woman on the other side, started waving frantically to me, shouting something about coconuts. She came running toward me as if I was a movie star or even the Messiah himself! She had a big brown shopping bag. She got up close to me, reached into her bag and pulled out a carved coconut.
Speaking in her Jamaican patois, she said, “Man, you buy my coconuts?”
I politely declined.
“Man, they’re GOOD coconuts. Me carve them myself. Me Millicent. Everybody know me.”
“I don’t need any coconuts,” I told her.
“Man, they make GOOD gifts. Give one to your lady. Give one to your mistress.”
“Thanks,” I said, “but I need to go now.”
She looked me in the eye and said, “Man, it’s how I make me LIVIN’.”
I realized that Millicent was not going to give up. So, I asked, “How much is one coconut?”
She looked me up and down, paying close attention to my pink all-inclusive wristband.
“Fifteen dollar!… (She saw my frown.) But, I like you. I give you discount… For you, Ten dollar!”
Wanting to finally leave Millicent, and get into town, I pulled out my wallet and gave her a ten dollar bill. (Street vendors and cab drivers only wanted U.S. currency.)
“Thank you, man, you’ll not regret it. You want more coconuts, just ask for Millicent. EVERYBODY know me.”
Turns out she was right about the coconut. I didn’t regret it. Her coconut had a good size opening, big enough for birds. When I got home to the States, I hung up the coconut outside our front door as a bird feeder. It worked great for a while, until a family of squirrels decided to eat it.
I guess I should have bought two… maybe even three.
Years later I’ve thought about Millicent’s sales savvy. Why did I buy that coconut? Well, yes, to get rid of her. But, I’ve turned away all kinds of street vendors. Millicent, however, had intention. She was going to sell me one or more coconuts for sure. No doubt about it.
She knew her carved coconuts were the best. Nobody could carve a coconut like Millicent. She gave me reasons why I would want her coconuts. Then, she saw my all-inclusive wristband and knew I probably had some spare cash. When I was not going to buy one, she resorted to “But man, it’s how I make me livin’.”
How could I say “No”?