As the unemployment rate across our country continues to rise, the number of hustlers on our streets is noticeably higher. An example of this is the appearance of male youths in the Central Business District (CBD) offering shoe dyeing services. Innovative as this may seem at first sight, there are a lot of problems that come along with this “innovation”. One can quickly tell that these shoe dyers are not professionals from their choice of location.
There is no prize for guessing that the dyes these youths use on customers’ shoes are not good quality. Some customers have complained that the dye washes off easily when the shoes get wet. The service is not inexpensive for the majority citizens who earn below the Poverty Datum Line (PDL), costing around $10, usually squeezed out of an unconvinced customer.
These shoe dyers coerce potential customers by applying a bit of dye on one shoe to show the wonders the dye can do. This makes it impossible for the customer to walk away as their shoes look uneven so acquiring their service becomes an obligation.
While negotiations start off at a mere 50 cents or $1 as one shoe is being dyed, surprisingly the figure miraculously escalates to $10 or even more. Obviously they have figured out that once one shoe is done the customer is not likely to leave. While some of customers with thick skins resist the intimidation, some give in to save themselves the embarrassment of causing a scene in public.
One of our own, Harare News journalist Stephen Tsoroti, fell prey to these shoe dyers recently. “They enticed me by trying to demonstrate that they provide a good service, hoping that I would come back with another pair of shoes. Surprisingly they started demanding $12 after finishing my second shoe. When I told them I was going to report them to the police they then reconsidered and demanded $2 for the dye they had used. We finally ended up at $1 but many people would give in to their intimidation and pay the full amount. They ruined my shoes. I had to wash my shoes as they had used a shade of the dye that I didn’t like. That pair has never been the same. Their business ethics are disgraceful,” said Tsoroti.
Enoch Gwatiringa (not his real name), a shoe dyer in the CBD said, “Shoe dyeing in the streets is not a career of choice. We do anything we can to survive; we even wash cars just to make ends meet. Some people may not agree with the way we operate but it’s a matter of surviving.”
A local vendor who trades near the shoe dyers said, “I have seen their approach to customers and it’s not a good one if you ask me. Business is all about treating the customer well with the hope of the customers returning. Sadly that does not apply to their way of doing business.”