For August, Entrepreneur.com.ph is featuring Divisoria, one of the city of Manila’s most popular destinations and recognizable landmarks. For many, “Divi” is the marketplace for everything from food to electronics, all at bargain prices. For resourceful and money-savvy entrepreneurs, it’s a suppliers’ haven.
There’s intelligence that you can get from books and institutions, and then there are smarts that you can learn only from being schooled in the streets. Whether you’re buying supplies or just
on the road for your business, here are some tips to help you navigate Divisoria and other public marketplaces.
Be alert at all times.
The idea is to be constantly conscious of everything: your bag hanging around your shoulder, the guy who just brushed your side seemingly in a hurry, the store with a lot of people (there may be a sale), or even the time. If you know what’s happening, there will be very little time for you to panic if
something does go wrong, and more time for you to properly react.
Keep loose change and small bills.
Put these in a separate pouch or pocket so you won’t need to open your bag or have an occasion to show your wallet in public. Keep the bills folded separately and in order of denomination (20s, 50s, 100s) so when you make a purchase, you can finish the transaction as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Keep your cell phones and other gadgets hidden (or don’t bring them at all).
If you do have to check your phone for messages or make and important call, do it in an area where there is little to no space behind or beside you for people to suddenly sneak up and snatch your phone. Go inside a restaurant or the lobby of a building. Never do so while walking or in the middle of a
Haggle, haggle, haggle.
Don’t bite at the first offer. Vendors expect you to haggle, so go do it. If they ask for P500, it’s always safe to begin haggling by cutting the price by about half then slowly move up until both of you can agree on a final price. It’s a skill that’s as important as learning to brush your teeth and tie your laces.
Collect and select.
Competition is tight—and that’s good for you. There are so many vendors out there so don’t buy something you want at the first stall you see. Make a mental note of the price first offered to you as well as the location of the stall and move on. Scout the prices of other stalls and come back to the one that offered you the best deal.
Leave the car at home (or at least at a secure parking area).
Less is more.
’Twas a wise man who said “brevity is the soul of wit.” And that not only applies to speaking and writing. In public marketplaces, bringing less has a lot of advantages: less baggage, gives you more freedom to move; no jewelry, less temptation for petty thieves; and less things to hold on to means there are more things you can actually buy. Smart guy, that Shakespeare.
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
It’s a war zone out there so dress like it. Wear a comfortable breathable top, jeans that can take a whole day of walking and mud, and walking shoes that can take hours of trekking through narrow alleys and tight crowds. Your feet will thank you later.
Prepare to rough it.
Accept that for the time being, you will not have your usual creature comforts. The streets will be narrow and muddy, the people will be pushy and sweaty, the weather will be humid and sticky, and by the end of the day your feet will feel like you just ran a marathon. There’s a reason public marketplaces are popular, and it’s not because they’re a walk in the park.
This article was originally published in the August 2010 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines.