No Shoeshine Trickledown

I wonder how difficult it would be for rolling news channels to find anyone with kind words to say about FIFA President Sepp Blatter if they held a debate on the good the World Cup brings its host country? Given the media I’ve witnessed in S Africa none appear forthcoming there.

Even as kick-off approaches, the local population match excitement with resentment. Looking forward to the party for sure, but lamenting the absence of legacy. White elephant stadiums, untackled transport inadequacies, ignored infrastructure requirements and no dividend reaching the people whom need it most. It’s not pretty.

One place where this was pointed out to me was in Bloemfontein. A World Cup host city, potholes in the town centre streets remain and the new road to their small airfield is unfinished yet the airport itself is nicely rebuilt, albeit without public transport links to the city or even a proper taxi rank.

In the departure room, there’s a shoeshine service. I’ve been there a few times lately, normally with a Second Avenue induced sluggishness and on one memorable occasion a crazy Wild Boar hangover from Langenhoven Park. I’ve never seen the shoeshine service utilised.

On my final visit, I was buried in my laptop trying to simultaneously type and join my closing flight’s queue, when I realised the young shoeshine man was talking to me. He was touting for business. He simply stated that he was a shoeshiner and asked whether I’d like my footwear polished.

Why was he there? Was it all part of drive to yield World Cup benefits? Was it simply a typical SA airport service? How did he make his money?

It seemed like such a missed opportunity. Especially as he’d taken the step already to actively approach potential customers.

The marketing and sales pincers of a shoeshiner attack must be well documented. From offering the comfy chair in an otherwise seat-less environment, a paper to read, even a shot of coffee to sales tactics such as pitching against oneself doing the job, the distance since last attention and the improved stature gained from the professionally completed job, a smile and a nudge go a long way.

Although a vital step in the right direction, one often not taken, it’s not enough just to approach. You’ve got to know what to say once there.

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