Sunday, May 10, 2009

Love at first sight

Business Times p.B1
Saturday, May 09, 2009

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Love at first sight

I've always reminded my family and friends that we do not fall in love with things or ideas. We only fall in love with people. We like things and ideas.But when I set foot on Jasmyn Plaas Produkte in Hartbeespoort, Gauteng, South Africa, I knew it was love at first sight. They sell fresh produce, dried fruits, juices, dairy products (such a line up of cheeses!), dried meat (biltong), books and curios. Plus an art deco coffee shop. It was Europe in South Africa.

I've not seen a specialty store so specially organized and appealing to all the senses—touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. The food goods were not just bunched in kind but they used different containers and they were arranged in such a way that it became very tempting to eat them right there. There were not the usual supermarket shelves; there were all sorts of shelves of different sizes and forms. It is like being in Disneyland. It was homey, but at the same time business. It felt spacious because of the wide alleys so even if there were a number of shoppers, you maintain your own space and pace.

The curio area contained many home and work thingamajigs, all country-inspired and made of different materials by craftsmen in different parts of South Africa. I did not notice anything made in China.

The day before, I bought a beautiful set of native-looking candle-holders at Edgar's in Menlyn Plaza, Pretoria. To my chagrin, when I inspected it closely back in my hotel, it was made in China. Arghhhhh!

The bookstore was dream-like, displaying a wide variety of books by European and South African authors. As they say in Afrikaans: "Lackerrrrrrrr!" (Read: Fantastic!).

If not for the limited (20 Kg) checked baggage allowance in South African Airways, I could have maxed my resources and bought half of the store. Hahahahahahaha!

Thanks to a newfound friend, Annie Coetzee, who is a best-selling author, an engaging speaker and expert on emotional intelligence. We spent one whole day driving around the Harties Dam area surrounded by an awe-inspiring view of untouched wilderness. It is about 30 kilometers from Pretoria, SA's capital, yet it felt and looked so bucolic with its wide roads, few cars (I am so used to the bumper-to-bumper situation in Manila, anything less is few.) and country-styled houses and other structures. Even the dam looked ornate. South Africans have a great respect for nature and tradition.

Tan Malie is another coffee shop and food store that brings you to centuries past with its rustic architecture, antique decors (including the restrooms), and warm service. Even Sonia's Garden in Tagaytay doesn't come close to its simple splendor.

Our last stop was Chameleon Cultural Village, 200-plus shops selling native crafts, trinkets, decors, costume jewelry and many others. Annie said she would do the negotiating for me because I am a tourist and she speaks Afrikaans, She was so surprised at the price I paid for my purchases. She doesn't know that Filipinos are used to haggling and negotiating. (Hehehehe) And I have previously been to Rosebank, a flea market selling the same products, in the heart of Pretoria so I have an idea how much things cost after much haggling and pa-charming. Also I find the gift shop atop the Table Mountains in Cape Town as having the best low prices without haggling. Again, at the back of my mind was the baggage limitation on the airplane ride back to Johannesburg, so I only bought refrigerator magnets there.

We ended up with the love of Annie's life, Louie, in Dros Restaurant and Wine Cellar having pizza dinner and red wine while exchanging business notes and chatting on Facebook and Twitter and doing emails. Have laptop and wifi, can multitask.

Those of you who wish to see what I am writing about can e-mail me and I will send you pictures that I took.

If I were in the tourism and retail business, I would go to South Africa to benchmark the 7 Ps of marketing—product, price, people, place, process, physical evidence and promotion. The one area we are up is the price, but at the rate our businessmen are upping their prices for every conceivable (but not real) reasons, our prices will be at par with SA's.

Moje is back in Manila and longing to go back to South Africa. Get in touch with her at and

No comments: