When Kids go Shopping... Alone!

Having a neighborhood stationery store means that more than 50% of your customers will be kids. School-going kids. Sometimes even just 4-year-olds. Shopping alone. Without any adults.

The arrangement comes with its own peculiar nuances and moments that tickle your funny bone.

For instance, the time when this 7-year-old kid unclenched his fist and produced a thousand rupee note. I was like - "Woah! How DO parents give a thousand rupee note to a less-than-three-feet-tall creature, who isn't even able to calculate the amount of change due to him?" And after he was done shopping, he started walking out of my shop with his purchases in one hand and the change (worth over 900 bucks, including coins) in the other. Such a lot of change in such a tiny hand! Ufff! Scary! I had to stop him and make him shove all the money into his pockets first.

Then there was this 3-year-old. He's been a visitor to my shop since I opened it, i.e. when he was still a thumb-sucking baby. He usually comes with his elder sister and mom or grandfather. While his sister does the shopping, he simply asks my Dad for a balloon (by pointing his chubby finger at the jar that contains balloons), and then busies himself with blowing it. The other day, he walked in by himself. (His grandpa was buying something from another shop in the market.) He is so short, I didn't even see him enter the shop. Nearly jumped out of my skin when he came and stood beside my table and said "balloon lena hai"! He then proudly placed a 5-rupee-coin on the counter, took one balloon, and started running out with a big grin on his face. Five rupees for one small balloon! So I called him back and tried to explain to him that he'll get 4 more balloons for that money. I don't think he understood that though, he was already too busy blowing the first one! Eventually, I just stuffed 4 more balloons inside his pockets and his grin just grew wider with happiness!

There are also those kids who spend almost all their pocket-money on stationery. (My favorites... naturally!) Sometimes they come with 100 rupees, sometimes with 500, and they have to spend it all. No taking back any change. And naturally, their shopping cart always exceeds the amount of cash they have. Then I'm supposed to do the math for them... help them remove items they can't afford that day!

Then there are all the "puzzles" that we've had to solve in the last 2.5 years.

For example, a "rule" is not a "ruler" here, but a "pencil". And "drawing" can mean any of the following:

  1. drawing notebook
  2. drawing sheets
  3. coloring book
  4. colors
  5. drawing box (pencil box)
  6. and once it even meant the photocopy of a drawing from one of the coloring books in my shop!

Once, there was this kid who wanted pins for "the machine used for covering notebooks". Dad and I were stumped. They'd invented a machine for covering notebooks! Wow! In our days, we had to do it all by hand! Turned out that he just wanted a box of stapler pins after all. And please don't ask me how we figured that one out finally!

Pins are, anyway, quite puzzling. There are stapler pins of course, but then there are also drawing pins, safety pins, gem clips and three different varieties of push pins. Kids usually just ask for "pins". After that, we play "20 questions".

We play "20 questions" a lot actually.

But some kids are smart.

Like the one who came in the morning today. He's probably 5 years old. Doesn't speak very clearly. Today, he asked for what sounded like "two apple waali copies". Dad asked him - "English copy?" He said no. I asked him - "four-line copy". He again said no. I asked him to come closer and repeat what he wanted. It still sounded like "apple waali copies". Eventually, he just walked around the counter, to the shelf with the school notebooks, and found it himself. English notebooks. "A for apple". Get it?

I know! And people think running a shop is easy!

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Deliciously Alive said...

This was so much fun to read! I was smiling through each experience you had!:)
It's fun dealing with kids na?:)

Shailaja Vishwanath said...

He he, this made me smile! I can't imagine the fun you must be having with all those cuties traipsing in and out of the store :)

Machine that covers notebooks sounds amazing! Let me know when it's ready. Will be first in line to buy! (Sigh just staple pins?) Never mind then.

Mithila Menezes said...

It's really crazy how kids can be so naive when it comes to money matters. I wonder how and when they finally grow up and understand the value of money and the greater value of requesting for change! :D
In the stationery shop I visit, there are a lot of toys available too. It's really funny to see the kids cajoling their parents to buy a doctor's set or some other toy. The amount of excuses they can come up with is obviously less than the puppy faces they can make! :D

tulika singh said...

Oh that was such a fascinating piece. I think I've told you earlier I completely envy you. I love stationery of all kinds and a shop is such a dream. All those fresh notebooks, bundles of handmade paper, chart paper, sketch pens.. Sigh! A dream. You have the best customers of all. 20 questions :-D.

Sid @ iwrotethose.com said...

Now, this is interesting. Since I don;t know many shop owners, don't usually get to hear their view points. I'm sure it's fun too, no? I mean, it's like solving a puzzle trying to figure out what the kids want.

Here's to more 'stationery' adventures.

Rajlakshmi said...

hahaha I found this so cute... oh kids you must have so many more stories to tell... wow a Rs 1000 note ... Imagine how much the parents trust you that they send kids directly to your shop without worrying about the change money :) I love the 20 questions part... hahaha your day is interesting.

Parul said...

Such a cute post. I loved it. Can I run your store for a day? Please? Pretty share more of these stories and who knows one day I will be in your city :)

Rekha Dhyani said...

This was so cute! You know you're in a perfect place in life. I read somewhere that if you have at least one small conversation with a random child a day, you'll never ever need an anti-depressant. :-) And do chart out the 20 questions to help us learn to handle and understand kids better.

Me Otherwise said...

Machine that covers books???? Now thats a first!!! Apple wali copy???? Kids are sooo innocent and cute... But did remind me of my child hood days when i used to hang around thees stores, oggling away at the colourful erasers and sharpners.

Chicky Kadambari said...

@Deliciously Alive: Thank you. It sure is fun dealing with kids.

Chicky Kadambari said...

Haah! Shailaja, you would have to be second in line, 'coz the first place is already booked by me! :P

Chicky Kadambari said...

Mithila, forget money, some of them don't even realize the worth of expensive phones and ipads! I have had to run out sooooo many times after kids who leave their phones and tabs behind!

Chicky Kadambari said...

Hahaha! I know, Tulika! You should come over to Jaipur some time! :D

Chicky Kadambari said...

Thanks Sid. Yeah... we rarely get to hear the shop owner's side ever.

Chicky Kadambari said...

Oh Raji! Soooo many more stories! Kids are so unpredictable! And yeah, the parents do seem to trust me a lot. It's actually quite disadvantageous for me 'coz then they send the kids alone. But bigger sales happen when parents accompany the kids.

Chicky Kadambari said...

Parul! Please come! I'd love to have you here! And the kids can try to pull your cheeks for one day... I don't mind at all! :D

Chicky Kadambari said...

Rekha, that is so true. Kids have a totally different perspective about life! Oh and those 20 questions differ from kid to kid, you know! :D

Chicky Kadambari said...

They totally are, Ramya! I used to bunk Physics classes in school and hang out at the school stationery store! :P

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