The Worst Thing I Eve Did For Money
Back in college, one of the ways we used to make money was attend Focus Group Discussions of various products in the markets that marketers were keen to get feedback from the market.
Now each product in the market has a target audience. Most of the FGDs, wanted working class people between 28-45. Now those carrying out the surveys had difficulty getting people in that bracket.
There is no way you are going to get a busy 35-year-old man middle-level manager to attend two-hour session to discuss an aftershave. He has better things to do, like the new employee with an ass to kill for busy ignoring him like he did not buy a Mercedes C200 last week.
In the place of busy men in the offices, they used to come for university kids and we will pose as working class, even though our cheap dressing, cheap shoes and dry lips betrayed us. I remembered, one day my friends (I won’t mention their names, they are now happily married and serving the GOK), went for a whiskey testing and comparison FGDs), and they drunk so much and got high as kites on the job, they were kicked out and missed out on their Sh 500 compensation.
The drill was simple. The recruiter will call a contact in campus, who will recruit us, based on age, height, body fat and such. The idea was for us to look as old as possible and a clever mixture of fat, tall and short people could help deceive the panel (mostly women) conducting the FGDs. Often we would end up in a room and you are asked your age, and you say “32” with a straight face, but you look every 23 years of your time on earth, immature, shy, and unsure of anything. But the women knew they were playing a game, fleecing companies and to compensate a 30-year old for their time was going to be costly, so we both knew we were bullshitting. Bullshit is the fuels that runs this town.
So, we would be told, “Leo, ni hii whisky tunaongelea, read about it, and have some knowledge about it.” And we would go online and try read anything, call anyone we thought knew anything about whiskey. And show up ready for the job.
Now, the worst one I ever attended was one about Vaseline Lotion for men. When I was called, I was excited for the Sh 500 I was going to be given. It was immediately after campus, and I was so broke that church mice used me for comparison for brokenness. I was in that phase after campus you eat once every two days and you are adjusting the silly hopes of “I can’t take a job of less than 100,000”. We were in that acceptance stage, where even a Sh 20,000 jo was welcome.
So, I show up at the 5-star hotel, ready for the interview. Our time came, we are ushered into a room. About 7 men in their 20s and an odd two of them in their 30s. And interviewing us were two women in their better side of 30s. You know those confident, playful, at times serious women…
I looked around and the realization of seven men talking about the merits of Vaseline Lotion hit me so hard, I nearly collapsed with laughter. The Walanguzi song, “Mi napenda Vaseline” started playing in my mind. At the time, Kenyans on Twitter was on fire, with young men cracking nasty jokes daily. One of the common theme then was masturbation.
Now, I sat in that room, doing everything not to laugh, but boy, it was the toughest thing. Every time a man started how smooth, how blab la bla the lotion was, I could only remember the jokes.
Funny, as a man I hold that men should never use jelly or lotion. I think men should only shower once weekly. But there I was talking about the lotion like I had ever bought one.
There was this guy. Probably a Luo or one of those flamboyant Luhyia. He was dark, handsome, with white eyes, and his hair was shiny and dark. He spoke with an admirable (to women mostly) British accent, and I saw how the women were looking at him when he spoke. Even so, there was something queer about him, he was probably gay.
“I like the cool, luxuriating and smooth feel of the lotion on the skin. I tend to gravitate towards Vaseline than nivea,” I would hold forth the laughter. He used the word gravitate so repeatedly, so annoyingly but in that group he seemed to be the only one who used the lotion or had done his assignment.
Afterwards we talked. He was a cool card. He told me he lives in Britain, is a novelist, or something abstract, but I wondered his profile, didn’t match the need for Sh 500.
Been there. Done it. I have the T-shirt.
By Silas Nyanchwani