market which is ruled by the system of suki or 'preferential exchange' relationships.
Who’s Your Suki?
A Very Filipino Way Of Doing Business From The Bottom To The Top!
Whenever I go to the local market with the Asawa, I love to wander around the meat and fish section. I love the squalor and the flies and the noise and total lack of any lip service being paid to basic hygiene regulations. It is so Filipino! I have my Suki for meat and another for chicken and one I go to for fish and seafoods. The Asawa has her own for vegetables, fruit and dry goods, spread around the market. A suki, for the uninitiated, is a regular provider of whatever it is you are buying. I think to be technically correct, you as the customer are actually the suki, but in typically Filipino fashion the word is used in either direction and you call the store you go to regularly your suki! We have a suki for bottled water. Our first suki would always deliver in the morning when we were out, despite having been told numerous times we wouldn’t be there to take the gallons (those large bottles of water usually seen in the office back home but commonplace in every home here) until after noon. Their insistence we change our routine to match theirs plus the fact it took six weeks to get them to sell us a table top stand for the bottles meant I spat the dummy one day and found a new suki! They realized the error of their ways and tried to regain the business but the damage had been done! Changing your suki is not something you undertake lightly. The very fabric of commercial society here is built upon the relationship between buyer and seller. When you look at any row of Filipino market stalls or shops, you may notice how everybody in a row is selling exactly the same thing. The plastic bucket shops are all over there. The hardware stalls are all over there, the next row is all cloth and old clothes. Not only are all the stalls for one line of merchandise in a row, they all look identical. Every stall has the same goods displayed exactly the same way. As if there is a pattern laid down by law as to how to display those goods! Woe betide you if you do it any other way or set up amongst the wrong stalls. The prevailing wisdom appears to be that you increase your chances of making some money if you are where people will go to look for the range of goods you offer. If the hardware stores were to spread themselves around the town then maybe one of them would wither on the vine as few people might find them. By having all of the hardware stores in the one spot, then it is guaranteed that anyone who needs hardware MUST gothere. Brilliant! So why would they shop at this store instead of that one if they all offer the same goods in the same location? The only answer I have ever received for that question has always been the same; because you know the store owner, or are a friend or, they are your SUKI! Personal relationships are very important to Filipinos and without them your business is pretty well doomed to fail. Once you start buying regularly from one store and they take on Suki status then the suki will lose face if you are seen purchasing elsewhere in the same market. Other store owners will know your suki is someone else and they will usually refrain from hassling you. Poaching customers has been known to lead to arguments, fights and even stabbings! You should be able to expect a discount (walay hang yoo) from your suki. Of course over time the actual discount might decrease as both parties become comfortable with the relationship and outright price is no longer as important as the trust displayed and enjoyed between parties. This is a factor of Filipino business that many foreigners never grasp. They expect a good deal right from the beginning, yet what have they done to deserve that favouritism? Anywhere in Asia there is a similar attitude to time. Time being invested to really get to know each other and develop trust...