When Kids go Shopping... Alone!

When Kids go Shopping... Alone!

The best part of my retail experience has, no doubt, been my interactions with all the kids in the neighborhood. Kids of all sizes. They used to treat my shop like their home sometimes. They'd share about their school teachers, about the latest jokes they'd heard, about their favorite Marvel super-heroes, about how they'd scraped their knee or the elbow, their skating escapades or first-time-bicycle-riding adventures. They would discuss ideas for their art and craft projects, and even writing assignments! They would stand there grinning like they'd won an award, if I scolded them for something, AND they would happily scold me too if I was even a minute late in opening the store after lunch break! 😄

Gosh! I've got so many stories about my shop kids. I shared some in September 2016, on my old blog. Republishing it below...

. . .

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 they are accompanied by either their mom or their 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, while 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 suddenly "appeared" 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 he ran out with an even bigger grin! 😁

There are also those kids who spend almost all of their pocket-money on stationery. (They're 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 prioritise their shopping list and remove items they can't afford that day, in a way that they don't have to carry any change back! (THAT is totally non-negotiable, as I said.)

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! 😳


One time, 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 staples of course, and 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.

And what happens when even that doesn't work?

Well, these kids are smart. They know what they want, and they know how to get it...

For instance, 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. Four-line English notebooks. ("A for apple". Get it?)

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

. . .

LOL! Definitely NOT easy... nope, your 9 to 5 job would be better suited for that... or even one with rotating shifts, AND involving the "graveyard shift" too! (And I can say that for a fact, because I've had a taste of both!)

No, running a neighborhood retail store is a whole different ball-game altogether, but it does give you a steep learning curve. I shared some of the lessons I learnt, soon after I started this business, and then I revisited the list three years later, and updated it. You can check out that post here - 10 Lessons I Learnt From Starting My Own Business.

Here's more in MyDiary...

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