A universe of quandaries is opened up by the seller of a Samsung Claxy

A seller of fake smartphones in a mall car park prompts Soumik Mukherjee to face the quandary about how to respond.

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At some point in our lives, each of us will hit a crossroads when we need to make difficult choices, which we face boldly and decisively. But there are other times when we falter when faced with a seemingly simple choice of alternatives.

One reason for this could be that we take some matters lightly that actually might not be so light. Another could be that these situations evolve so quickly that we get baffled and the matter vanishes before we can make a decision. An incident last week made me aware of this.

It was about noon, and I was unloading a trolley at the car park near Mazayed Mall at MBZ City. It’s a place I visit almost every week, so my attention remains focused – I pick up the stuff I need from the shop and make a fast exit. But last week’s visit turned out to be different.

I was distracted by a man, who appeared to be in his mid-20s, dressed in a typical Pakistani attire. He was talking to another shopper at the car park in a language familiar to me. What struck me was his rude and intimidating tone. Not that I am unfamiliar with these type of people, but I haven’t come across many of them in Abu Dhabi in more than six years here.

Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to stand and watch while trying to remain inconspicuous. He took out a mobile phone from a box and bargained with the other man, who refused to pay him the quoted price of Dh900. The deal was settled at Dh150. His next customer was a commercial vehicle driver, who handed him a couple of Dh100 notes.

After these transactions, his attention turned to me. “You won’t get an S4 this cheap,” he told me in Urdu and gave me a sample.

I asked him whether they were stolen and why he was selling them the way he was doing. His only reply was that it was original.

I have an odd habit of talking to people I find suspicious, in a bid to understand how their mind works. So I continued with the conversation but his rude manner kept me from asking anything more than what was relevant at that point. I inquired how many S4s he was carrying. He opened the bag and showed me some Samsung phone boxes. I grabbed one of them and carefully read the words scribbled on it: “Samsung Claxy S4”. The spelling could easily have gone unnoticed, as it perhaps happened with those clients. The box looked quite similar to an original one.

I complimented him on his salesmanship but pointed out that they were fakes. He stayed calm and without spending more time went in search of other customers.

This is no big deal, but I wondered whether I should ignore him or alert the mall’s security.

The mind is a strange thing – I couldn’t do either and instead found myself caught in the cross-current of thoughts. I have seen fake goods sellers elsewhere in the country operating openly. More­over, what would happen to him if I handed him over to the police? I know these people are poor and are desperate for work. I know many of them are living here illegally, which means they cannot find stable means of income.

I also know that even many of those staying here legitimately can’t simply return to their home countries because their families back home rely on their income here. Was this man desperate or just a petty criminal? Whatever he was, I figured he would be caught sooner or later.

As I mulled these matters in my mind, a police patrol happened to arrive. With some hesitation I approached the policeman but before I could finish the first sentence, he interrupted and said in Arabic that he didn’t speak English. My Arabic is also limited, so I returned to my car helplessly. When I later discussed this incident with a neighbour, he wondered what made me dither. “You should have immediately informed the mall security,” he told me. Many would accuse me of ignorance or doubt my presence of mind. I wish I was as resolute and quick as them. Perhaps decision-making is a special skill, as corporate gurus would have us believe. Even if one is blessed with it, how do you ensure those resolutions are always right?