Interview with Lluís Ràfols, from Ràfols Fruits

"Starting at the bottom has helped me learn the trade"

At age 24, Lluís is one of the youngest dealers at the Market. Having started helping in the family business his father runs during the summer, he has now been a dealer for one year. He hopes to eventually run the company.

Q- What's a hotel management student doing working in the Market?
A- When I was 17 and studying hotel management, I used to come here during the summer to give them a hand in the company. And since I liked this business and atmosphere, when I finished my studies, I stayed on.

Q- And where did you begin?
A- As an assistant on the stall. It suited me fine because I arrived here without having much idea about either how the business worked or the merchandise. Starting at the bottom enabled me to get to know the products, how they ripen, their places of origin, and so on.

Q- How did you go from being an assistant to a dealer?
A- It wasn't something automatic. When I was an assistant I took advantage of the time my aunt went to eat – she was in charge of the stall in warehouse B – to look after the customers myself. I didn't know the prices or how to do it, so I only took the orders. But that experience helped me learn and gain confidence.

Q- And when did you start to go it alone?
A- A year ago. My father suggested promoting me in the company, making me one of the dealers on the stalls we have in warehouse G. I accepted the challenge.

Q- And how was the first day?
A- It was fairly tough. Here if you're not 100% with it, they quickly trick you. And I paid for my lack of experience. I had to sell some strawberries and when I had to tell the customer the price, I was a bit hesitant. The buyer took advantage of my indecision and when he came to pay he shouted at me saying that this wasn't the price that I'd said at first.

Q- I suppose you're better at it now?
A- My dad says so! (He laughs.) Selling is harder than it looks. You have to understand the psychology of the customer. And, above all, you have to know what your customers like. I mean, for example, things such as the neighbourhood where they have their greengrocer's, their type of purchasing customer, what products they need, and so on. Knowing all this gives you a clue on what products you can sell them and what you can’t.

Q- It's quite an art...
A- Yes, it is. And what's more, lots of customers come to buy from you with a list. They say, "I want this and that." Once they've finished, that's where you have to come in and try and make a sale and say to them, “Look, I've got these apples at a good price,” or “Take these peaches that are top quality...” That's what's really difficult!

Q- Have you built up a regular clientele over this year?
A- Yes. I have around twenty regular customers who come every day, and a large number of them are immigrants.

Q- What are immigrant customers like?
A- As customers it's quite difficult for them to understand the dynamics of the Market. For example, why one product has a low price one day and the next day it goes up. You can tell them it's because there's too great an offer or because the quality of the product is higher or lower… But they don't really understand. This makes them very suspicious and you have to know how to gain their trust.

Q- Have you done any sort of training to have more tools at hand and continue progressing within the company?
A- When I started working in the company I did some of the courses that Mercabarna's Training Area offers, such as the one on forklift-driving and hygiene for food handlers. But I really appreciate that if I want to get on and go further than selling on the stall I'll have to prepare myself and study. Now I'm improving my English.

Q- How do you see yourself in the future within the Market?
A- I see that there are good prospects here, so my aspiration is to become – someday – the company manager. However, I'm still young and I’ve got plenty of things to learn.