Dos and Don’ts When Street Shopping

by Monicah Wangari
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Girls love shopping, I love shopping.

In fact it’s therapeutic.


Me and Shopping

I remember last year when I’d go home stressed after a long day, I’d pass by a second hand items mini mall where I’d window shop for clothes or bags. Sometimes I’d find something and purchase, other times, I’d exit not having found any. But I’d definitely leave the place more relaxed.

Shopping including window shopping is a beautiful distraction. There’s a high one gets from imagining they owned something or the mere imagination of how one would use the item.

They say original long lasting items are second hand/mtumba. Not the boutique outfits that you’ll see half of your town wearing.


I remember this time I went to gikomba, sometime after high school, I came back home with two huge green plastic bags(that’s before they were banned) and if you recall well, the green ones were the second largest size after the yellow ones. If I remember correctly, I had roughly Ksh. 3000 for shopping, see how life was much cheaper back then.

Everyone at home laughed at me and it became a story up to date. How I came back home carrying plastic bags full of mtumbaThose cloth items, none has survived to this day. I kinda bought really bad quality and they wore off eventually.


Fast forward, am not huge on shopping. I’ve sort of become really content with the items I own and more aware of what I like for my outfits. I do buy stuff once in a while when one really appeases me or what I own wears out.

I’ve come to love trousers way more than skirts (not unless the skirt is really fancy) so am majoring on buying more office wearable outfits. For me that’s khaki trousers.

So on Monday last week, I was in the mood for some shopping, my pockets too. I headed to Tom Mboya Street, Nairobi where hawkers display items on the street floors.

Let’s admit it, second hand clothes are cheap and of good quality, well, if you choose well. And who doesn’t want cheap but quality.

My Tom Mboya Street shopping escapade:

Got some khaki pants at a fair price. The hawkers usually have a tape measure since there’s no fitting room on the streets plus the county council can show up at any time and arrest them as hawking is illegal in Kenya.

I also bought two very beautiful pairs of shoes and two tops.

While shopping, the only items I tried on were shoes. For the pants, I used my neck to check the waist size and if they fit my neck, then they fit my waist. Another trick I learnt of checking if the pants fit is putting the pants waist area against the lower arm. If they match in length, then the pants will fit.

I got home and I was excited to try them on. The tops were a disappointment, I will have to look for a tinier friend to gift them to. The trousers were a bit too tight, not like I had imagined them. I kinda underestimate my size, in my head I think am tiny but in reality, am actually kinda thick. 


Dos and don’t while street shopping


Have a carrier bag.

Things in Kenya are not like they used to be back then – when sellers would pack our purchases in their own plastic bags. Because plastic bags were banned/are illegal due to the environmental harm they did. Today, we have to purchase carrier bags. Which are sold everywhere really. But if you are a lady, always carrying around a handbag, pack like two carrier bags for those impromptu purchases.


Take care of your belonging

The streets are cruel. You could be bending going through the whole stash of clothes with your bag on your back and someone might take advantage.


Negotiate price.

Street sellers are always willing to reduce say Ksh. 50. Also, when you buy in bulk, they are even more generous with their discounts since their goal is to sell as many as fast before the county council comes and arrests them.


Have loose change.

Again, the county council, who are usually not dressed in uniform can show up any time. A hawker will very easily flee with your Ksh. 1000  note in this cat and mouse game.


Inspect the outfits for torn areas or color.

In the rush to get a cool item and leave, we often miss some details of the outfits and go realise later at home. To avoid that, inspect the item to your satisfaction before paying for it.



Today, everything, literally everything is on the internet. So if you are wondering what to do with an outfit, check YouTube tutorials.



Don’t underestimate your size.

Better to overestimate than underestimate. Good thing about overestimating is you can always go to the tailor and have it fixed.


Don’t just buy.

Hawkers tend to have a sweet tongue, just like matatu touts. Their jobs are sales jobs. Tough sales jobs. So don’t believe when they say everything looks good on you, kwani who do you think you are, Rihanna?! They are there to sell so they will say anything really.


Don’t just follow them to a fitting space.

There’s this time I was looking for rugged jeans. While checking some out, a cousin of mine saw me, came to say hi and was like “come, let me show you a cheaper place”. We skipped through town and got there. At some point, I asked the hawker if there was a place I’d go try the outfits at. My cousin warned me that the chances of being robbed were high. So, when street buying, don’t follow the seller to some dungeon to try the outfit. Here we buy by faith that somehow the outfit will fit. But recently my friend Hannah told me that she’s ever been taken somewhere to try an outfit on and no one bothered her. So I guess it’s different for everyone. Just be careful.



Major second hand markets within Nairobi Kenya;

  1. Gikomba market
  2. Toi market
  3. Bus station behind Afya Centre
  4. The streets of Nairobi in the night


Featured image source; unsplash


Image source; unsplash


Happy Shopping!


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