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Getting through a pandemic with compassion and hard work

On a payday, Jenita “Jenny” dela Rama-Yubal hops from one mall to another, not to bum around but to collect payments.

Jenny, 56, is among the top performing dealers in Cebu of direct selling companies Shoecat, Inc. (Natasha), Ever Bilena Cosmetics, Inc., Personal Collection Direct Selling, Inc. and Beautiful Horizon. Inc.

Her customers include sales clerks in department stores who are required to wear makeup and look good, other retail staff who couldn’t afford to pay cash for a pair of shoes or even a set of personal care products, and other low-income workers, some of whom try to make extra money by becoming members and her downlines.

Before the pandemic, business was brisk. Jenny’s friendly demeanor easily charmed customers into “buying” more and paying their dues. Her downlines were performing well, too.

Then the government imposed massive lockdowns in late March 2021 to curb COVID-19 transmission, and prevent hospitalizations and deaths. Non-essential establishments were temporarily shuttered.

Many of Jenny’s customers lost their source of income and were unable to pay. For the first time in her 15 years in business, Jenny found herself with huge payables.

In most direct selling networks, a dealer is given a credit line and she may purchase merchandise on credit to be sold to customers or distributed to downlines. But like other companies that stepped up to help employees cope with the pandemic, direct selling companies also agreed to defer payments and waive interest charges.

“Dili man mi pugson pabayad, wala sad mi gipa-interest (We were not forced to pay. The interest charges were also waived),” she said.

When the restrictions were gradually eased and non-essential establishments were reopened at limited capacity, some of Jenny’s customers and downlines also resumed working, but only for a few days a week. Many still missed their payments.

“Ilang sweldo dili kompleto (para sa) usa ka kinsinas kay ila work 3x a week ra (They don’t get their usual 15-day pay because they work for only 3x a week),” Jenny said.

As restrictions were further eased and more were able to return to work, her collections also improved.

“Hinay-hinay naka-work na sila balik. Datahan ko nila ginagmay. Modawat ra ko basta naa lang. Ang uban wala pa gyud nibalik og work (Gradually, some of them were able to return to work and paid me small amounts. I accepted these just to keep their account active. But some of them have not resumed working yet),” Jenny added.

She continued to recruit more downlines to Natasha, which had come up with an app to allow online networking and remove the requirement to personally visit a branch amid the pandemic. Purchase orders were made online and the goods were delivered.

“Nagkugi lang ko, online recruitment, unya di lang masuko kon naay di mobayad. Ayohon aron ta bayaran, pang-chat-an ang mga maayo mobayad. Maningkamot lang gyud ko ani aron mabawi ang wala namayad pag lockdown,” she said.

(I worked hard, did online networking. I don’t get mad if somebody fails to pay. I treat them well so they will eventually pay. Then I chat online with those who pay well. I will just try my best to recoup the losses I incurred during the lockdown.)

With COVID-19 cases now going down and the economy further reopening, Jenny has gradually resumed her business activities. So, on a payday, Jenny could be seen in the malls again, trying to collect from her customers. She is hopeful for a turnaround soon. (Ventures Cebu)

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