“I am not here to gain profit, but to build close relationships with the students”
That is Hj. Hadasiah’s goal is to keep selling her food beneath the stairs of the Forest Conservation Laboratory, Faculty of Forestry at Hasanuddin University. This woman is familiarly called Hj. Cia. She is popular among students because when students come into her stall, she always greets them.
Surprisingly there is almost nobody that doesn’t know this woman who spent 34 years of her life selling in the Faculty of Forestry. Hj. Cia’s friendly behaviour endeared her to everyone including students, lecturers and education staff.
Hj. Cia has a special space in the students’ hearts, even those who have graduated still come to her stall to buy or just sit and spend time with her.
This emotional relationship is built from the intimacy that is established by her friendly figure and being very close to the students. She is not only known as “The Canteen Lady”, but also a person of great merit to them.
The woman who has been selling since 1988 is willing to go to the middle of the forest when students have academic activities. When asked what the reason was, she replied that it was to build intimacy between her and the students.
“(I want) to be close to the children (students), so that many of them know me,” she said.
Selain itu hal tersebut dilakukan untuk menyediakan makanan mahasiswa di hutan, yang biasanya kesusahan dalam memenuhi kebutuhan makanan yang sehat karena keterbatasan bahan, peralatan, dan waktu.
She supplies food for students in the forest, who usually have difficulty fulfilling their need for healthy food due to limited materials, equipment, and time.
During an interview with Hj. Cia, one Alumni who was visiting revealed this canteen is one such place that he must visit when pops by campus.
The reason why he felt the need to come here was because of the intimacy that they had developed. “The reason is that because we forestry students feel close to Hj, Cia, it feels like a sort of family relationship has been established,” he explained.
The middle-aged woman builds long-term relationships. When a customer comes, she looks friendly when serving and is also great at small talk. She will often ask about their lectures, or ask about their current busyness which makes the customer feel impressed and want to come back there because of her friendliness.
“The system is different from other canteens, if other canteens are a place for coffee and gathering, here is a place for friendship,” said the alumni.
Hj. Cia considers the students who visit her canteen as her own children. She has earned the loyalty and satisfaction of her customers, which is established due to their close relationship.
This woman who has been selling for over 34 years, starts selling from 08.00 to 18.00 on weekdays. However, when there are academic activities in the forest or in the field, she usually stays until the students’ activities are over.
She ate and slept simultaneously with the students during the activity. “I stayed overnight too, up to 10 days. I went home when the students came home too. We sleep and eat at the same time. What I eat is also what the students eat,” she concluded.
In general, building relationships with customers is an activity carried out by vendors to gain their customer’s trust and comfort. This has an impact on increasing sales and the possibility of more potential customers which increases their profits.
But Hj. Cia does not feel this way. She often pays her additional rent using money outside of profit to pay the canteen rent. This is because this canteen is not the only income source for her family.
“Yes, we usually have to pay additional money because the profit is not enough, but fortunately this is not my only source of income. My husband also works here,” she explained.
Hj Cia even used to give free meals to students who were short of money. “They don’t owe me money. Debt must be paid, but giving meals (free) is also to help students,” she said.
Even though she has options of selling in other places, she continues to sell at the canteen of the Faculty of Forestry. “If I wanted to open a stall at home, it would be even better because there is no rent, but I like it here”.
She hopes that students who buy at her place will always remember and will not forget her when they graduate. “Hopefully I will always be remembered,” Hj. Cia concluded.
Original writer: Muh Amar Masyhudul Haq
Translated by: Nabila Rafiqah Awaluddin & Muhammad Alif M.