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It was the year of our Lord, 2021.

The analogy of this movie; Gone in 60 seconds, is the perfect description of the heist you are about to read. If you don’t know, it’s a movie (1974 & remake 2000) about a thief who has to steal 50 cars in 72hours. Meaning the time taken to steal each car is very short. Hang tight, it’s a long story.

One beautiful, sunny, November day in this our Nairobi. A very smart and ambitious girl Toto (Aka baby girl) who also happens to be a brilliant photographer sat down to do admin work for her company. You know, the usual, quotes, invoices, counting the money in the bank. Aaaah life, doing the work you love is one of the top 3 pleasures of life.

A photographer’s soft life

During this luscious season of deep breaths, long sighs and silent chuckles, a girl Toto made a grave mistake. A tiny weeny mistake but a grave one all the same, she wrote one wrong digit of her number in the quote without notice and happily sent the quote to the agency she was working with. Suffice to say, she proof read the invoice at least three times and happily sent the quote as another satisfied sigh escaped her lips.

A female photographer in a carNow, for those who are not aware why having the wrong number on the quote is such a big deal, well there is this service called M-pesa. (Sit down Kenyans, be humble, you know we have a global audience here ) Mpesa is a mobile payment platform that was launched in Kenya in 2007, it quickly became the source of long satisfied sighs. Especially, when you hear the notification ding in your phone.

Now, at that time, a girl toto had not gotten a till for her company, she was still using her number (/bank) to receive payments. Well, this is not like the supermarket till but a unique number you apply for, from Safaricom (the owner of Mpesa). If you have a business, clients can pay you through your till. The good thing about a till, is most of the time, if you input the wrong number, the payment won’t go through. You get the drift….

So the quote was negotiated and agreed upon by a girl toto and the agency. First came the mood board by the agency, then shoot day. When the products arrived, we understood greatness begets greatness, **Long sigh, chuckle**. That was some premium chocolate, and they were about to be photographed by the right team. The chocolates had intoxicating flavor wafting through the studio, it smelled glorious! We worked on some pack shots and some pretty good styled images. The shoot went very well.
An African female photographer with her camera

Premium Tears

Since the deposit for the shoot was late – it should have been sent before shoot day – Client decided to pay the entire amount before we went to editing. Maybe this article should end here because you know what comes next. Though, it gets to a time, you have to let it all out, lol, this is therapy for a girl Toto.

So, come pay day, client sent money to the wrong number…….obviously, because the number was wrong to begin with. A girl toto received a frantic call from the agency, “who wrote this number? The number goes to a chep…. a girl Toto didn’t quite get the full name, the words were uttered but they trailed off. The client is asking since she has made full payment to a wrong number…..”

A girl toto was confused but confident she had indicated the right number on the quote. She went and checked the quote sure she would be vindicated, only to see the ugly of the error. She checked and rechecked but the numbers weren’t going anywhere, the number was wrong. A cold sweat had since broke out and chills were reigning supreme in her body. The satisfied sigh was long gone and it was quickly replaced by short punctuated breaths. A girl Toto was gasping for air, suddenly, the world was spinning in the wrong direction. Flashbacks were now running through her mind and many what ifs…
A sad female photographer

Stage 1: Denial

“The person who received the money has switched off their phone…..” was the last thing the agency had said to a girl toto. But being the ever optimist, she quickly went through the options in her head, maybe the person’s phone is just off or out of service, maybe if we talk to the person, they will send back the money. MAYBE. Little did she know she was already in Gangster’s Paradise, BTW, Coolio did us a solid with that song. The emotional roller coaster that was that day!


Gangster’s Paradise

The client talked to her bank but her bank was only able to retrieve 3,000 that hadn’t been spent. The faceless gangster had already chopped the money and gone missing. She withdrew the money quick & switched off her phone. The client made many phone calls to the bank and to Safaricom to no avail.

{Interlude: A girl Toto just had a call with the gangster, a lady who by the sounds of it, resides in shaggz (slang for rural area). I definitely picked up a strong Kale accent. While writing the article, a girl toto remembered the number – it is just the difference of a digit and decided to call it. She didn’t deny knowledge of the money, she just told a girl toto to think whether the money was really sent to her.

Deft Kleptomaniac

To which a girl Toto responded in the affirmative, responding that the money was sent and the gangster had switched off her phone. She asked a girl Toto what she wanted, to which a girl Toto responded with…… nothing. She explained to the gangster how she had made off with money she had been paid by a client. To which the gangster responded with, “ni kazi ulikuwa umefanya? (You were being paid for work you had done?)” Soooo guilty.

Is it foolish that a girl Toto said she wanted nothing? Maybe. Maybe she should have demanded the money back with threats of police and maybe she would have gotten the money back or not. A girl Toto just didn’t want to go through the process of trying to recoup the money while the same institutions that should have helped initially didn’t and there was no guarantee they would; Safaricom & the police. The gangster’s name is Joa (Joan?) Chepngeno, to her people, now you know. Will a girl Toto change her mind in future? Maybe, a girl Toto still has the OB after all.}

Who knew respectable, older ladies could be such deft kleptomaniacs?  Clearly, some of us are cloaked in a veil of deception, “church” going kleptos. It quickly melts away when an opportunity is presented to satisfy our lusts.

Eventually, a girl Toto had to make the dreaded phone call directly to client to find a way forward. The client was very understanding to say the least. A girl Toto and client decided to go to a Safaricom shop to get more help as per the advice from the bank & other individuals.

Chest Pains

Before morning came, a girl Toto had moments she would toss and turn. She woke up in the middle of the night thinking, did I just loose 40k? The what if questions would flood back again for 30 mins till she would drift off to sleep once again.

A female photographer in her studio

Come morning, the bright sunshine of the day contrasted the somberness of the day ahead. A girl Toto picked up client and went to record a statement at Parklands Police Station, they then proceeded to the Safaricom shop at Westgate. The Customer service rep who attended to a them was helpful but things got thick quickly & she had to call her supervisor. Her supervisor was equally helpful, she called the gangster’s number only to find it off. She called some contacts the gangster had reached out to and where she had withdrawn the cash to no avail. Client was very sorry about the experience & she was supportive; she understood the work that had been put in.

Stage 5: Acceptance

All this while, a girl Toto was plagued by many thoughts, how can such a brilliant mind miss that detail, lol! How has a girl Toto affected the business? Watu watasema nini? (What will people say?) It reached a point she decided to accept her fate. The amount of follow up and facilitating investigations that she would have to invest in was just too much. Plus it was not guaranteed she would get back the cash.

Dog meme


Did a girl Toto say she lost 40k+? Well that’s because she did, here’s how. Well, because of the amount of work she had and because she works with an equally brilliant re-toucher. She still engaged her re-toucher for that job – who did a kick ass job BTW. This meant, on top of the money she wasn’t going to earn, she still paid her re-toucher. So she lost a lot more. A girl Toto’s retoucher was understanding enough of the situation and waived part of her fee! It still made business sense to deliver the absolute best to the client despite the temporary loss.

You may also want to read our previous article A complete Guide to E-commerce photography that Converts

Did a girl toto also mention she had an intern at the time who she was paying? Plus she used to give her intern a kind of per diem whenever they would have a client shoot since the intern was earning a nominal fee. Well…… things worked out in the end.

A female photographer in her office.

When a girl toto accepted her fate, things became a lot easier, the tossing & turning lasted for only 2 nights. It was not an existential loss. A girl Toto also needs to mention that her business partner was pretty understanding and supported her fully through the entire experience.

Lessons learned

What she learned from the experience:

  • Having a different set of eyes regularly looking through some systems helps quick notice of some errors that the author may have missed plenty of times before.
  • Regularly rechecking & updating business systems is helpful.

A girl Toto has an ask or several:

  • Why does Safaricom let people who have run away with people’s money continue operating their lines? Like this particular gangster just switched off their phone for a period of time and now they are back to life as normal. Why can’t it be like an overdraft facility if you run away with someone’s money? So if you ever receive money, it’s immediately debited to the person you stole from? Plus you can’t register a line till you pay off the debt.
  • Why can’t the police just help you track thieves? Wait, don’t answer this one……a girl Toto knows the answer.
  • Why isn’t a girl Toto perfect? Well she had to make some mistakes, or all the fabulousness she holds would have been too much for the world.

Now a girl Toto and her business has a till and Zoho, she learnt her lesson and is quietly settled in her studio.
………she’s just waiting for comments with similar confessions in the comments. Come-on, something….anything?

Cool looking female photographer



  • Brian says:

    I can so relate, I mean it wasn’t 40k+ but same error of trusting my proofreading & client sent the money to wrong number.
    Let me tell the guy had a bottomless fuliza that swallowed the whole amount and after calling he xplained how he was worse off than me and would repay once he stabilises. Let’s just say, I accepted and moved on. But this story is a triiigger.

    • Lydia says:

      Pole sana! I guess we both have lifelong lessons & stories…
      The guy picked and explained his situation? Seems maybe he was really going through it.
      Wishing you more abundance & open doors since that amount literally “helped” someone else.

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