Turning the table on street vendors

Feb 26th, 2008, 05:01 AM
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Turning the table on street vendors

Everyone complains about the street vendors who come up to you and try to sell you trinkets or pictures or whatever. I found an answer to the problem on our last trip to Rome.

When they would approach, wanting to sell one of those toys or a flower, I began to try to sell them a half-bottle of coke for only 50 euros. I would actually follow them (as they do so often) offering the bottle. It only took a few seconds, but it got the attention of all of the vendors and we would be left alone at that location. Plus the tourists loved it. I wasn't nasty, just being a "street vendor" in my own right.

daveesl is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 05:08 AM
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Hilarious! I would have loved to see that.
shelly_m is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 07:06 AM
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Sorry to be a spoil-sport, but that seems very rude to me. You're a tourist and they're trying to make a living. As a guest in their city making fun (which you were doing) of people isn't very nice.
suze is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 07:09 AM
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Its nice to see how well we treat those on the margin trying to eek out a living.
thit_cho is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 08:02 AM
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So let me understand this, as long as a person is trying to make a living or "on the margin", we are supposed to tolerate any amount of harassment? Or is there an income level beyond which a vendor should not be permitted to harass a tourist? Would you tolerate this in your own country? I think you wouldn't (as witnessed by the many laws against panhandling).
I think the original poster was creative and kind in deflecting the unwanted intrusions; I am certainly guilty of being much less kind under similar circumstances.
Les is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 08:05 AM
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For me, the humor would depend on the vendor. I have had people follow me for quite a while (to me, following over 30 seconds is excessive). Those people are being obnoxious and not going about their business in a reasonable manner. In that case, Dave, I think it would be hysterical.

Otherwise, I agree it would be rude to treat someone like that if they were just standing there speaking to whoever passed, but who weren't following you around.

Darn, when did buying (or not) from street vendors become such a politically correct issue. *sigh*
copper675 is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 08:10 AM
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I have often been approached by street vendors. Usually I am not interested in what they wish to sell me, so I say a polite but definite "No, thank you" (in the local language, if I can manage it). That invariably ends the contact. I have never experienced them persisting, or felt hassled by them. So, for me, they are not a problem.

Yet others seem to get hassled. Is it a distorted perception, or do some vendors persist? If they persist, I presume it is because experience has taught them that it pays. They are not all stupid, and they have a living to make. So do certain types of people cave in and buy something, or even give them money to go away?
Padraig is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 08:12 AM
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<I think you wouldn't (as witnessed by the many laws against panhandling).>

but apparently Roman law permits this at times yes way too aggressive street vending - recently at the Trevi Fountain i witnessed a mob of south Asians trying to sell flowers or take your picture, etc.

Most were not that aggressive but annoying and i don't understand why Roman authorities allow the desecration of this normally happy sight as well as places like the Colosseum by this unfettered commercialism. And at the first drop of rain there is a sea of umbrella sellers - sticking them in your face if you don't have one

But since they do and apparently these, yes poor looking immigrant types, seek to eek out a living this way then apparently is legal

So in Rome - do as the Romans do.

I too find your reactions reprehensible. These poor folk no doubt have a struggle - both with competition and poverty it seems and they don't need your mocking, however intentioned it may be
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 08:19 AM
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<"So in Rome - do as the Romans do.">

Good advise.
But wait! That's exactly what the original poster did!
Les is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 08:33 AM
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depends on what you mean by do as the Romans do

I don't ever remember seeing any Romans foolishly mocking and chasing any street vendors, being the proverbial UGLY American if indeed the OP is a Yank

PalenQ is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 08:33 AM
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I find the original post to reflect a distasteful attitude, also, that goes beyond being "rude" but being uncharitable and mean.

I have not been to Rome, but have been in many other places, a couple (in less wealthy countries) where street vendors can be more persistent, I guess. I've never been bothered by any of these folks in any European city to any extent that I even thought about it. So I can't say about Rome -- but the original post claims that a street vendor just came up to him and tried to sell him something, and that was all they did. He responds by harrassing them and being mean and ugly. They apparently did nothing but try to sell something, no indication was given that they were really agressive and bothersome.

I countries where they can be very bothersome and aggressive (I've been in Egypt, some places in MExico, etc), they would be more persistent, but I just calmly and shortly say no, I'm not interested and don't pay much attention to them. That's about it, no one has physically done anything to me, etc. Maybe I did not like them asking, but I understand that these people are very very poor, and are trying to make a little money just to live at a very low level. If they can stand on the streets in the sun for hours trying to sell a few trinkets, even if I don't buy them, I really do not see any reason to try to harrass them for the fact that they live in a very unfortunate situation and are desperate for money.

I might add that I'm not clear on what the OP is talking about -- as I've never been approached by a street vendor trying to sell "a flower". Trinkets, yes, they do that in Mexico and other places I've been. A single flower? no
Christina is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 08:34 AM
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After finding the vendors in the Bazaar in Istanbul tiring, and, truth be told, many were tiresome as well, we decided that my wife would reply to them only in Hungarian, hoping to deflect the most persistent.

Of course, the next person who approached us was fluent in Hungarian!

After the laughter died down, he explained to us in English that we needed to know how to say we were not interested in Turkish. After we learned that, we found it easier to navigate the bazaar.

BTW, we purchased two belts and a wallet from this man and also were very happy to follow his recommendations for dinner.
Jeff801 is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 08:40 AM
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Nice one, Jeff!

Did he teach you how to say you were not interested in Turkish?
Padraig is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 08:45 AM
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I agree with thit_cho and suze. I think it was an ugly thing to do.
Those vendors aren't on the street trying to sell toys and flowers for any other reason than basic survival. It's not like the guy was trying to pick your pocket. I hope the vendor's kids weren't watching to see the fellow demeaned. Surely there are better ways to turn a vendor down (and I have plenty of experience doing just that). A firm NO usually works fine, and treats the person as a human being instead of a clown.
bellastarr is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 08:49 AM
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Christina - i do find these vendors in Rome much more bothersome than elsewhere in Europe - while in Paris you may find folks selling flowers in restaurants or on the street they are not aggressive like in Rome

I think part of it in Rome is their sheer number - like i say when it rains you if umbrell-less are the target of constant folks shoving umbrellas at you everywhere at times it seems

And at the Trevi Fountain a few indeed did not take no for an answer and if not interested in flowers they brought out something else - indeed i saw one actually have tripods and even sold one to a picture taker

So though they are indeed bothersome in Rome more than anywhere i've been in Europe i'll leave it to the locals to decide how to and if to control them. And i do indeed have sympathy for folks having to live like that - figuring that with the multitude of them blanketing some areas - especially at evening when stores close - like the Blacks with their African trinkets - are not getting rich but barely surviving.
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 08:57 AM
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I don't like aggressive street vendors any more than I like phone solicitors. However, being a computer tech who has helped set up systems for the latter, I have learned an important lesson about them -- they are human beings, just like me. And, in every case that I met, they would rather be doing ANY other job than phone solicitation. I'm going to presume aggressive street vendors are no different.

Because of that, I always cut off contact using the minimal humiliation I can inflict on these fellow humans. With phone solicitors, I simply say, "Sorry, I'm not interested," immediately hang up, and add no more to their misery.

With street vendors, I simply say, "No thank you" (in the native language if possible) and then ignore them. Maybe I'm imagining, but it seems that waving my palm in their direction immediately ends their efforts (it sometimes seems like this is a universal curse). Again, I have never felt a need to add to the level of human misery on this planet.

If you think that returning their harasment will cause vendors to stop being aggressive, you are quite mistaken. You will, of course, achieve a degree of satisfaction by causing pain to other people. I'm just not convinced that's our purpose on this planet.
PaulRabe is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 09:10 AM
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Fodor's needs a mechanism where the OP can wipe off their post

like Dave i have posted things i never dreamt would unleash a torrent of negative comments that becomes piling on, in NFL parlance
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 10:14 AM
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<"Fodor's needs a mechanism where the OP can wipe off their post. like Dave i have posted things i never dreamt would unleash a torrent of negative comments that becomes piling on, in NFL parlance.">

You say this because you are one of the negative commenters (i.e., you disagree with Dave). I don't think Dave's posting was negative, and I don't see him asking to have his post removed. And of course, if all posts generating negative comments (and negative is in the eyes of the beholder) were removed at will, there would be no discourse on this site, which would make it nearly useless.

Unless, of course, you want to declare yourself the sole voice of reason, and become a dictatorial moderator. I've seen it done on other forums.
Les is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 10:17 AM
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I've been turning the tables on vendors in Africa and Asia for years. I am just surprised that other people have not discovered this tactic before.
kerouac is online now  
Feb 26th, 2008, 10:34 AM
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Les - i agree with your take and wish i could remove my post here, though i still have a valid point i do not know how Dave feels about his post and that was my mistake.
PalenQ is offline  

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