I know times are hard and that if you run a business you have to go the extra mile these days just to get half as much business as you got last year, which was half of what you got the year before that.
So roadside businesses have sprung up all over the island – the ones that don’t pay any taxes, have no overhead and don’t contribute to any medical schemes.
Years ago, Fridays and Saturdays were the days when you could purchase your weekend barbecued chicken if you didn’t want to fire up your own grill at home, but then we got more accustomed to “eating out”, so some entrepreneurial souls latched on to our preferences and began providing meals every day of the week – from the trunks of their cars.
Then the local health authorities realized that an epidemic of food-borne illnesses was just waiting to happen and began requiring that food vendors become certified in the business of handling food. Because prior to that, a hot meal meant that the food was heated up by the sun’s rays penetrating the car as it made its way into town.
Although there’s a vegetable market, lots of people sell all manner of fruits and vegetables at the sides of the road. These “hucksters”, sell the same items for a little more, but I suppose one has to pay for convenience – because much like a drive-through at a fast food restaurant – you can just reach out your car window and complete the transaction, and sometimes you don’t even have to bother to pull off the road to do it.
A minor inconvenience to the others behind you trying to get to the people selling seafood a few yards ahead. Since these items don’t display as well as fruits resting in a tray, it becomes necessary for the sellers to walk around with the items in their hands so that you can see just what it is they’re selling. What I’m not seeing though, is the cooler filled with ice designed to prevent the fish from going bad the minute I get them home.
The successful businessman is the one who does things a little differently from the other people selling the very same product, like the one who assaults passers-by and motorists with vocalized descriptions of his products, in his attempt to get them to look his way. When I don’t see him the next day I assume that he’s taking a personal day to rest his voice.
Another seller appeals to our love of music by backing up his car, opening all the doors and putting his stereo on blast, thereby drowning out the shouter. Because if you refuse to see him, you sure are going to hear him, and although you can’t hear yourself think above the music, he hopes that you will dance your way over to see what he’s got for sale.
These methods certainly make me re-think my approach to getting customers into my store. Who needs special deals? Who needs sales? If the approaches of these businessmen are anything to go by, then getting attention for my business simply means being the loudest person on the block.
Nuisance laws be damned.