As a new member of the Real Change Board of Directors it’s a pleasure to write my first Vendor’s Corner.
I’ve been selling Real Change since June 2013 around Seattle. As a vendor, I’ve seen people give gifts as a charitable gesture to support vendors like me, and I’ve seen people who actually buy the paper to read. It makes me wonder, why do some people simply give a gift, others buy it, and what drives people to open it up and read it?
The first thing you need to know: Real Change vendors are independent business owners, and we appreciate people who purchase Real Change, whether they pay the cover price of $2, give us a gift on top of the $2 or choose to give us a gift without purchasing a paper. I call gifts “Smile Money” and consider them to be a warm humanitarian gesture to help out someone who could use an extra helping hand. These gifts are generally from people who have a deep concern for the plight of those in this community who are having challenges making ends meet.
Low-income vendors like myself and homeless vendors are able to benefit significantly from your greatly appreciated generosity.
Vendors, like everyone, have different capabilities and disabilities. According to the most recent results of our annual vendor survey, 59 percent of vendors reported having disabilities. For me, Real Change is an important key to unlocking and energizing my capabilities, empowering me to overcome my disabilities.
Those of you who know me understand that I rarely “hard sell” the paper. Unless asked, I choose not to mention Real Change in my introduction or ask people to buy the paper. A lot of times, people aren’t even sure what I am doing when I say “Make it a greater day!” “Have a great day!” or “Smiling helps you live longer!” My goal in using this approach is to build a community of “positiveness” by using my smiling personality to improve someone’s day, or at least that moment.
Recently, after customers give me a gift, I have asked people if they read the paper. I have a few ready-made responses to the comments I hear most often:
“I don’t have time to read,” they’ll say. I’ll reply: “Here, read one article.”
“You pay for this?” they’ll ask. I’ll reply: “Yes. I’m an independent business owner. I pay 60 cents for the paper, and I keep what I collect. Here, please read it.”
“I want to support you, but I don’t agree with the views of Real Change,” they’ll say. I’ll reply: “I respect what you are saying. I like to read other perspectives. By doing so, it will either re-enforce my current opinion, or with the new information, I feel comfortable revising my opinion, and making a new decision.”
“I support what Real Change vendors are doing, however I had a bad experience with someone that wanted to do a story about my business,” one man said. I apologized, asked the owner some follow-up questions, said I would look into it.
“I agree with Real Change, but I want you to keep the paper and re-sell it,” they’ll say. I’ll reply: “I appreciate that. I pay 60 cents for the paper, and it’s important to me that you read it.”
“I buy it from someone else,” they’ll say. I’ll reply: “Thank you very much. I want to let you know that, thank G-d, I am not homeless like so many of our vendors. So if you would like to support those who are, please do so.”
Most of those customers say that they really appreciate what I am doing, enjoy my smile and positive attitude.
According to the most recent results of our annual vendor survey, 7 percent of our vendors have never been homeless.
Real Change is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning newspaper and advocacy program. Our mission statement is: “Real Change exists to provide opportunity and a voice for low-income and homeless people while taking action for economic, social and racial justice.”
This is why everyone should read Real Change. Please encourage your friends to purchase Real Change.
Remember: “Smiling helps you live longer!”