Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sidewalk Merchants 

Caught this picture of a sidewalk merchant catching some Z's. If you click on the picture and blow it up, I think you will be able to see the little critter resting on his belly. These merchants are not legal, so they have to be ready at any time to wrap up their wares and head out when the cops show up. Sometimes this results in altercations with the police, but this is usually not a good idea, so if the merchants can't outrun the cops, they usually just throw up their hands.

I have mixed feelings about these guys. I have bought several ties from a street vendor in Wudaokou who is a pretty nice guy. I have lived in Beijing for awhile, so I don't bargain with him. I just pick one out, hand him 20 kuai, and take the tie. He never argues with me, perhaps because he can tell that I have lived locally for sometime, and also perhaps because he is probably getting them for 5 or less a piece. I have bought ties for 30 RMB, but I have also bought ties on sale for 10. I think 20 (about 3 US dollars) kuai is fair. But if you go to the U Center, an upscale shopping center on the east side of the tracks in Wudaokou, they will charge you 400 kuai. Twenty times as much as what I give the sidewalk merchant. To be fair, he probably gets quite a bit more than that from other foreigners who are just passing through, and don't know local prices. But I think even his best price would be quite a bit less than the U Center price.

So I do like these merchants. But I also don't blame the city for wanting to manage things a bit. Sometimes it gets so bad that you can't even walk. They have the sidewalks covered with their stuff, which moves the pedestrians out into the bicycle lane, which moves the bicycles out into the street with the cars. It's almost as bad as trying to ride a bicycle in an American city, where most streets don't even have bicycle lanes.

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