Street vendor sorry for colleagues' conduct

A 22-year-old street vendor from Saleufi, who has been plying his trade since he was a child, has apologised for the conduct of his peers towards members of the public.

Taoa Stowers, who normally sells his goods around the Savalalo market, told Samoa Observer that not all of his colleagues conduct themselves irresponsibly.

"I can assure you that not all the vendors are like that, it must be the new ones and the young ones who are doing such actions to the people," he said. "All my life I have been selling cans and bongos for a living, and we also pay tax like everyone else. I know people don't consider this (street vending) as a profession but for me this is how I put food on my parents’ table.”

While Mr Stowers acknowledges that he has not had the same opportunities as others in life, he said he has manners and selling goods on the streets requires a lot of patience on his part.

"I am a vendor and I have encountered problems, where people do not buy anything but keep asking about the cost of the product that I'm selling, even though they know and they can see for themselves. But that does not give me a reason to disrespect them.”

Mr Stowers said life is tough for street vendors, as failure to make sufficient sales can become a problem for the seller. Deductions are also made to their wage when they are paid by their employer, which goes to their National Provident Fund contribution and insurance.

"We are entitled at the SNPF and we pay for insurance. What we make is not enough but we still try our best to make a living out of what we have," he added. 

Working as a street vendor has its challenges, however, Mr Stowers said life is already for them as it is and they wouldn’t want to sabotage their only form of income.

But he said himself and his peers apologise for the actions of the other vendors. 

"Even if it's not me but it is the right thing to do, so I humbly ask the people of Samoa to forgive the vendors, especially the person who did this to the people complaining. But I assure you all that not all street vendors are like that," he said.

Last week some members of the public took to social media to raise concerns about what they describe as “disrespectful conduct” by young street vendors.

Faaluma Togipau, 45, said a street vendor between the ages of 14-15 approached her to sell his items and he responded with verbal abuse when she turned him down.

"I was sitting here waiting for my bus so I could go home and this kid who was selling bongo, cans and [bottles of water], approached me and asked if I wanted any of his product and I just nodded to him no, the next thing that happened he was saying disrespectful words," she said. "My kids have never disrespected me in such a way, and now someone else's kid is doing it to me, not only me but he was also cheeky to some of the young girls who were standing behind me.

"He was too young to speak such nasty words to their elders, this is not at all part of our Samoan culture, the young ones should have respect for their elders but this is a whole new level of stubbornness.”

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