The Amazing Disappearing Customers!

Today, whilst buying mags from Ben, the co-ordinator at Waterloo, I asked to have a look at the latest list of sales figures, listed by vendor number. The list was from the week before last and as Ben looked at it he said “Your figures are wrong on here, surely?” I told him that, no, unfortunately, the figures were quite correct – my sales dropped by a quarter to a third after New Year when three of the Kent platforms closed and those trains could no longer stop at London Bridge. Since then my sales have dropped to half of pre-Christmas levels leaving me in rather a woeful state. In the last three months I have been in debt more than out and the whole situation is beginning to feel quite hopeless. The recent losses in sales are due to people avoiding the rail chaos that is London Bridge and instead they are travelling to Charing Cross, Blackfriars (which apparently is quite a civilised choice), Victoria and Cannon Street. I have no idea how this will all end but it’s not looking hopeful for me – getting new people to buy when they have been walking past and ignoring you for months is very difficult. Most regular customers are the sort of generous people who would buy the magazine automatically, without thinking, usually from a vendor who is a regular fixture on their route to work. If they changed jobs or offices, then they would automatically scout around for a convenient vendor and then transfer their allegiance to them, usually with no thought at all – they are just naturally kind and generous. Unfortunately, most of the 46,000 people who pass me in the morning are not naturally kind and generous – in fact a large number of them can be rude, arrogant and thoughtless. So my task is now much, much harder than it has ever been before – and with no guarantee of any success. Keep watching to see how I fare – Sharon

The Whiteboard Returns!! (About Time Too!)

Last week I finally saved enough dosh to pay for my liability insurance so that if my whiteboard becomes a negligent public menace, you know, knocking people over just for the hell of it, they can be reassured that they will be amply compensated! Up to a million smackers in fact, but don’t let those serial insurance-for-injuries claiming types know or before you can say “whiplash” they will be suffering from it! Anyone who trips or falls within 20 feet of my board or even rucksack will be investigated long and hard for pretence of pain symptoms. I am really glad to have it back as during the three weeks that I was without it my sales were pretty awful. Now this might be due to people over-spending in the Easter hols but you never know in my job. Anyway, the board is back and I am really looking forward to getting some great messages down this week. Many thanks as usual to all my regulars who helped me with the insurance financially and also those who helped me with my feelings of helplessness and anger and my being miserable over the whole issue of whiteboard safety. See you on the bridge soon – Sharon

Many Thanks, Again!

After the awful week that was last week I was hoping for something slightly better this Monday morning and evening, especially as monthly paydays start around the 20th of each month – of course, more people get their wages further towards the very end of the month, but still, I was hoping for a slight improvement today. All in all, the day was amazingly good and I should like to thank all the people that made it so – Mr Rob Clarkson, who on receiving his yearly bonus, immediately thought of me, and gave me some badly-needed money this morning. Also lovely Tamaki, who has enough problems of her own, told me that she is worried about my depression and the way my lack of funds has exacerbated it, and gave me some money too! Then this evening the lovely Katie, who moves office this week (oh no! Another lovely one gone for good!) stopped and gave me a donation to pay for my liability insurance. She said that my description of my whiteboard troubles on this blog have made her “really furious” and she said that she just had to help me get the board back. So – thank you, thank you, thank you all, including anyone not mentioned here, who has helped by going the extra mile for me recently. You are all superstars in your own right and I don’t know what I would do or where I would be without you all – love Sharon x

Oh, What a Week!!

I think I can honestly say that the last week has been one of the hardest that I have spent on the Bridge.  Easter was early this month and a large number of people went off on their hols with their kids to places far and near, cold (skiing) and hot (Egypt and Portugal, if I remember correctly).  So last week, just before the pay-days week, everyone was extremely broke!  It certainly showed in my sales.  I am now rather deeply in debt to several friends and behind with some bills and payments.  As I still haven’t been able to save the money needed for my insurance policy, I am buying art card and double-sided sticky tabs in order to still have some sort of way to communicate with the 46,000 that pass me in the rush hour.  However, in the last week, with the exception of a few kind people, my pleas for someone to “please buy a mag” have been totally ignored.  I am rather looking forward to the start of the new week tomorrow, in the hope that, as people are paid they start to feel a little more generous to insolvent Big Issue sellers!  If anyone happens to pass me on my pitch and finds me lying on the pavement, I probably just need a sandwich!!!

Still Whiteboardless!

I arranged a limited liability policy last week so that I can use my whiteboard again and I deposited the money into my account.  This is sometimes time consuming as I have an account with a great credit union, but their branch near London Bridge is only open Monday to Wednesday – on any other day I have to go a lot further into Peckham or Camberwell (places where I never normally go).  Anyway, I emailed my policy broker asking him to ring me asap so that I could pay for the policy with my debit card, but he didn’t ring and I ended up spending some of the saved money due to rubbish sales from Tuesday onwards last week!  Oh dear, so it’s back to saving again, although my broker did find me a better policy quote at £40 odd pounds.  So hopefully, I WILL have the board back in a few days or I HOPE by the end of the week.  What a complicated drama!  Just thought I should keep you all up to date on this storm in a teacup and please feel free to show your feelings about this ridiculous matter at vendor.comments@bigissue.com and address them for the attention of Chris-Vendor Co-ordinator.  Thank you so much if you do manage to email them – they need to know exactly how ridiculous people find their petty rules and the fact that they treated a vendor with a very good record like a dangerous criminal!  Big thanks again, your support always means so much to me – I never feel alone like I did before I became a vendor – Sharon

Health and Safety Gone Mad (Again)!

I am sure you have all seen my whiteboard that I write messages on to keep the public up to date with what is happening in my life. This week a plain clothes policeman reported me to the Big Issue office as using language on the board that could be construed as begging. The notice on the board actually said – Lots of people on hols this week (lucky them!). Sales Tues 8/Wed 7 so not so hot – please stop and help, it will make you feel great!
So this was the supposed “begging” message. Unfortunately the Big I office was more interested in the board itself. The vendor co-ordinator, Chris, asked me – what is this board you have, where is it, how big is it, where is it in relation to the passing public etc. Now, everyone in the Big Issue office has seen my blog and also the film of my day that world-class journalist, Danielle Batist did for an online magazine article and my board features prominently in all these. I had to go into the office for a dressing-down about my potentially dangerous board and I have been told that I may use it only if I buy public limited liability insurance in case someone gets hurt by the board. Basically they are terrified that someone will try to sue them in such a situation, even though I am not an employee of the Big Issue as such, I am self-employed – if I was one of their employees then I would surely be covered by their own insurance. So now I have to raise £58 for insurance before I can entertain the passers-by with my wonderfully witty board! That’s definitely health and safety gone extremely mad – especially as my board has been in situ for three years already with no problems. If you have a minute, please email the Vauxhall office of the Big Issue and tell them how ridiculous all this is – thank you.