Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Begging to sell

A couple of cute kids approach us at a coffee shop. They’re selling yema, trying to use an uncomfortable mix of charm and awa to do it. Unlike sampaguita vendors on the streets these kids are relatively well-dressed and polite, telling you that they need the money for baon for school.

Perennial pilosopos, we ask them why they’re not using yema as baon for school.

The kids smile, unsure how to answer, and back off.

I follow the kid with my eyes, trying to see if he has a handler. I’m sure they have one. These are not enterprising kids with backyard lemonade stands; they have supplies and a script to sell it with as well as the means to get to a mall and set targets. They’re selling to strangers in a mall, not friends and relatives and neighbors. And while some of them may think they’re playing, there is actual money involved here.

It’s not an isolated phenomenon. Anyone who’s been in a mall the past few months has encountered these kids, probably waving them off or giving some excuse. No katok on your car window or the traditional patatawarin po (please forgive me) for them. Somehow it doesn’t seem appropriate.

Their strategy is sound. After all, a few pesos for yema hardly seems expensive when compared to the hundred peso mug of coffee you’re drinking. Surely, the kids need it more than the Tantocos.

But somehow I can not bring myself to buy from them.

As a rule I do not give to beggars. I donate to charitable institutions because my money will be better used by a large organization with a plan to lift people out of poverty. I don’t have much to give, so I try to spend my donation money the best way possible.

I am also a cool customer. Being in business myself, I know how difficult selling is. I try to get value for my money but I’m not the type who makes tawad just to save a few bucks. Those vendors did not go into business to give their goods away.

These yema kids are making a travesty of commerce AND mendicancy by merging the two.

If you’re going to beg for alms, then beg. I may give you something out of the goodness of my heart. Don’t sell me something and tell me it’s for school. That’s why I don’t buy sampaguita from vendors either. I find it offensive whenever they say “bilin nyo na ito para makauwi na ako.” Like they’re implying I’m the one to blame for their staying up late. I’m not.

Neither am I to blame for your lack of school baon. Just sell me the damn yema.

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