After spending what now feels like almost 1/3 of my trip on some form of long-distance transportation, it comes as no surprise that one of my favorite aspects of South America has taken place on these ever-present 4-wheeled vehicles. From the 30 minute journey between villages to the 15-hour haul from one country to the next, one constant aspect of these travels remains throughout the continent (despite delays, vomit and other endless mishaps I hope to detail in future blogs): Bus Hawkers.
Described by sources (i.e. me) as "individuals that board buses for brief periods of time, as to sell whatever product they are carrying on a specific day," bus hawkers are almost an unavoidable part of transportation in South America. Providing bus riders with all that their appetite can desire, most bus hawkers can be placed into two standard categories:
Hawker #1 - The Snack Hawker – Armed with any treat imaginable, from chips, drinks or towering cones of melting ice cream, to empanadas, cheese-soaked corn or even hamburgers, the snack hawkers methodology for selling his or her goods is a very unique, and vocally-oriented method -- Repeat the name of what they are selling, as many times as possible, in hopes that massive repetition will instill desire in bus riders. With the average hawker estimated to repeat their product a good 1-2 times per second, it is no surprise that mass repetition brings with it success.
Hawker #2 - The Touch and Feel Hawker – Typically armed with several boxes worth of chocolates, the Touch and Feel (TAF) hawker takes an entirely different approach to the art of ¨bus vending.¨ Instead of rapid repetition, they provide an extremely unique method for distributing their products. While providing listening passengers with a 20-30 minute lecture that details not only the benefits of their products, but also their own personal life story, the TAF hawker goes above and beyond "customer service" by allowing passengers to visually inspect, and hold the product. Thus, during the never-ending story of the TAF hawkers life, you can play with their product as much as you desire, and if it is of no interest to you after they are finished, you simply hand the product back to them. As a note, I have yet to witness a busload of people that will NOT hold onto the products, which in the case of chocolate bars, leaves quite the mess after 30 minutes of intense "sweaty palm time."
Overall, while both approaches appear quite efficient in relieving hawkers of their products, at the end of the day, the real winner is the bus driver, who is provided with endless free samples in exchange for allowing the hawkers to board their buses.
Next Week`s Topic: Long-Distance Bus Rides - An In-Depth View