Street Vendors

November 7, 2012 / Local Interest
Rome, Lazio

Bootleg items sold street side in Rome are ubiquitous. It’s unlikely that you’ll cross a bridge without being pitched the latest 100% authentically fake Prada handbag, Gucci sunglasses, or Panerai wristwatch, a scourge for the “Made in Italy” fashion, design and luxury good companies.

At the retail level these items are sold by street vendors (young West African and Bangladeshi men for the most part) who are engaged in an ongoing low-impact game of cat and mouse with the already over-extended authorities. In other words, a tough face is occasionally shown but the practice is essentially tolerated. The real money, and the bribes that are generated from it, is made by organized-crime at the wholesale level.

A few days ago, the French Guinean neighborhood bootleg CD and DVD salesman was by his makeshift cardboard-box display-stand adding mayhem to the madness of the already too narrow sidewalk by the entrance of the grocery store hawking his wares as usual. On this morning however I heard him shouting “Promozione speciale!” to an interested small crowd. Out of curiosity I leaned in and asked “Djalo, allora?” (Djalo, well?).

Like the best of salesmen the world over, with a smile and a wave, he pointed at his goods and said, “Oggi se compri un CD o DVD, ti offro un caffé!” (If you buy a CD or DVD today, I’ll treat you to an espresso!)

Needless to say he was doing brisk business.

GB

by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

28 Responses to “Street Vendors”

  1. Evanne

    Hi GB,
    How about a comment regarding what happens when the Guardia Finanza does a spot check of the seller in person and the unwitting buyer also faces unwanted results?

    Reply
  2. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    GB
    I see it from Puglia To Veneto and Callabria to Alto. Italy is struggling enough! Although I do not wish for these vendors to starve they must be halted as many jobs spin off these sales and many Italian families go hungry as a result

    Reply
  3. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    Oh and by the way Buyers know that Gucci cost more than eight Euro!

    Reply
  4. Joan Schmelzle

    And I’ll bet your CD/DVD bootlegger turns into one of the suddenly appearing and also ubiquitous umbrella men at the very first drop! I will be seeing them soon!

    Reply
  5. Susan Luber

    What does “Djalo” mean? What language is that?

    Those street vendors are an annoyance at best, along with all the other problems specified in comments above. Who buys from these people? I hope American bargain hunters are too smart not to. I don’t want them to starve either, but it’s sure not helping tourism in Italy.

    Reply
  6. Joan Schmelzle

    I should probably add that these street vendors don’t bother me all that much. I even find some of the items they sell sort of interesting in a strange way especially the ones that splat out when you throw them on the pavement, but then “magically” regain their shape. And, no, I’ve never been tempted to buy.

    Reply
  7. Susan Luber

    Joan, you are certainly a much more patient and accepting person than I because those splat things they throw in your path everywhere, along with all the rest of the worthless knock-offs really annoy me. They’re so ubiquitous. Guess everyone has to make a living tho I can’t see much buying to make that possible.

    Reply
  8. BLUEBERRY

    DEAR GB.
    I THANK YOU FOR POINTING THIS PROBLEM OUT TO US.
    I AM NOW SCARED OF “TRADERS” LIKE THAT.
    IN STRASSBURG WE HAD A TOUR IN 2006 AND THIS MAN WANTED US TO BUY HIS STUFF AND WHEN NOBODY BOUGHT IT HE CALLED US FASHISTA.
    BEFORE THAT A WOMAN SOLD THESE SMALL UMBRELLA HATS AND WE WHERE BELOW HER ON THE BOAT DOCK SO SHE HAD US IN HER POWER YOU KNOW WHAT SHE DID SHE HIT ME GENTLY ON MY HEAD WITH HER UMBRELLA.
    I PRETENDED NOT TO FEEL ANYTHING BUT IT WILL BE A COLD DAY IN HECK BEFORE I EVER GO BACK TO THAT BEAUTIFUL TOWN OF STRASSBURG .
    I DID TEL THE TOURIST OFFICE ABOUT THAT .
    BOTH WHERE AFRICANS. I ALSO REMEMBER WHEN WE HAD A TOUR TO ROME AND A PERSON WAS TRYING TO STEAL FROM ONE OF OUR GROUP MALE MEMBESR. HE JUST SHUSHED THE GUY AWAY BUT THEN HIS WIFE GOT ONTO HIM FOR NOT FIGHTING THE THIEF, FINALLY I TOLD HER “NO I BELIEVE YOUR HUSBAND DID THE SAFEST THING BECAUSE WHAT IF HE HAD FOUGHT THE GUY AND THEN LATER ON AS WE TRIED TO GO DOWN A SIDE ALLEE HIS TEAM MEMBERS WOULD HAVE COME AFTER HIM? ”
    THE POLICE DID PRETEND NOT TO SEE ANYTHING AT THAT TIME EITHER.
    WHEN I WAS IN VENICE WE LOOKED IN A WINDOW AND THIS DARK HAIRED LADY IN HER 60 TIES KEPT PUSHING INTO ME AS IF SHE WAS JUST SO INTRESTED IN THE KNIFES WE WHERE LOOKING AT. SO I SAID EXCUSE AND MOVED A BIT OVER WELL AFTER THE SECOND TIME SHE PUSHED INTO ME I LEFT SAYING EXCUSE ME IN A MORE DEFENSIVE TONE. AND AS I WALKED AWAY I HEARD A MANS VOICE MOCKING ME EXCUSE ME. OH YEAH SO HER IT IS I DO PAY TO BE IN SUCH A GREAT PLACE ONLY TO BE A FODDER FOR THOSE POOR BUGGERS MAMMA MIA ,

    I DON’T WANT ANYONE TO STARVE EITHER BUT WE DO WORK IN OUR BLUEBERRIES AND ONLY GET TO GO ONCE EVERY 2 0R 3 YEARS AFTER THE HARVEST.
    I DO CARRY MY PEPPER SPRAY AND WHEN THE GERMNA TOUR GROUP I WAS WITH THOUGHT OF ME AS CILLY FOR FEELING THAT SCARED WELL WHEN A DRUNK MAN SOURROUNDED OUR LITTLE GROUP POINTING TO HIS DRY MOUTH OVER AND OVER THEY LOOKED AT ME DIFFERANTLY. NOW IN WASHINGTON DC THER WAS A BEGGAR ACCROSS FROM THE MAIN TRINA STATION HE SAID HE WAS HUNGRY AND A FAMILY OF THREE TOLD HIM “GET A JOB” WELL STUPID ME I GAVE HIM SOME TRULY LOVELY BREAD AND GUSS WHAT WHEN LOOKED BACK AT HIM HE THROUGH IT IN THE GARBAGE CAN.
    ONE LAST STORY, MY HUSBAND AND I USE TO LOVE TO GO TO THE MARKET IN NASHVILLE TENNESSEE AND SINCE I ALWAYS FEEL COMPASSION FOR PEOPLE THAT ARE DARK SKINNED I SWA A VERY BEAUTIFUL YOUNG MAN AND JUST SMILED AT HIM WELL THAT WAS SO WRONG HE CAME TOWARDS US AND SAID PLEASE EXCUSE ME I DON’T MEAN NO HARM BUT I AM HOMELESS AND THE SHELTER WAS FULL AND I AM HUNGRY. WELL I STARTED TO DIGG INTO MY PURSE FOR OUR PEANUT BUTTER CRACKERS MY HUSBAND TOLD ME TWICE LETS GO BUT I WASN’T GOING TO LET THIS KID DO WITHOUT A LITTLE FOOD SO FINALLY I GAVE HIM THE CRACKERS HE TOOK THEM BUT AS HER TURNED BACK TO US HE SAID ” HOW CAN I FEED THAT TO MY BABY ” SO THAT IS A BIG SAD STORY. I AM NOT GOING THERE EITHER ANY MORE, NO SECURITY GUARDS ON SITE. LATER ON THE WAY HOME MY HUSBAND TOLD ME TO NOT ALWAYS MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH EVERYBODY ANYMORE HE WAS RIGHT WHAT IF THAT BEAUTIFUL YOUNG GUY HAD A GUN . MAMMA MIA MAY GOD HELP US ALL.

    Reply
  9. Michael Yaccino III

    Is there a problem with this knockoff stuff when returning to the States?

    Reply
  10. Susan Luber

    To be safe, just don’t buy it and thus support it. Tempting as it may be!

    Reply
  11. I’m amazing at their “staying power” over the years! I remember walking outside the Uffizi 5 years ago and they had tacky art & other goods on display…and only this summer, yes, knockoffs everywhere.
    While I’m glad they are trying to make a living, I wonder who is really profiting? And while I’m able to “ignore” them, it’s still uncomfortable and an intrusion of sorts.
    I thought they were cracking down on the street pedlars as well as those buying knockoffs? A formidable task!

    Reply
  12. Gian Banchero

    Hmmm, all this reminds me of my last trip to Manhattan where a street vendor was selling “real Rolex watches” for ten dollars apiece… Hmm, would you believe he gave me a deal and I bought three “real Rolex watches” for $20??? How great is that??!!!!!

    Reply
  13. Colleen Simmpson

    Find it amusing that so many have either fear or loathing for these guys. Mildly annoying but so great to have them at the exit of the Uffizi Gallery during an unexpected downpour with a fine 4 Euro umbrella! I have about four of them in different colors and they last well. Won’t buy the Gucci bags or the Rolex watches or the splat toy, but hey, just watch them demonstate and enjoy. When on vacation, lighten up and you will enjoy more of the “local culture”.

    Reply
  14. Ken Martin

    I’ve taught many photography classes in Senegal,West Africa, so imagine my surprise when leading a class in Italy to see so many Senegalese traders in the streets of Rome and Florence. Next imagine their surprise when I greet them in Wolof and inquire about their health, hometown, and family! One man playing the Cora
    (African gourd harp)at the entrance to Piazza Navona played a tune blessing our group! We made the appropriate donation of course.

    Reply
  15. Susan Luber

    Enjoyed Colleen’s umbrella rescue story. What’s amusing is that not one of the comments mentioned ‘loathing’ and there was fear expressed only in one. Most of us who bother to comment are savvy travelers and very aware of the joys of being abroad. When we travel in Italy it’s to places where the “local culture” is just that: local. And indeed we are very ‘lightened up’ as we go. Maybe there is entertainment in watching a splat toy demo, though a friendly interaction with the Italian people in some back street or piazza wins every time.

    Reply
  16. Susan Luber

    Thank you, GB. I was curious. Rhymes with ‘giallo’ (?) thus I envision him as a rather ‘sunny’ fellow {:-) .

    Reply
  17. When I was in Rome in February I was in the Piazza Navona just five feet from one man selling watches on his cardboard box. Out of the blue two undercover police men ran up and tried to grab the guy. In just a split second, the guy grabbed some watches and ran off. The police picked up the othr watches that fell on the ground.

    Reply
  18. Gian Banchero

    Hello Monica… About my discounted Rolexes: I gave two watches away as joke gifts, I have no idea if they’re still working; the one I kept lasted for almost a month.

    Reply
  19. Colleen Simmpson

    Scusi, I should have said “dislike” which is less strong than “loathing” which means strong dislike. It seems that there is some “dislike” of these street vendors. I guess my contextual experience is because I am a resident of Italy and I experience that Italy’s local culture has now become inclusive of immigrants. In my tiny village in Umbria we have residents from Albania, Romania and Macedonia, all totally integrated into our community. As I am an “immigrant” myself I embrace and appreciate that I live in a village that is inclusive. This is the new “local” culture of Italy. Thank you, GB for an interesting note that stimulates much discussion.

    Reply
  20. Susan Luber

    Oh brother. There is no “dislike” either, merely mild annoyance on certain bridges that, except for the splat tosses, are pristine and beautiful. I too have been a resident of Italy. And where I now live in California, there are all sorts of integrated “immigrants” that we know, admire, enjoy, employ and embrace. Methinks you just like to preach. And now I can’t seem to find how to unsubscribe to the thread of these Street Vendor comments! GB, can you help? Thanks!

    Reply
  21. Colleen Simmpson

    Please accept my apology Susan. My comment was neither wise nor understanding of the annoyance caused to many travelers by these vendors. I should refrain from my own annoying tone. Thank you for pointing out that it appeared to be “preachy”. Sincerely.

    Reply
  22. What is a “splat” toy? On my last trip to the Penisola, I only saw knockoffs and wood carvings – nothing to splat.

    Reply
  23. Joan Schmelzle

    Hello again,
    I don’t know how to describe the splat toy except to say that it is a rubbery looking round blob in a bright color, maybe three inches across. When it is thrown down to the pavement it spreads out or splats out flat. Then it slowly reforms into the blob above. It may be designed to look like a bug, but it’s been two years since I saw one–maybe when I arrive again in December.

    Reply
  24. Joan, we came back from Rome only yesterday and they are indeed still selling the ‘splat’ toy – the current version also ‘squeals’ when it impacts with the pavement, which does, after the tenth time of hearing it in as many minutes, become rather annoying. My daughter and I love to travel, but I have to say that the proliferation of pushy street traders in Rome this time was a real downside to our trip. We could barely walk down a street without having some piece of cheap rubbish pushed our faces and having our personal space invaded like that every day really did get on our nerves! Such a beautiful city, but I don’t believe harassment of tourists adds anything to its ‘culture’ – it has enough of that already.

    Reply
  25. Jef Grint

    My wife and I were in Rome a few months ago and those vendors were the worst. Although we didn’t obsess about it at the time, their tasteless wares and toys ruined the “experience” at almost every site we visited. I just can’t figure out how they got into the country, how they ever got a permit to sell this junk (maybe they don’t need one) or why the tourist bureau or government allows it – I doubt they’re reporting any sales tax – LOL. We decided this was not our problem, Rome can deal with them or not but that our next vacation would be somewhere with snow!

    Reply

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