By Sarah Harvey, Editor
Last month I tried selling the Denver VOICE. It was part of our Big Sell event, during which we challenged people to team up with vendors for an hour and learn how to sell the paper. I paired up with Michael Burkley—if you’ve been reading recent issues, he was our featured vendor for January.
In one hour at least a hundred people walked past me. I sold five papers. One sale was to a former colleague—he came down to my corner to buy a paper because he knew I was taking part in the event. Another sale was to a woman I knew in high school. We hadn’t talked before the event, but she recognized me and stopped. Really then, of the hundred or so people who walked past me in that hour, I only managed to convince three to stop.
Michael said I did great, but I felt discouraged. I certainly didn’t show up that day thinking vending the VOICE was an easy job…but I also didn’t think it would be as difficult for me as it ended up being. Over the past fifteen years I’ve waitressed, worked retail, worked as a reporter. I know how to put on a friendly face and talk to strangers. Still, most people ignored me. At one point, Michael told me that sometimes he makes up a little song to help him attract customers. I thought about starting to sing, but couldn’t summon the nerve.
I’ve listened to vendors talk about the rejection they experience, but I wasn’t prepared for it. All the others who sold the VOICE as guest vendors that day had similar experiences. We thought we knew how difficult the job would be, thought we’d be ready for it. We were all humbled.
There are people who don’t consider selling the VOICE a job. On page 15, you’ll find an essay by vendor Robert Lee Payne on this topic. He writes about how selling the VOICE is not the same as panhandling or “flying a sign.”
As tough as it is standing on a corner trying to sell the VOICE, most people—even when they ignore a vendor—recognize that it’s an effort at reentry back into society. That recognition means as much to most vendors as the money they earn selling their papers. And when they do make a sale, that transaction represents a commitment to community, for both the vendor and the customer.
We’ve got a few stories in this issue about communities coming together to make positive changes for all their citizens. Across the U.S., groups are working to increase access to hygiene and dignity through the creation of public bathrooms and showers. We also take a look at alternative housing movements—from van cities in Canada to tiny houses right here along the Front Range.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to your vendor and buy this issue, and thank you for being a part of the Denver VOICE community. ■