When I’m out selling Real Change newspapers, people often ask me, “Why don’t you get a real job?” Some people say it just to be mean; some even snap at me, “Get a job!” as they walk by. I don’t answer those people.
Some people are really just asking because they care and they’re curious.
This is a real job. Like any other business person, I buy stock (copies of the paper) and sell it at a profit. What people often mean by a “real job” is one that pays by the hour, one where I’d work 40 hours a week and get benefits.
My answer is that I can’t. I can’t work 40 hours a week consistently, and I’m not going to tell an employer that I can. A lot of our vendors cannot work 40 hours a week, or simply can’t get the jobs that pay that way.
Selling Real Change is a real job, a good job for people who work at it consistently. We buy the papers for 60 cents each and sell them for $2, so we make $1.40 on each paper. If you sell 200 papers a week, that’s $280. That may not sound like a lot of money to you, but it can make an enormous difference to us. We do accept tips, and some of us have regular customers who are very generous.
Our income is treated just like the income of someone working a full-time job. Our income is taxable, and we are supposed to report our income to social service agencies to receive services.
Real Change prints out reports for us on how many papers we purchased so we can provide them to social service agencies.
It takes a lot of work to sell 200 papers. You have to get yourself to the office to buy the papers, and then get to where you sell them, and most of us do it using public transportation.
You have to have the discipline to stand outside, in place, in all kinds of weather. The job takes consistent effort, organization, sobriety and people skills.
It also takes the patience and goodwill to answer in a kind and informative way whenever someone asks, “Why don’t you get a real job?”
I have one; I’m a professional saleswoman.
Jen Tibbits is a Real Change vendor, newsroom assistant and 2017 Vendor of the Year. She sells at the New Seasons Market in Ballard.
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Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.