Car-to-car sales

Traffic here stinks. I mean, there really is no getting around that fact. But, in true lemons-to-lemonade fashion, Filipinos have found a way to use traffic to their fiscal advantage. They sell stuff car-to-car.

Just about anywhere traffic gets stuck, you will see at least one person walking from car to car. What they are selling will vary. In the morning, they may be a walking newspaper stand, with several options available. They may be selling candy or single cigarettes. Some sell bottles of soda, energy drinks, or water. My favorite are the people who sell strings of flowers for you to hang from your rear-view mirror as a car freshener for, like, P5 or P10 each. At Christmas time, you may see wreaths or other decorations. Jeepney routes often have people selling dashboard decorations, steering wheel covers, or lumbar supports.

We once bought 20 fresh avocados from a woman for $5. I made so much guacamole.

I also have a weakness for mani, pronounced similarly to the English “money”, which are steamed peanuts. Man, they are good.

If traffic starts to flow again, the salesmen will step onto the lane lines and wait for it to slow down again. If they are working at a stop light, they will usually walk back up to the intersection while traffic is moving, and then start walking back through the cars once the light goes red again.

Usually, they aren’t that aggressive of a sales force, unless they see a foreigner in the car. Then you may find them stopped at your window, peering intently at you, calling out, even knocking. If you aren’t interested, don’t make eye-contact. Just hold your hand up, and waggle it back and forth as you would if you were making the sign for “so-so”. They only have a limited amount of time to make their sales before traffic flows again, so normally that is enough for them to give up and move on. However, if they persist, you or your driver can inch the car forward a few inches. If they still won’t give up, just continue to not make eye-contact and ignore them. Eventually, they will either walk away or you will drive away.

Sometimes, though, you may want what they are selling. If you are with a driver, have him handle the sale. You will likely get a better price. If you are on your own, roll your window down halfway, indicate what you are interested in and ask how much it is. (If you want, you can ask “Magkano ito?” meaning “How much is this?”) If the price is right, go ahead and buy it. If not, make the so-so sign again or say “ok na” as you roll up your window. Done.

We’ve never had an issue with these car-to-car salesmen, though I suppose there is always the risk, so use your best judgement as far as time of day, number of people around, etc.


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