Big Issue Taiwan vendor Yu-fu Hsieh: “I’ll continue supporting the street paper, and I hope that we will spend another decade together”

By Yu-ruei Lu, The Big Issue Taiwan

It’s quite busy this weekend in Gongguan [a commercial district in central Taipei], and there’s a lot of traffic on Section 4, Roosevelt Road, Taipei. Exit 2 of Gongguan metro station is a rather dim corner at dusk, but thanks to his bright red vest, Yu-fu Hsieh can be easily seen as he stands selling copies of Big Issue Taiwan alone outside the side entrance of National Taiwan University (NTU). Hsieh is an experienced vendor who has been selling Big Issue Taiwan since 1 April 2010.

“It’s been over 10 years now, and it’s gone by in the blink of an eye. I’ve always had faith in the magazine. Those working for the publisher put a lot of effort into their work. I knew on my first day that this job would last for a long time,” he says, speaking in a husky voice. Hsieh has devoted himself to this job from the beginning, and he has never changed his pitch.

“I chose this place as my pitch because I was working nearby, at the Taipower Building over there, before I retired,” Hsieh tells me. “Back when I first graduated, I sat an exam and was selected to work for the Taiwan Power Company, so I went and joined its sales department. I served there until retirement.” Hsieh works from 2pm to 6pm every day from his pitch at the side entrance of NTU. Then, between 6.30 pm and 8.30pm, Hsieh can be found under the pedestrian arcade of a Chunghwa Telecom shop, near Exit 3.

Photo by Yu-ruei Lu

“I sell copies of the magazine during the same periods of time every day, from Monday to Sunday,” he says. “Readers should be able to find me when they come here.” He pauses. “But recently sales seem to have decreased. The pandemic had a serious effect last year, but to me it appears that students nowadays don’t really know about The Big Issue. Is it because people look at nothing but their phones?”

During all his years of working as a vendor at Gongguan, Hsieh has got to meet lots of students from NTU. Some of them became loyal customers and bought copies from him throughout their time at the university. Some of them still come to see him after they’ve graduated. Some of those who go to study abroad will pay him a visit when they return.

Working as a vendor makes retirement fun and joyous for Hsieh. “10 years ago when I retired, I often went and ate at the church where I’d met some fellow parishioners,” he says. “The Big Issue happened to be promoting their work there, and I signed up for it, feeling aligned with what they did.

“Time passes fast,” he continues. “10 years on, and the fact that this magazine is still going definitely says something about its value and quality. I’ll continue supporting The Big Issue, and I hope that we will spend another decade together.” Hsieh finishes by contemplating his wishes for rest of the year. First, he sends his best wishes to The Big Issue and its readers around the world. Second, he wishes for the end of the pandemic.

Translated from Mandarin by Sunny Tseng (Taiwan)

Courtesy of The Big Issue Taiwan / International Network of Street Papers