Our Vendors: Megaphone’s Vendor of the Year, Eric, Vancouver

This month, for the second year in a row, Megaphone celebrated a hard-working vendor with its Vendor of the Year Award.

The award, determined through surveys from Megaphone customers, board members, and staff, was unveiled at the annual Megaphone breakfast fundraiser. Eric, from Vancouver, won the coveted award.

Eric shows extraordinary dedication to his community. For his customers, he is a bright, beloved presence in Vancouver’s Commercial Drive neighbourhood, where he sells Megaphone six days a week.

Here’s what Eric had to say about the award.

Megaphone vendor Eric, photo by Jackie Wong

Interview by Megaphone

I was extremely surprised to hear that I had won the Vendor of the Year Award. It was great hearing the news. I knew I was on the final list, but it barely occurred to me that I could actually win in this group of accomplished vendors. It’s great to get the recognition and to hear the kind words from customers, staff, and other vendors.

Thank you so much to all of my customers and friends on the Drive. I look forward every day to meeting up with you. Making sales isn’t even the most important thing. The conversations and the hellos and smiles are what I enjoy the most. Grandview is such a unique and vibrant community. The residents and visitors mean everything to me. Thank you.

I’ve been selling Megaphone and Hope in Shadows for about four years. I started selling Megaphone after selling the Hope in Shadows calendar. I’m out there selling six days a week.

Before I started as a vendor, I was down here in the Downtown Eastside, it was 2010, and I was mostly picking empties for deposits [making money through collecting empty bottles for recycling]. That’s when I noticed the Hope in Shadows ads go up, in the fall of 2010. I probably saw the first ad at the Carnegie. The Carnegie Community Centre is a special place in the Downtown Eastside. I can’t say enough about how important the meals and the facilities are, and the practical hours that they’re open. I go there just about every day.

Being a Megaphone vendor is a huge improvement over what I was doing before, binning and that sort of thing. It definitely adds stability to my days.

Starting work as a vendor was an eye-opener. I’ve never been in sales. I’ve done customer service work before, but not selling anything, and certainly not out on the street like that.

I have many loyal customers. They mean everything. Without them, it wouldn’t work. I watch the world turn there on the Drive. I see the whole spectrum; I sell near a clinic so I often hear of people’s medical concerns, including cancers and tumours and people going through serious health crises in their lives. I also watch children growing up, teenagers growing up, and young families growing.

The income’s helped me tremendously. It allows me to purchase good meals and maintain my health. It helps me keep myself going in the outdoors with clothing, gear, and my bike for all of my transportation needs.

I was living outdoors until recently. I’ve got a roof over my head now.

Sub-standard and unsafe housing is a daily concern. It definitely adds stress and worry every day and night, whether I’m indoors or outdoors, just because of uncertainties and dealing with challenges on the city streets.

Being a Megaphone vendor is a huge improvement over what I was doing before, binning [earning a living through informal recycling] and that sort of thing. It definitely adds stability to my days. Emotionally, it’s a lot more positive to be connecting with the community. That makes a big difference.

If I’m having a rough morning or the weather’s wet, I always look forward to getting up on the Drive. Sure enough, there’s somebody that’s able to lift my spirits, even just have a chat or get a ‘good morning’ or a smile from somebody who’s never acknowledged me there before. An unexpected wave from a child or a cyclist is always appreciated. It’s a good place to be.

I hope people support Megaphone because the street paper movement is so important for vendors all over the world. There’s so much opportunity for it to get bigger and better and involve many more vendors, especially in Vancouver and Victoria. It needs to grow and involve even more people, and to help more people.”

INSP publishes an international vendor story every week. Come back next Wednesday to read another story from one of the thousands of inspirational men and women who sell street papers.