In Chicago, at every third or fourth red light, someone will try to sell you plain white men's socks through your car window.
But how could this possibly be more profitable than begging?
- While I've sat in traffic over the years, I've watched these vendors ply their socks for maybe 2 hours total. In all that time I've never seen a single successful sale. (Which makes sense -- I can't imagine buying socks in that way, except perhaps moments after I'd stepped in a puddle.)
- Suppose that you sold one pack of socks every 3 hours. You could get, what, $4 or $5 for them? Even assuming that the socks are stolen, so that that $4.50 is pure profit -- and even ignoring the risk you take by stealing in the first place -- surely you can make more than $12/day begging at a busy intersection in a big city? (I know that the profitability of begging is a contentious topic, but Straight Dope
suggests that my suspicion here is correct.)
- And I don't think that sockmongering simply *supplements* the income of a beggar, since I've also never seen anyone donate to these people.
Because I can't see how this could be more profitable than just begging, I've begun to speculate about other explanations.
- Are the vendors really selling drugs or pot, hidden in the socks?
- Is there some kind of workfare-style charity in place, that is willing to pay these people so long as they're at least making an effort to support themselves?
- Maybe established beggars are more willing to permit sock-hawking, which they don't view as competition, than they'd be willing to permit newcomers' begging in their territory?
- Maybe some religion proscribes begging?
- Maybe the dignity of calling yourself a salesman, instead of a beggar, is worth giving up (a large proportion of your) profits?
Any insights? Maybe some of my estimates are incorrect? Is there some other explanation here that's not occurring to me?
(I know that homelessness and begging can be politically-contentious topics. Please try to keep political axe-grinding -- in either direction -- out of what is meant to be a descriptive question about an improbable business model.)