Real Change News vendor concerns? West Seattle meeting Monday

It’s a controversy that has flared from time to time over the past few years – concerns about unauthorized people selling Real Change News and causing trouble while doing it. The organization shared with us this announcement about an upcoming meeting to discuss where the situation stands:

Thank you all for your continued support of Real Change News. Last year we contacted you all about few individuals in your community who have misrepresented themselves as Real Change vendors. We have continued to build a relationship with West Seattle business owners and police to address this problem.

Again, these individuals are not authorized to sell the paper due to noncompliance with our Code of Conduct, which requires that vendors show respect to store owners and customers and refrain from drinking or drug use while selling the paper. We are anticipating a rise in activity with the upcoming summer months, and would like to gather together to answer any questions that community and business members may have.

Please join us at the High Point Library (3411 SW Raymond Street) on Monday, June 3 at 6:30pm for a community discussion.

The announcement continues after the jump – with Real Change’s own suggestions for helping curb the problem:

We believe that together we can end the problems associated with these individuals. Some of the tips we’ve been giving community members:

* Purchase the paper from vendors with badges only. Please only purchase the paper from vendors displaying a Real Change badge with the current year printed on it. If a vendor is not wearing a badge, please ask to see one. The current 2013 badge is orange.

* Support your badged vendors. Please continue to support authorized Real Change vendors and let them know their presence is appreciated. They appreciate and deserve your support!

* If you have an incident with someone who may be a Real Change vendor, please contact Vendor Services Program Coordinator Magan Do at (206) 441-3247 ext. 206.

* Please call the police immediately if you witness any illegal activity.

Thank you for helping us provide opportunity and a voice to Seattle’s poor and homeless.

43 Replies to "Real Change News vendor concerns? West Seattle meeting Monday"

  • Peggie May 29, 2013 (10:27 am)

    I appreciate that Real Change is trying to be proactive, and keep control of who sells this paper.

  • justme May 29, 2013 (11:26 am)

    The short dude in dreads who talks a lot and his wife are NOT authorized vendors. I thought they knew we were on to them by now, but I see they’re back again. My 14 year old son was even offered weed from the guy.

  • Blair Johnson May 29, 2013 (11:32 am)

    I have tremendous respect for the real Real Change vendors. It’s great they finally got a raise.

    The problem seems to be a few people who hold out one wrinkled copy of the paper, but are actually just using it as a prop for panhandling.

  • Driez206 May 29, 2013 (11:39 am)

    @Peggie..I couldn’t agree more. Real Change is a good program with some things they need to improve on, like most organizations, businesses or heck even humans.

  • cjboffoli May 29, 2013 (12:11 pm)

    In a world in which the sale of printed newspapers continues to circle the drain, I wonder how much future this paradigm has. I’ve given money to Real Change vendors from time to time but I really don’t have much time or interest in reading that paper so I never take it.
    Alternately, I wonder why these vendors couldn’t be vetted and licensed to sell other things with more utility. Or even be engaged in a more productive way, like picking up trash and cigarette butts that are ubiquitous or even help weed parks and plantings.

  • rico May 29, 2013 (12:14 pm)

    I will admit I am not familiar with all of the Real Change programs, but my assumption is that selling of the Real Change paper is meant as a temporary stepping stone before moving onto more useful and productive jobs. But after seeing many of the same sellers year after year in Pioneer Square area I have concluded that my assumption is incorrect. Makes it difficult to see any “real change” from this program as far as I can tell.

  • JoB May 29, 2013 (12:39 pm)

    rico…the real change for real change vendors is that the ones you see maintaining their small businesses long term are typically no longer living on the street…
    and they are typically clean and sober or moving towards being clean and sober..
    that may not look like real change to you.. but for them, it is.
    besides.. since when do we expect successful business vendors to give up their businesses and move on?
    cjboffoli.. i would hate to see the demise of Real Change papers because they not only offer a path off the streets for the vendors who sell them, they also provide an alternative point of view that would be missing without them.

  • karen May 29, 2013 (12:44 pm)

    I have read about and totally understand & applaud the good things that legitimate vendors get from the program. However, I am pretty tired of the lady who leans over the mail collection box at the West Seattle Post Office every day when I deposit the mail for our business. She is very pushy and her presence there has caused issues with cars safely entering and exiting the circular drive way.

  • Diane May 29, 2013 (1:26 pm)

    cjboffoli, why would you not read the paper; Real Change is a real newspaper, with some excellent stories that you won’t get anywhere else; some of the best local news, breaking stories, I have read in the Real Change news; just because it’s “paper”, or because of who is selling it, you make the assumption it’s not worth reading?
    and it’s about providing a respectful, dignified, “raising up” job (instead of relegating to picking up trash, cigarette butts, weeds; typical punishment for crime)
    if you took a few minutes to read the Real Change paper, and/or engage vendors in conversation, you just might gain a more enlightened perspective, and like JoB said, you would hear an “alternative point of view”, much different than what is in nearly every other news source
    love Real Change, and applaud their reaching out to our community

  • Scott May 29, 2013 (1:27 pm)

    There is a safety issue also when they are standing at the entrance to Thriftway parking lot and they distract people from being able to safely get out of the parking lot.

  • keden May 29, 2013 (1:27 pm)

    I often buy a Real Change from the vendor at the farmer’s market. He’ll tell me what’s in the paper and suggest what to read first. It might be old-fashioned, but I love to buy a paper from a human being.

  • cjboffoli May 29, 2013 (2:30 pm)

    Diane: You presume a lot. I have chatted with Real Change vendors. I have read a few issues. And I have reported news side-by-side with Real Change writers and know some of them. Philanthropy is personally very important to me and as such I do quite a bit of it. But my assessment of Real Change is that it feels more like perpetuation than change to me. Organized panhandling is still panhandling.
    I also think there is dignity in any job and I certainly don’t look down upon anyone who picks up trash. To me it seems more productive than standing or sitting around all day outside of a supermarket.

  • Diane May 29, 2013 (3:00 pm)

    my response was based on your comment; “I really don’t have much time or interest in reading that paper so I never take it.”

  • Abbie May 29, 2013 (3:20 pm)

    So, ciboffoli, who exactly is paying the homeless, cashless, downtrodden or unlucky to pick up trash? The government? The free market? Are there 100s of cigarette-butt-picking-up jobs out there going unfilled because Real Change is stealing all their best applicants? Why is it that right wingers don’t like private enterprise — even on a very small scale — for the poor? Those pesky poor people; they should stay out of sight.

  • Iggy May 29, 2013 (3:47 pm)

    I often buy Real Change, so please do not take these comments as criticism. Scott is correct in saying the vendor who blocks the Morgan Thriftway sidewalk/driveway causes a safety issue. Not just for drivers but for those of us navigating on foot with bags of groceries. An accident waiting to happen.

  • Ajax May 29, 2013 (4:02 pm)

    If exchanging a product for money outdoors is just organized pan handling, I guess I’ll have to rethink going to the Farmers Market. The same people are there week after week, year after year, selling the same old things, blocking the parking lot.

  • sc May 29, 2013 (5:04 pm)

    I agree with Karen. The woman at the post office also walks slowly back and forth on the sidewalk to block cars trying to exit.

  • Bums May 29, 2013 (5:08 pm)

    Bums avoiding work. Yup.

  • Marge Evans May 29, 2013 (5:12 pm)

    Dear cjboffoli, your comments are very Dickensian.
    What product would they sell that would have “more utility”? The Real Change vendors are real human beings running a small business. This isn’t a handout. They buy every copy of the paper they sell. Maybe you should actually read an issue.

  • Dhl May 29, 2013 (6:20 pm)

    I support these vendors when I can. My only question is do these vendors get assigned to a certain location or what. Two days ago I had to listen to a heated argument between 2 (or 3) vendors competing for the Thriftway driveway. Kind of weird .

  • JoB May 29, 2013 (6:22 pm)

    vendors who sell at the parking lot entrance do so because the store owners will not allow them to sell at the entrance where it is safer for both vendors and customers.
    if you like your local vendor, speak to the store about letting legitimate vendors sell out front

  • J May 29, 2013 (7:36 pm)

    I don’t think it’s necessarily “right-wing” to question the effectiveness of this program. I’m a far-left commie pinko, but I have doubts about its effectiveness, too. I’ve noticed the panhandlers with the cardboard signs at the off-/on-ramps seem to run as a business, too–same employees year in and out, working shifts. It appears some people find this product (a sort of street theatre, perhaps?) valuable enough to buy. I don’t. I’d much rather pay people to pick up trash–that’s performing a service I think we very much need, and deserving of just as much dignity.

  • Lura Ercolano May 29, 2013 (8:06 pm)

    cjboffoli – it’s a first amendment thing. Vending other types of items requires an expensive business license, and dealing with all sorts of regulations.

  • West Seattle Hipster May 29, 2013 (8:49 pm)

    Well said cjboffoli, agree with with what you wrote.

  • Rachelle May 29, 2013 (9:27 pm)

    Just bought a real change today from the nicest woman outside of PCC. And I so miss being in the u-district for school and hearing the real change guy outside of Safeway. The Daily did a story on him and he had a masters degree! Real Change is a wonderful program helping good people make a living. Oh and the paper is a really good read.

  • Kdsea May 29, 2013 (9:50 pm)

    I’m tired of being accosted everytime I go to the grocery store, bus stop, or just for a walk. The paper they peddle isn’t of any value to me. I also have no interest in helping Real Change police their employees to sort the legitimate from the fraudulent. None of this matters though. Real Change also doesn’t matter to the majority the people they intend to help. First, giving money directly to individuals that are “down on their luck” is almost always wasteful because those individuals unlikely possess sound money-management skills. Additionally, the individuals selling the papers aren’t developing any employable skills by panhandling. There is not a feasible exit strategy for these people. Don’t be mistaken, they are panhandling (and equating the vendors at a farmer’s market to panhandlers is illogical.) I understand the desire to help people. There are smarter, more effective ways to help than through Real Change.

  • Greenlakeslover May 30, 2013 (7:47 am)

    I agree that the woman selling papers by the post office is agressive. The last time I encountered her she was nasty with indignation that I didn’t purchase a paper. We can probably get caught up in a philosophical dicussion about ones obligation to support the poor, but i think it should be my “choice” to purchase a paper rather than an “obligation” as this woman would have me believe. I frequently buy papers but I don’t feel I need to buy one everytime I’m asked nor do I feel that I need to explain why when I acknowledge them to say no thanks. I will continue to support other vendors, but after the way the post office seller treated me she can be assured that I will never buy a paper from her. Behavior like that makes it difficult for the other sellers.

  • Abbie May 30, 2013 (8:26 am)

    Good discussion here. Nothing wrong with airing differences of opinion. Voice of the people and all that. And no, it’s not “right wing” to question the effectiveness of the program. But it is “right wing” to criminalize the poor. It is right wing to suggest — with nothing but mean-spirited words to back it up — that the poor should pick up trash instead of selling newspapers on street corners. The only organized trash-picker-uppers I’ve seen lately are prison inmates, and it is a right wing thing to equate newspaper selling with work details for the incarcerated. And it is right-wing to denigrate Real Change venders as mere panhandlers. Panhandlers don’t offer a product in exchange. You wouldn’t call Girl Scout cookie-sellers panhandlers, would you? They “accost” people at grocery stores — year in and year out — don’t they? Shouldn’t they be picking up trash, or sorting through it? Why do those darling little monsters have to be so in your face? Like the poor, shouldn’t they just stay silent and out of sight. Right?
    Kidding. Obviously. We should suggest respect everyone’s rights — to free speech, freedom of assembly, among others — whether they’re hawking alternative newspapers or sugar-laced cookies.

  • seaopgal May 30, 2013 (8:38 am)

    Dhl: Committed vendors can earn a reserved spot that gives them priority to their desired location over other vendors, based on how many papers they sell per month. Otherwise it is first-come/first-served, with rules about how much distance between vendors and permission to sell on private property.

    People who witness vendor conflicts, experience agression, or encounter vendors in unsafe situations (like the Thriftway driveway) are encouraged to report these to Real Change. A vendor badge number helps them to identify and work with people who are breaking the rules, but you can always report with just a description of the problem.

    In addition to employment, Real Change provides “behind the scenes” services to its vendors, focusing on communication, time management, money management, treatment and housing. But Vendor Services is just one part of the Real Change Mission. The other equally important goals are to produce a quality newspaper focusing on homelessness, poverty, and injustice, and to advocate for change in our approach to these issues. That’s why I buy …

  • Stephanie May 30, 2013 (9:33 am)

    I feel the ones downtown are a bit more friendlier than here in WS. Not only have I encountered the lady at the post office, but I’ve been followed, yelled at, and even called names from the people at QFC and Target. Do they really think that by yelling at an 8 month pregnant woman like an 8yr old who stole their dad’s cigar is really going to help them???

  • Anonymous May 30, 2013 (10:22 am)

    I love the real change vendors downtown. Most of them are all legit too (you can ask for to see their badge). The lady who is not legit that is usually in Westwood drives me crazy with how aggressive she is though. I was parking at Barnes and Noble and she walked up to my window and started knocking. I get really paranoid when people I don’t know try to approach me while I’m in my car or in a parking lot for some reason so maybe it’s just me, but it really bugs me when I see her going car to car yelling at people. She’s the only one that’s ever actually harassed me and yelled at me though. Everyone downtown is super friendly. The guy at the bus stop on 3rd sometimes drives me crazy with his duck call thing, but he’s super friendly and always seems to be happy.

  • DW May 30, 2013 (10:55 am)

    It seems that there are a lot more of these vendors than there used to be — but then there are a lot more homeless people in general in West Seattle. I got really irritated last night seeing the two bums sitting outside Elliott Bay Brewing panhandling while storing there sleeping bags on the steps of the dental office next door. Makes me think we’re turning into Detroit! Sadly, West Seattle is very tolerant of the homeless — from Real Change Vendors to Nickelsville. I wish some of the outrage about new condos could be redirected toward those trashing our streets and neighborhoods.

  • Andy May 30, 2013 (11:34 am)

    Abbie = ignornace is bliss.

  • G May 30, 2013 (1:09 pm)

    Hey people can we stop with the silly characterizations of this being a “right-wing” versus, presumably, a “left-wing” thing? Most of us consider ourselves good people, we only differ in solutions, not intentions.

    We all have different opinions probably based on our interactions with vendors (I personally don’t have a problem with them), and we have to assume they are genuine concerns. Hopefully, they are expressing those concerns to the right people.

  • Gatewood Guy May 30, 2013 (2:55 pm)

    If these are legitimate small businesses, are they paying into Social Security and Medicare based on their earnings? City and State B&O tax? They may well be, I’m just curious.

  • Kip May 30, 2013 (7:02 pm)

    There should be a limit to how long the vendors stay at one location. The woman dressed in Red who has been at PCC for at least 5 years needs to go. I work locally and pass by her at least 3 times a day. In her repetitive sales pitch she say “Real Change today?” I use to purchase from her once in awhile. Even tried to give her a nice bar of chocolate with a ten dollar bill during the Christmas Holiday Season a few years back.. She refused the chocolate because she was on a DIET… and rudely took the $10. ( As far as I’m concerned if your begging on the corner and somebody gifts you something that you don’t want. Simply thank them and give it away to one of your homeless friends who would really appreciate it. She rolls her eyes when I kindly decline her paper and finally after 5 years only asks me sometimes. This drives me crazy! She knows who I am, sees my 3-4 x per day and knows I won’t purchase. PCC needs to give her the boot. She’s dominated this corner and stream of income too long. Give somebody with more tact a chance to get on their feet. She looks like she’s comfortable and doing well.

  • Hello May 30, 2013 (9:36 pm)

    Right on Kdsea, People give to the Homeless as a feel good thing, Not to help another.

  • miws May 31, 2013 (7:31 am)

    People give to the Homeless as a feel good thing, Not to help another.


    Hey, Hi, Hello! If that’s true, it’s a helluva lot more admirable quality in a person, than that of those that endlessly call the Homeless such names as “No good lazy bums!”, and otherwise demean and demonize the Homeless.


    The people that have that attitude, and make comments such as that, are only doing so to feel superior, and to mask their own insecurities, and that’s a “feel good thing” for them



  • Chris May 31, 2013 (9:11 am)

    I left west Seattle for Phoenix about 5 years ago. We had no real change vendors on the streets and very little panhandling and homeless in general. I still feel connected to your great town, but these changes are disturbing. I visit several times a year and have seen how west Seattle has evolved. Sad to say, but I am glad to have moved on.

  • G May 31, 2013 (1:16 pm)

    Chris, I’m in the same boat, though I still have a house in WS. For me it’s not as much the general scruffiness, but the unhealthy angry, judgmental and uptight vibe in Seattle just beneath the smiles. Hate to diss the place where I grew up – and I guess here is where I need the disclaimer that it’s a wonderful place – but now living mostly in L.A. I’m happier.

  • JoAnne June 3, 2013 (3:43 pm)

    Abbie, you clearly don’t know anyone with right-wing views and are just attributing every nasty thing you can think of to Republicans.
    And as usual, WSB will not tolerate nasty comments, unless off course they are directed at conservatives.

  • JoAnne June 3, 2013 (3:58 pm)

    By the way, it is common knowledge among those familiar with the work of Arthur Brooks that Republicans give 30% more money to charity than Democrats do.
    They also donate more time as volunteers and donate blood more often.
    So please check facts before you post lies. Thanks.

  • Abbie June 4, 2013 (9:45 am)

    Hi, JoAnn: Honestly, 4 out of 5 scientists surveyed find the perspective of Mel Brooks to be more reality-based than those of Arthur Brooks.
    Arthur Brooks thinks Republicans suffer from a bad image – that conservatives are bad for the poor and middle class, that conservative policies favor the rich and corporations, that conservatives are weak on civil liberties, that Republicans are out of touch with Hispanics, that Republicans’ favorite social program is more jails and prisons… And, well, you probably know the rest and support them too.
    But, you see, the truth is that’s not an image problem – it’s a reality problem. At least Mel Brooks is an honest. He loves farce and parody. Unlike Arthur Brooks and the American Enterprise Institute, Mel Brooks is not trying repackage toxic sludge and sell it as health food.
    That’s why 95 percent more sane people prefer Mel Brooks.

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