Now I might just attract some flack with this posting. But here goes. Regularly parked outside our local M&S in Teddington High is a young girl selling the Big Issue. Another girl who looks like her sister operates outside of our Tesco Metro store. They look like pretty typical Romanian street beggars. Now we’ve been in Teddington for around 18 months now and these girls have been here imploring me to buy the ‘Bee-shoo’ all that time. So what’s my little issue with them?

I’ve got no problem with them selling the mag – I often buy it (though not from them) and I admire the principle of providing people who are homeless and having a tough time with a dignified means of earning some money by selling a decent publication rather than shameless, aggressive begging. But these girls are young and seemingly in great health and after at least a year and  a half of sitting on the pavement I would have expected them to have been able/determined to find full time employment by now.

Perhaps the language is a problem. Well recently I bumped into them one morning at the train station. They don’t walk or ride a bike as I might have expected but actually commute to work on South West trains to sell the Big Issue. And only the other day I was heading into M&S to get some food when I was rather surprised to find one of the girls sat on the floor with the mags spread around her and she was busy talking away on a mobile phone. Not some 15 year old Motorola brick but a bloody smartphone. So if there is a language issue it obviously didn’t prevent her from walking up to some ticket office and asking for ‘a return ticket to Teddington please my good man’. Or from popping into the Carphone Warehouse to ask the sales assistant what he’d recommend – the new iPhone 4 or the Samsung Galaxy S Android.

It’s unbelievable. I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t have some nice things, especially if they’ve worked for them, but life cannot be that tough can it? I don’t know their back story but I’m cynically dubious about their sources of money and the actual state of their ‘poverty’. Most BI sellers I come across go out of their way to be pleasant and polite but these two are sullen, unsmiling and particularly unfriendly and insistent. So I refuse to buy from them. And I’m tempted to challenge M&S and Tesco’s about their vetting policy in allowing certain people to solicit in their doorways. I’m convinced these two put people off from going in their stores as well as from buying the mag itself.

If that doesn’t cement the impression that I’m getting increasingly intolerant in my old age, then nothing will. But I cannot be alone in thinking we are too feeble (or maybe too PC) on such issues these days. Can I…?


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