When Street Hawkers Attack! Rome, Italy.

By Posted in - Big Trip & Europe & Featured Post & Italy on January 31st, 2011

Street hawkers in Paris.

“You’re crazzzy!” screams the young man selling tripods on a Rome sidewalk. This got my attention.

“I’m crazy?” I fire back, now face to face with the peddler.

“Yes! You’re crazy, I’m crAZY, WE’RE ALL CRAZY!” the 20-something yells while flailing his free hand into the air before walking away.

Moments before his outburst, the three of us, mainly Beth and the hawker, who we’ll call Chuck, haggled over a lightweight, cheaply constructed tripod. “What do you want to pay, maam?” Chuck asks, quickly repeating the question over and over even as Beth says she’s not interested. But this isn’t just any tripod, you see this three-legged beauty also comes with a carrying case, which Chuck is quick to point out.

“Oh, it’s great, but I was just curious about the price,” Beth says.

“What will you pay for this?” Chuck repeatedly asks, throwing out prices “25…23…22 euro.” Beth declines, trying to explain she is not interested. Then, Chuck turns to me,”What will YOU pay?”

“1 euro,” I say nonchalantly.

Clearly flustered now, Chuck squeals, “Seriously, seriously, why would you say that; 1 euro, why would you waste my time?” As I try to explain myself, this is about the time Chuck verbally bitch slaps me with his “you’re crazy” rant.

I’m still not really sure what caused Chuck’s incensed reaction. Had our negations pushed him to his limit? Was he just having a bad day? Or was this part of some twisted hawker logic: If you flip out, they will feel bad and buy?

And while this was not my first rodeo with street peddlers, I learned a very valuable lesson that evening: never try to justify yourself to a hawker, just keep walking.

Do you have any wild tales about street vendors? Or tips for bargaining with them? Feel free to share your stories or advice below in the comments.

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(29) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christine Gilbert and India Files, BeersAndBeans. BeersAndBeans said: When Street Hawkers Attack! Rome, Italy http://goo.gl/fb/8xmfd […]

  • Meg -

    January 31, 2011 at 6:53 am

    While at the Red Fort in Agra, we had a man try to sell us his services as a tour guide. We declined and kept walking. He followed, making his case. We continued to decline. As we reached the gates, he screamed, “HOW WILL YOU UNDERSTAND?!?!? HOW?!?!”

    Oh, India.

    • Bethany -

      January 31, 2011 at 12:35 pm

      I know, they don’t realize being angry def. does not work! @Meg,

  • Harriet -

    January 31, 2011 at 7:05 am

    Hilarious! This really made me laugh. Two years ago I spent some time in Africa and wherever we went we were followed by people trying to sell us stuff, they used to say things like ‘I’ll lower the price for you because you have such pretty hair’ and rubbish like that. It took a while before we learnt to tell them to go away!

    • Bethany -

      January 31, 2011 at 12:35 pm

      Hi Harriet,
      yeah, they’ll say anything. At least they were tyring to compliment you though 🙂 @Harriet,

  • Nick Laborde -

    January 31, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Earlier this year In Belize I was corner by some very persistant drug dealers. They really wanted to sell me some weed. They finally gave up when I was persistant in my disinterest.

    I learned the hard way not to engage in conversation with them as that just adds fuel to their sales tactics. I guess every rookie traveler has to learn that the hard way.

    • Bethany -

      January 31, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      You’re 100% right. Sometimes, even though you feel bad you can’t even look them in the eye. @Nick Laborde,

  • Jane -

    January 31, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I try to stay away from them especially in Paris, they go in groups usually with a con and a pickpocket.

    • Bethany -

      January 31, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      Yeah, I have a love/hate relationship with them. Fortunately I haven’t encountered any groups w/ pickpockets but I’ve heard many stories! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment 🙂 @Jane,

  • Migrationology -

    January 31, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Yah, sounds like the seller was practicing a normal routine. A lady in Vietnam was selling bread and I knew the correct price, so when I handed her the “right” amount of money to buy 1 loaf, she blew up, demanding 2x the price…threatening to hit me. In a situation like that, I couldn’t resist laughing, so I thanked her and continued (she didn’t hit me!).

    • Bethany -

      February 2, 2011 at 9:32 am

      A similar situation has happened to me in Mexico. I always think it is funny! @Migrationology,

  • Top 100 Travel Blogs -

    January 31, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    […] the mundane, the beautiful, and the forgotten.” Some interesting recent posts include When Street Hawkers Attack! Rome, Italy, Calmness and Cuisine in Malta, and Traveling Long Term – 8 Things I’ve Learned on the […]

  • Erica -

    January 31, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I luckily haven’t had to deal with these yet. Oh boy I can only imagine how I will fail saying NO. 😛

    • Bethany -

      February 2, 2011 at 9:33 am

      Oh don’t worry Erica, you’ll get good at it a lot faster than you think! @Erica,

  • Sarah Wu -

    January 31, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    LOL I think they’re out to get us. I was at the Market in Florence before and I glance at a bracelet. This guy just jump infront of me and keep saying you want? I say no no no and try to walk away. Then he’s like come on, how much would you pay then? When you throw him back a lower number he look at me if I was insane and then he say okay how about two with xyz price and he wrap it and throw in side my shopping bag (quickly) … I had no choice but feel guilty and paid him. LOL and then when I went inside the food market I almost tears because my fiance was laughing at me saying I was too nice. Then he notice there was a teardrop he quickly stop poking fun at me. Now that I think about it I laugh…

    • Bethany -

      February 2, 2011 at 9:34 am

      Yeah, i noticed in florence they were VERY pushy. I wanted to buy a hat and I tried one on but it looked bad. I wanted to try a different one on but the guy wouldn’t let me unless I bought it first. He started yelling at me. They live in Florence they should be happy but instead they are some of the biggest jerks! @Sarah Wu,

  • Annie -

    February 1, 2011 at 2:43 am

    I thankfully have never encountered an angry seller but there are plenty in my life daily in Italy.

    They are much more persistent in Rome; in Florence they generally just walk away once you say no. I’m so used to (and unflattered by) hearing “Ciao Bella!” every 5 steps that I don’t even look up from my path but it doesn’t make it less annoying.

    The best is when the rose sellers try to sell to a single girl, just incase you forgot you were alone? Or even a group of girls. But I generally try to be polite unless they won’t leave me alone.

    • Bethany -

      February 2, 2011 at 9:38 am

      Hahah… That is too funny! A never saw a rose seller in Italy but I’ve seen plenty in Mexico and in SD. Good for me though, they only try to sell it to the guys…@Annie,

  • Tijmen -

    February 1, 2011 at 6:08 am

    Never had an encounter like this myself, but heard more then enough stories about them from other people. Its tempting to respond when they offer you something, but the best solution really seem to just keep walking!

    • Bethany -

      February 2, 2011 at 9:37 am

      It is tempting and sometimes fun but if you’re not in the mood, it can be a real pain. Thanks for commenting! @Tijmen,

  • Zablon -

    February 1, 2011 at 7:16 am

    Hawkers make me happy. all you have to do is make eye contact and from there they are on you. and if you dont buy they make a big fuss out of it. am sorry you got insulted

    • Bethany -

      February 2, 2011 at 9:36 am

      hahah… Good for you Zablon. A lot of times I love them too, it’s just that sometimes they are so mean! @Zablon,

  • Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World -

    February 1, 2011 at 8:17 am

    When I’m in the right mood, I love interacting with street hawkers. One of them was trying to sell us this cheap necklace one time, I took it and was looking at it but he was driving a hard bargain (because Jack was looking waaay too interested in it). So in the end I fished out a bill half the price of his last. Holding the money in one hand and the necklace in the other, I was dangling both of them in front of his face. I was like, ‘Alright, your choice.’ — He took the money.

  • Brooke vs. the World -

    February 1, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    When I was in Italy, a dude was selling watches on a stand he made out of a cardboard box. Apparently, the price I offered him was too low, so he folded up his stand and walked it around the corner in disgust!


    • Bethany -

      February 2, 2011 at 9:35 am

      Hahah… That’s awesome! @Brooke vs. the World,

    • Melvin -

      February 3, 2011 at 12:01 pm

      I hope it wasn’t a “travel”dude! 😉

  • Melvin -

    February 3, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Nice one… I guess every travelers experienced something similar. Keep on walking is good. If you are in a really good mood, it’s fun to turn the situation around & do it on the fun way. I remember how hawkers started the conversations with “Where are you from?” We just replied “From the moon!”. Makes sense? No! But it worked! They looked strange & were then smiling… & we were gone. 🙂

    • Bethany -

      February 3, 2011 at 11:28 am

      You are totally right Melvin. If you can make a joke about it. It becomes really fun! @Melvin,