Today I bought my first piece of furniture. I had been meaning to go into the nearest bigger city for weeks to buy shelves or a dresser or something to finally get my clothes out of my suitcase. But the prospect of going to town, haggling and probably getting ripped off and then figuring out a way to get the thing back to site was so daunting that I kept putting it off. Thankfully, Guatemala is a country that wholeheartedly believes in door to door salesmanship.
My host mom, who was aware of my predicament, came to the office midway through the day to tell me about the mueblecitos (little pieces of furniture) a man was driving around town. She talked him down 200Q from his original asking price and then had me show up just in time to write the check as they took the shelves out of the back of their pickup. They touched up the paint and were on their merry way, saving me what was sure to be a headache of a day in town.
Clearly, the door to door sales are something I have wholeheartedly embraced here and not just because of the shelves. About three weeks ago I was in need of a basket. As I was heading out the door in search of my basket I was met by a man with a variety of baskets on his back. He was just passing through the neighborhood on the off chance that people wanted to buy some handmade Salvadorian baskets. Brilliant! I’ve seen the same thing done with brooms. And clothes. And I am basically in love with the girl that comes by in the morning with a basket full of tortillas and think the family that drives around a car full of bread in the afternoons is incredible. I’m starting to become convinced that if you wait long enough, basically anything you need to buy will come walking by your home.
However, the wandering salesmen don’t just stick to homes. I am continuously amused by the people that wander into the office selling peanuts, fruit, newspapers and even belts. The most entertaining though are the camioneta salespeople. They board at pit stops or sometimes hop on and off up and down stretches of busy roads. They usually have a pitch and then walk up and down the usually crowded aisle waving their product in your face, telling you how much you need it. And they are relentless. You NEED this cookie/ candy/ gum/ chile relleno/ soda/ jello/ ice cream cone/ flashlight/ keychain/ cookbook/donut/miracle pill/healing oil/balloon animal!! (and, yes, these are all things I have either witnessed being sold or another volunteer has seen)
And, while it all seems a little insane, it totally works. I mean, I did buy a basket. And the shelves. My coworkers will often shell out a few Q to the lady offering mangos. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bus salesperson leave a bus without selling at least one of whatever they’ve got. In fact, I was most impressed last weekend by a man who got on my half empty bus with ten ice cream cones and managed to sell them all. And it wasn’t even that hot.
It’s not a career I envy whatsoever, but I am so glad someone is doing it.