They are ubiquitous in the city, shouting over the din of traffic that they have water for sale. On the pavements, at stoplights, the roving water vendors try to make as many sales as possible before the day ends.
Over the years, the trickle of water vendors in the city has gushed into a torrent as many, from grandmothers to jobless youths, seek to make ends meet. Like any other, the water vendors ply their trade almost every day contending with increased competition and rainy days which dampen sales.
For them, the best days are sunny days.
There is no single route to enter the trade and while for some, it is a temporary occupation, for others, it is how they make a living.
Maylene Innis, 50, began selling water to support her grandchildren. The woman, who plies her trade at the corner of Regent and Wellington streets, related that she began to sell water almost a year ago.
She recounted that her daughter, who has three children, had landed herself in trouble with the law and was sent to prison. Innis said that when her daughter was taken to prison, her three children were left behind and welfare officials threatened to separate her from her grandchildren because she had no means of taking care of them.
“I had to find a way to keep my grandchildren with me while their mother was away,” Innis recounted. She said she needed money to support her grandchildren and vending was the only option. “Since last year August I have been doing this and I’ve made money to support me and my family and I realize that the business does make money,” the woman told Stabroek News.
She related that her daughter was recently released on parole but she continues to help her by selling water on the road. Innis said at the moment, she does not mind selling, but water vending has become a popular business around Georgetown and it has become quite competitive.
“At first it was just water but now persons selling drink so you have to sell other things to keep the competition going,” the woman said.
According to the grandmother, she works on Mondays straight through to Saturdays, taking Sundays to rest. Her day of selling water begins at 8 am and ends at 5 pm. She rents a cooler on wheels for $500 a day and buys the water, wholesale from a retailer. “At the end of the day you seeing money and you are able to provide,” Innis said.
While some sell water to support their families, others do it to pass the time until better opportunities roll by. Brian, 17, a vendor on Regent Street told Stabroek News that he only picked up the trade a few weeks ago after writing his Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams. “I doing this till I get my results to go to TI,” the teenager said. He told Stabroek News that he wants to enter the engineering programme when the Government Technical Institute’s new academic year starts in September.
So far, he has found his first job hard. “It is quite difficult to pull and sell and I’m hardly getting customers today,” the lad lamented. He also was not pleased with the $500 rental charge for the cart.
“I believe the price for the cooler can lowered but at the end of the day, the owner for the cooler got to make money too,” Brian said. According to the aspiring engineer, he buys three cartons of water a day. A carton which has 24 bottles of water, is sold by the retailer for $1,300 and he resells the water for $100 per bottle.
“On a good day like a sunny day all my water does sell out but on a rainy day it’s hard to make the money,” he said. Brian said that the money he earns will go towards him furthering his education.
Meanwhile, at the traffic lights at the Camp and Lamaha streets junction, two male water vendors told Stabroek News that selling water keeps them out of trouble.
“We have to do this to maintain our families,” one said. “We don’t want to go and rob nobody and end up in jail.”
The other man described his work as fun but dangerous particularly when he has to navigate through traffic to sell to customers in vehicles.
“We don’t really see the danger. This selling on the road is more like we in our office. I won’t think of doing no office work because at the end of the day, we here on the road making more money than y’all make in a month,” the vendor added.