Many Wits students are tired of being persuaded to buy goods and services at almost every robot.
Drivers can find anything from car chargers to rubber snakes thrust at them at supposed low prices and a lot of them find robot hawkers and windscreen washers aggressive.
Windscreen cleaners however receive Wits drivers’ scorn more than hawkers. For spare change Joburg drivers can have their windscreens spotless in a matter of seconds.
“Those guys that wash your windows are really irritating,” said 2nd year health sciences student Nabeela, who did not want her full name mentioned.
“I dislike like them more than I do the hawkers.”
A 3rd year medical student said her friend was a victim of a “smash and grab” incident on Jan Smuts Avenue and the man looked like he was selling goods. Because of this she makes sure she “has her window rolled up” at robots.
Hawkers also come across as aggressive instead of as persistent salesmen. “The guy actually stuck his hand through my window,” said 2nd year physiotherapy student Clarise du Plessis, about the robot hawker who stands on Jan Smuts and St Andrews.
Her friend, 2nd year health sciences student Annick Gourrege, like many Witsies said she wouldn’t buy “stuff” in general but did buy her World Cup flags from a robot hawker. Most students said they never paid windscreen washers because they wash their windows despite protestations not to.
Many people believe the goods to be stolen and others feel it’s a possible “smash and grab” method and usually keep their windows rolled up at major intersections.
Napier Wholesalers supply goods to “most of the robot hawkers in Johannesburg”. Owner Sameer Surtee said it’s become a “fully fledged business”.
“Hawkers can make up to R500 or more a day depending on how good they are,” said Surtee. He believes that the number of hawkers have decreased since the 2008 xenophobic attacks but cites most of his sellers as being from Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
He also said the biggest problem hawkers are faced with is being arrested by Metro cops and their goods being “illegally” confiscated and returned only once they’ve paid a fine of up to R500 – sometimes more than the goods are worth.
While many students had a negative view of hawkers a few shared the sentiment that people were being proactive in creating jobs to earn an income instead of turning to crime. “It’s awesome helping people who are helping themselves,” said Ashvir Rajkumar, a 2nd year medicine student.
A hawker who stands at Eastgate Shopping Centre’s main intersection has been selling goods there for six years. He did not want to be named and said, “I do it because it’s difficult finding a job and I need to make a living.”
Robot hawkers and windscreen cleaners are a norm on Johannesburg roads and the free market enterprise law means they’re here to stay.