- The name was originally slang but is now recognised.
- A pedlar is a merchant without a shop. He saves rent.
- He appears cheap, but often sells inferior goods.
- It is safer to keep to the regular shopkeeper.
In Pakistan, the hawker is a common sight. By this we mean a seller of goods who does not keep a shop, but carries his wares about with him. They are to be seen in scores on the streets of Karachi and other large towns. Sometimes they carry their goods in a tray suspended in front of the body, and sometimes spread them out on a blanket on the pavement. Another name given to this brotherhood is “Cheap Jack,” for they mostly deal with the cheapest kinds of small articles, shoelaces, collar-studs, handkerchiefs, fountatin pens, cotton socks and the like. The name was first given in reference to the snatching habits of the hawk, but is now found in standard dictionaries.
The hawker does not aim at a big turn-over or large profits. He wants, to make a plain living out of his sales. Since he has no shop, he has no rent to pay, no rates or taxes in respect of property, none of the things which in the annual balance sheet of a shopkeeper would be entered as “expenses.” Some-time his stock-in-trade is old stuff which the regular merchant has been unable to sell, and so has disposed of to the hawker at a bargain price. He has no reputation to lose, like a merchant who trades in one area and is known to all around, for the hawker is here today and gone tomorrow. He wanders round like a hawk, seeking what he can pick up in the way of profit.
The hawker is found all over Westren Countries he will come and knock at your door in an English tone. But he fails to compete with the large stores. Formerly he was eagerly awaited in country districts, but since communications have improved and shops have been opened even in the small villages, the travelling pedlar is becoming a thing of the past. In Oliver Twist, we read of man being in prison because he had been hawking saucepans from door to door without having taken out a licence, as is required by law.
The regular shopkeeper has a reputation to keep up. It is not in interest to sell you an inferior article, because you will come back and trouble him with your complaints. The hawker has no such considerations to make him do his best for the customer. To-morrow he may be miles away working in an other locality. So it is better to patronise the man who has interests in the social life of the community; represented by his shop. Particularly does this apply to ice-cream, mineral waters and any kind of food or drink. Who knows of what material the ice-cream was made, or in what insanitary room it lay overnight? Take no risks. The hawker is a picturesque figure, with his plausible tongue and strange cries, but he is out for profit at any cost.
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