The Big Issue

Lewis, who has been working with BYH for 3 years, visited the Big Issue office in Nottingham to learn more about their services, and to find out more realities and myths surrounding Big Issue sellers.
To sell the Big Issue you have to be seventeen or older, and homeless or vulnerably housed. It is not essential to be on benefits but the vendor must sign a fraud declaration and a code of conduct.
Is it free?
No. A lot of people are under the impression that Big Issue sellers are given magazines to sell for free, but this is not the case. The vendors get three magazines at no cost, then when they return they get an extra two, making it five free magazines in total to start them off.
After selling their five free copies they have to buy the magazines at £1.25 each and sell them on at £2.50 each. To become a permanent Big Issue seller the vendors need to buy a tabard and their ID badge at £15 combined.
There is a rolling badge system; this involves a quarterly review with a Big Issue staff member, for supervision and badge reissuing if required.
Vendors report to the office to book their pitch each day (unless they have a permanent or weekly selling spot) and also to buy any further magazines. Three consecutive bookings make it a permanent pitch. This is good for the vendors as they can attract regular customers.
Big Issue Foundation
The Big Issue Foundation helps homeless people with housing, finance, healthcare and housing amongst other things. They also providing a veterinary service.
Rogue vendors
Rogue vendors sell the Big Issue without a licence. They usually buy magazines from the legal vendors, and will often tell customers that it is their last magazine and ask if they can keep it. However the vast majority are legitimately selling the magazine. Customers can check vendors by asking them to show you a pitch booking slip to prove which pitch they booked, and when they booked it for.
How can YOU support?
You can support the Big Issue by buying a magazine, making a donation or even simply acknowledging vendors (as homeless people often say they feel invisible already).

Lewis then agreed to try selling the Big Issue in Derby and was interviewed by another BYH volunteer about his experience.
How long did you sell the Big Issue for?
I sold the Big Issue for fifteen minutes, and used two separate pitches. I sold one and made four pounds in donations (to everyone’s surprise, including my own). Steven from the Big Issue told me that vendors typically sell only two or three an hour, and I’m sure I was fortunate to make four pounds in donations.
What was your sales pitch?
I tried to play the role of a more experienced Big Issue seller. I used colloquial language such as ‘love’ and ‘mate’ to give the appearance of someone who feels like they already know what they are doing.
Did it feel like you were an actual vendor?
I didn’t shout Big Issue like the more experienced vendors, and I didn’t really feel like I was one. However I knew the money was going towards the Big Issue foundation, not myself, so it wasn’t exactly what Big Issue vendors do anyway.
Would you do it again?
It was quite stressful for me but it was a good experience. However doing it day in and day out would take its toll, and most vendors only do half days.
Would you sell the Big Issue if you could as a job?
Preferably not because there are many more comfortable and lucrative jobs. Also, if you’re ill or fatigued it is not fun (as I found out on my try).
What were people’s responses, & how did you react to them?
Most people simply said “No thanks” or words to that effect. Many ignored me though, and a couple mocked the Big Issue vendors. I tried to not take it too personally.
Has your opinion on the Big Issue changed since visiting the office? If yes, how?
I noticed that the people working there really believe in what they are doing. Apart from that nothing much changed as I already knew quite a lot about them from working with BYH.