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A doubles vendor’s reality

Friday, May 18, 2018

The headline in another newspaper earlier this week—“Tax Doubles”—was both misleading and sensational. Everyone earning over a certain annual net income is required to pay tax, whether you are a lawyer or a doubles vendor. So, for the headline to suggest the time has come to “tax doubles”, as if the business of doubles is not at present already included in the tax net, is simply incorrect.

Of course, no blame for the headline can be placed on the lady, a highly regarded tax attorney, whose contribution to the Mid-Year Budget Analysis held by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) led to the offending headline. That was the editor’s decision, not hers.

What was unfortunate in the article was the claim attributed to the contributor, that, in respect of a (typical) doubles vendor, her husband asked her if “…you have 200 customers buying at $5 per doubles, in five minutes. How much money would you be making?”.

All of us know that no vendor can sell 200 doubles, ie, take orders for, then assemble 200 doubles’ worth of bara, channa and condiments, and bag them up—in five minutes (or roughly put, produce one doubles every one and a half seconds!) In reality your fastest vendor would be hard pressed to serve up more than four or five doubles in five minutes.

You will hardly find a doubles vendor who, even in two shifts (morning and evening), sells much more than 300 doubles a day, far less in the suggested seven and a half minutes (applying the claimed figure of 200 every five minutes). Yes, there may be those who sell more in certain doubles hotspots, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

The suggestion that there are vendors out there earning $1,000 every five minutes was unfortunate, because if that is somehow put into the mind of every roving criminal out there, he will think that your average doubles vendor closing up after his shift is awash with huge amounts of cash, ripe for the picking.

We have had too many tragic cases of innocent persons plying their legitimate trade being robbed and hurt and even killed by the unscrupulous. Some months ago, a vegetable vendor was robbed and killed while selling off the link road in South leading to Palmyra. Also, very recently, a Gasparillo vegetable vendor was held up at the Macaulay Junction in South early in the morning when he was setting up to sell and was robbed, shot, left for dead (mercifully he survived), and his pick up and goods stolen.

The highlighting—whether by the editor or the contributor or both—of the need for doubles vendors to start paying up (which presumes, uncharitably, that no doubles vendor ever pays up), was also unfortunate because the point was raised at an AmCham forum no less, where only big local and foreign business was present, with not a doubles vendor in sight.

The further suggestion that taxi drivers should also start paying up, while at the same time bemoaning the effect of Property Tax on businesses like those represented at the forum, raised the spectres of the class divide and dated North West insularity in our society, and exacerbated the widely held feeling that levying on the common man, whether by taxes or increased fines for traffic offences, is the way to go, instead of focussing on diversification and innovation.

Be that as it may, speakers at events like the AmCham forum, and newspapers in their reporting, must be careful, even innocently and unwittingly, not to single out any group for attention that is likely to prejudice the livelihoods and, frankly, the lives, of members of that group.

It is a sad truth that frightening times require us to be careful and cautious in what we say and how it is reported. But it is the reality of life today.

Mickela Panday


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