Informal tactics

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One can learn a great deal from simply watching the street – how many informal sellers there are, what they’re selling, who’s buying. One telling measure of the relative level of risk involved in street selling comes from how “ready to run”  a place’s street sellers are. Here in Amman, as in many other places I’ve visited, there are differences in inventory between stationary and mobile vendors. Around Amman, the few walking (rather than vehicle-based) mobile vendors I saw typically sold snacks. The city’s stationary vendors traffic in a variety of accessories like sunglasses and belts, along with small plastic toys and “used” (or fenced) cellphones.

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At a moment’s notice, Amman’s street vendors are ready to run, as reflected in the design of their goods displays. Their standard setup is a large box (or collection of boxes), upon which a platform is set that contains the vendors inventory. For those whose inventories are beyond the capacity of a standalone cardboard box to hold them, there are certain adaptations (usually also box/container-based) that accommodate heavier inventories.

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At the sign of impending enforcement, the vendor quickly removes the platform and takes off with his inventory (which would otherwise be confiscated by the enforcing police). Hence, a sidewalk filled with cardboard boxes may not be a sign of lax waste disposal, but rather of earnest sidewalk-level enforcement.

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