Beach Vendors: Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em?

Read through reviews and forums on TripAdvisor and other travel sites and you’ll see one debate after another about beach vendors in the Caribbean.

In fact, I just Googled “beach vendors jamaica”, and a TripAdvisor review titled “Beware of Beach Vendors” was among the top results.

An excerpt:

“The big negative of staying at the resort and it was a problem as a whole at all of the hotels on bloddy bay was the many many vendors that constantly walked up and down the beach all day. 

–TripAdvisor Reviewer Debbie NH

(The reviewer seemed generally happy with the resort but because of her experiences with the beach vendors, she gave the resort 3 stars out of 5.)

I put ‘vendors’ in the Negril forum on TripAdvisor, and among the results was a post from a traveler about to embark on a trip to Negril for the first time. She worried the vendors would ruin her vacation.

An excerpt:

“I just keep focusing on the vendors up and down the beach and thinking that may ruin our vacation.”

TripAdvisor Reviewer Svet N.

A recent story published in The Jamaica Gleaner ignited heated debates on travel forums and message boards.

The story, titled ‘We are Tired of Running’, featured anecdotes from beach vendors in Negril who have been hauled into court and ordered to pay fines, or alternatively spend up to 10 days in jail, for selling their items on the beach without a licence.

But the debate that ensued after the story went to press didn’t really revolve around the legalities of selling products and services on a beach without a licence. Rather, the debates focused more on how beach vendors affect travelers’ vacations, for better or for worse.

But luckily for the vendors, it wasn’t all negativity.

On the message board, for instance, it was mostly nothin’ but love for the vendors.

A couple of excerpts:

“The vendors are one reason that we stay on the beach. Everything that we want i.e. fruit, veggies. bread. juice etc. comes to us.”

– Member Tahrheel

“I dont mind them ,that’s why i always have my vacation at Negril ,they make it special.” 

— Member Junior Bailey

And I merrily agreed with much of what these posters had to say, especially after looking around my house at all the wonderful handcrafted wooden palm trees, starfish, crocodiles, crabs, turtles, etc. They’re all very beautiful pieces that I’d never find around here, and they all came from beach vendors.

Negril beach vendor display

Now, I’m not saying that in all my vacations to the Caribbean, I’ve never felt the tiniest bit of frustration when dealing with specific vendors. Every vendor is different – many are tactful and practice proper etiquette but many do not. Some ask politely and smile as you say no, while others grab your arm and drag you over to their stall, never taking no for an answer.

So I guess it brings me to this excerpt I stumbled upon on the same message board:

“There needs to be a happy medium. There obviously needs to be vendors to meet the needs of the tourist but there also needs to be some controlls established.”

– Member halfwaytree

After reading this, I realized that halfwaytree hit the nail on the head. Why do we have to be so divided on the issue? Can there be a middle ground?

Business owners everywhere, service professionals, and even bloggers – we conduct ourselves in very different ways when we’re trying to reach out to our audience or potential clients. And while many of us go about it with as much tact as we possibly can, many others are more than willing to break the rules to get the results they crave.

Consider a shoe shop owner who conducts business in a shady way and makes us feel a bit uncomfortable as we try to do business with him. Does that mean we swear off all shoe shops forever? I think it’s safe to assume the answer is no. Instead, we opt to do business with the other, more credible, shoe shops in town. We swear off that one shady shoe shop, not all of them.

The same principle should apply for these beach vendors. I won’t give you my business if you grab my arm and drag me over to your stall, no matter what deal you’re offering me, when I can go to the guy standing there smiling, saying hello and asking me if I care to take a look at his handcrafted pieces.

Make sense?

I can’t tell you how many reviews I’ve seen that say something like this, “Just say no and they’ll leave you alone.”

I guess my point is, if I had said no to every beach vendor just because s/he is a beach vendor or because the rule of thumb on TripAdvisor is to just say no, I’d be the one missing out, not the vendor. I admire all the beautiful pieces of art and crafts I have around my house because they’re stunning, they’re handmade, and they come with so many wonderful memories – of my vacations and of the people who sold them to me.

So imagine what I’d be missing out on if I ‘just say no’ so that ‘they’ll leave me alone??’

This, for starters!

Negril Beach vendor crafts


One Love,
Jody, The Tropical Tourist


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