Evicted Saigon street vendors not impressed by proposed move to Facebook

By Vien Thong   March 23, 2017 | 09:00 am PT
Evicted Saigon street vendors not impressed by proposed move to Facebook
Food shops on the sidewalk in Saigon's District 1. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Officials say it will provide better publicity, but vendors don't buy it.

Ho Chi Minh City plans to launch a Facebook page next month to help street vendors affected by the sidewalk revolution, but many vendors believe they are too old and poorly-equipped to survive in an e-commerce environment.

Am thuc Quan 1 (Food of District 1) was set up by the district government to advertise street food vendors who have lost their usual spots as part of the sidewalk cleanup.

The district also plans to help the vendors open their own Facebook pages.

Their food will be inspected and they will receive training to help them adapt to the new business model as part of the plan.

The page will support those who have not been included in a new legal street food zone initiative. Street zones have been planned on Nguyen Van Chiem Street behind Notre Dame Cathedral and Bach Tung Diep Park near the Reunification Palace. The city has selected 35 street vendors to trial the initiative out of more than 500 who make up the city’s street food culture.

Vendors interviewed by VnExpress on Thursday did not seem excited about going online.

Many of them were not convinced that moving online will work for them.

Pham Thi Mai, who used to sell dessert soup by a tree near Saigon Square, said her small business, that earns her VND150,000 ($7) per day, is not big enough to be selected for the new street food corner, and the Facebook page is not a viable option.

“My only customers are the women who sell clothes here. If I put these bowls of soup online, no one is going to buy them,” said Mai.

“And I am too old to take phone calls,” said the 75-year-old, referring to delivery services.

Deliveries are also going to be a tough one for Cuc, who sells grilled bananas outside Ben Thanh Market. “I don't have anyone to do that for me,” she said.

Food vendors around Turtle Lake also said that they depend on passers-by and do not think that online sales will secure them a stable customer base.

Lam Ngo Hoang Anh, District 1’s office chief, has guaranteed that the district will send young volunteers to help run the Facebook pages and deliveries.

Anh believes that the plan will give vendors better publicity and help them attract more customers.

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