Subway minstrels

I don’t often go to New York City but have lately made a few trips to the city for events.  It is interesting to see the various entrepreneurs who appear in crowded subway cars to offer their products and/or services to captive subway riders. Following are just a few examples from my recent travels:

A man selling sandwiches to benefit the homeless

          A man collecting money for the homeless

          A man selling snacks and candy (no altruistic purpose stated)

A man selling bootleg movie DVDs

The more heart-wrenching examples are the homeless people who work their way through the cars begging for money from each passenger. Many homeless people can also be found along the sidewalks of the city asking for money from passersby.

The subway entrepreneur usually exits at the station following his or her entrance to move on to new customers.

On a recent subway ride through the Bronx, I was surprised by the sudden entrance into my subway car by a musical trio (two men and one woman) who entertained the passengers with their performance of Spanish songs on two acoustic guitars and a guiro.  A few of the passengers briefly looked up from their phones, smiled at the trio for just a moment, then resumed reading their phones.  As the serenade ended, the balladeers collected money from the passengers and exited at the next station to wait for the next train and a fresh audience.  I thought the scene was quite amusing and wondered who or what I might possibly encounter on my return home.  Sadly, my return trip was quite dull.

The increase in subway and street entrepreneurship is likely an indication of tough times and the business ideas are diverse and creative.

Then I began to wonder how much money the subway performers make in their daily travels. Perhaps they’re doing quite well…


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