Peter Thompson has noticed a decline in the number of people carrying cash these days and that greatly affects his business.
As a vendor for Megaphone Magazines and Hope in the Shadows calendars, Peter relies on people having an extra toonie to spare while leaving the Whole Foods on 4th Avenue and Vine Street.
“About four out of 10 people say they don’t have any cash on them,” says Peter. “It’s hard for them to go get money and come back.”
Central City Foundation donors are part of the solution to Peter’s cash problem by funding a mobile payments app that will allow those who do not carry cash to pay Megaphone vendors by phone.
“What we’re really hoping is that this will be another tool for vendors to sell their magazines,” said Sean Condon, Executive Director of Megaphone. “This app is going to be very easy to use, which hopefully allows people to continue to support the vendors.”
Megaphone gives 150 vendors with barriers to employment the opportunity to work around their own needs and schedule, creating the opportunity to earn a living, improve their lives and engage with the community. How it works is Megaphone sells copies of the magazine for $0.75 an issue to a vendor, who in turn sells to the public for $2. The same model applies to the annual Hope in the Shadows calendar which features photos taken by the Downtown Eastside residents. The calendar is sold to vendors for $10 and then to the public for $20.
The street magazine is a longtime community partner of Central City Foundation, and in the past CCF donors helped outfit Megaphone vendors in rain gear to keep them dry, comfortable and looking professional. Once again Megaphone approached Central City Foundation to assist in this potentially ground-breaking app.
For a few years Condon has been hearing from vendors that people just aren’t carrying cash and the problem needed to be addressed. With the help of Central City Foundation, Megaphone was able to hire a digital company to develop an app that won’t take away from the community spirit of Megaphone, while allowing the public to continue their support.
“When we told the vendors we have the support from Central City Foundation to build this app, they were very happy,” said Condon.
Thompson, who formerly worked as a logger and carpenter before an accident severely broke his leg, sells Megaphone magazines five to six days a week and has felt the card crunch.
“When I first started out nine years-ago there were a lot more people carrying cash over cards, but that started to change,” said Thompson. “There is a bit of a decline in my earnings because people will say they will come back later with money, but they often don’t.”
Supporters will be able to download the app, look up their neighbourhood vendor and pay $2, or more if they choose, for the issue. Vendors can then pick up their payments the next day at the Megaphone office.
Furthermore, Megaphone is making the app open for other street magazines to access and with a little work, tailor the system for their needs. That means Central City Foundation donors will not only be helping Megaphone vendors, but street vendors around the world.
The app is expected to be available for downloading in March.