An intractable problem Consumer Concerns
By Eileen Cox
Stabroek News
September 8, 2002

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Cecil Griffith’s City Council Roundup, published in the Stabroek News on Monday, September 2, reported the amazing ineptitude of the Council when dealing with the intractable problem of city vending. Although the High Court has ruled that vending on Regent Street is illegal, that illegal activity continues on our city pavements with the City Council showing no concern for pedestrians.

The debate in the Council - if it can be called a debate - centred on vending on the pavements of Robb and Regent Streets. Why did the councillors not include the pavements of Water Street? Let each one of the councillors take a walk from KFC northward to Guyana Stores and observe what has happened over time.

When the Parvatan Committee interviewed vendors in 1993 and sought to find a solution to the problem, there was still some possibility of solving the problem. Some vendors at the time had two or three stalls and were operating a big business. But most of the vendors who were interviewed seemed to appreciate that their business was illegal but expressed an interest in being “where the action was”. At that time, it seemed that the majority would have been satisfied with a small stall so placed on the pavement as not to obstruct the free use of the pavements by shoppers.

Today, the situation is wholly out of control in Water Street. Vendors increase the size of their stalls almost daily. More and more goods are on display. It is now hazardous for a shopper to walk on the pavement from Fogarty’s to Guyana Stores. That very wide pavement is almost completely taken over by vendors.

Plastic material is spread across from the roof of one stall to the roof of the opposite stall. This gives protection from the rain and bright sunshine. They have left just a narrow strip for pedestrians to walk in single file from one end to the other. If, by chance, someone is making a purchase at one of the stalls, then the pedestrian must wait until the sale is concluded. However, one rarely sees anyone shopping at these stalls.

At the KFC end, vendors have used more substantial material to protect from the rain and sun. Consumers using that section of Water Street have two options: they choose the pavement and walk with trepidation or they cross over to the road and mingle with mini-buses, push carts, bicycles, vendors selling from trays and other jostling pedestrians all claiming a right to do as they like. It is chaos.

To say that vending in the city has socio-economic implications and to do nothing about it is to condone lawlessness. It is time to take a stand. The evil now appears to be spreading to Camp Street.

As consumers, we must continue to press for our right to use pavements without facing obstacles.

Another problem has caused concern to consumers over a number of years and is also due to the unreasonable attitude of those who are in business to make money. If two persons in the same household hire a taxi to travel in the same direction but one leaves the taxi before the other, the taxi service charges double the fare. The current price is generally $200 for a short drop. In such cases each customer has to pay $200. The customers should make the taxi service provide two cars.

Another problem arose recently. A consumer engaged a taxi to travel a short distance in order to collect a parcel. She arrived at her destination, left the taxi, entered a building and returned in less than five minutes. The dispatch clerk ordered that the sum of $500 should be paid, $200 for travelling each way and $100 for waiting. The charge will only be $400 if the customer remains in the taxi and receives the parcel at the gate.

It is regrettable that we cannot call the name of the taxi service that demands such an unreasonable charge. The policy, the dispatch clerk said, is to grant five minutes waiting time when the taxi first arrives to collect the customer.

For the second drop there is no allowance for waiting.

To counter this, consumers will have to formulate their own strategies. The customer should dismiss the taxi when it arrives at the destination and ask the driver to return within ten minutes.

“Value for your money” is the motto of the Guyana Consumers Association. Consumers should ensure that they are not swindled by unscrupulous money-seekers.