People sell stuff on the subway everywhere. Here in New York, I’ve been asked to buy movies, batteries and chocolate. On the subte (subway) in Buenos Aires, we were asked to buy children’s books, flashlights, coffee, pens and pencils. I think they are more trusting there.
The children’s book seller actually handed out the childrens books to everyone in the subway car, and then came back to collect money, or take back the book. Everyone on the train that was handed a book actually thumbed through it and it looked like they had some sort of interest. The stops between stations were not long distances but people who did not make a purchase were very honest about returning the goods before disembarking the train. The seller did well in the train car we were on.
In all the time I have been in New York, I have never seen a seller hand anything out, unless money had already exchanged hands.
The pen and pencil guy did not hand anything out in advance of a sale. And yes he was selling them individually.
The coffee guy was hilarious. Literally he was walking around with a shoulder bag with cups – taped together with duct tape and he had this ‘tool belt’ contraption that held a few canisters. Some canisters were full of coffee, others held milk and sugar. It was hot, the guy next to us ordered one and you could see the steam. The coffee guy moved fast and people were buying.
In case you were wondering, the coffee guy sold a whole lot more than the pen and pencil guy.