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What Happened to our Shoe Shiners

What Happened to our Shoe Shiners








It is not a tradition but many can testify that there was a time they had been woken up by the sound of bells in the streets of their neighborhoods. These mornings’ bells are the sound of shoes shiners browsing the streets looking for consumers. These services are designed to meet the needs of students who have dirtied their shoes over the week and employees who are in a hurry. For example, in most cases a shoe shiner would be stopped and asked to clean a certain number of shoes. In the meantime, the client would run to finish what he or she was doing. When the shoes were cleaned. The sound of the bell would remind the client to come get them and pay the service.

It may seem as if this scenario does not come with greater benefit than simply cleaning the shoes. However, when one looks deeper into the transaction the shoe shiners are selling more than just the service of cleaning shoes. They are also allowing the whole process to be more convenient and less time consuming. Most of us would probably have a very difficult time getting out of our cars and wait in line to get our shoes clean, unless it is not too far from our destination. Unfortunately, our society has lost this method, tradition and benefit that came with this service.

This change has occurred because of many reasons, some have argued that it is due to products that are being used to substitute shining shoes. Whereas many have argued that it is because they have been humiliated. Many people are and remain in ignorance when it comes to the value of their participation within our society. Their profession puts them in a position in which they are forced to be humble and at the service of others more than they actually should have been. Their industry is composed of very few young people in their early to late 20s. It a job that is mainly occupied by older men around their 40s and 50s. This might be because of the lack of pride that our society showed them and that they should have. However, many of these elders take pride in what they do. Some of them go as far as stating that they have been supplying for their households for years with their profession.

They make an average of 300 gourdes per day. In their case saving and “sabotage and sol” are very important. It helps them to increase their incomes faster and also gives them the ability to have a monthly or yearly budget or saving. Based on an anonymous source, whose name has been kept out of the article for personal reasons, he doesn’t have much hope to sustain his family if he remains in his current field of work. He explains that lots of thing has changed in his surrounding, mainly the economy; however, he cannot adjust his income to his course of living. He continues by saying that the current situation, which is a general challenge for most of them , is they cannot raise the price of their services. This is due to the fact that prices vary greatly. For example, a person may clean his/her shoes in Petion-Ville for 20 gourdes and they will only charge that person 10 gourdes in Delmas

This price variation is among the reasons why they chose to regroup themselves and stop browsing the streets looking for consumers. He explains that walking around comes with many other disadvantages, for example, most of the time you can get very tired. Also, it does not guarantee that shoe shiner will actually find a client on his path. An addition to that the unfixed rate usually creates arguments between them and the clients. Therefore, they regroup themselves based on their targeted consumers. You will more likely find them in front of universities, schools, and government offices. The idea behind this comes from the fact that most of these students will less likely clean their shoes at home during week days and in rare cases on Monday. This is also a great factor that has greatly declined the number of clients they used to have. To capitalize on and fight the unsteady price of their service they regroup themselves in front of these institutions.

Another challenge that they face is the portable shoes cleaners on the market. These products come in different designs. For example, some of them have the shape of a shoe brush and can quickly clean a shoe. It is small enough to be carried in a person backpack or any other bag. In the market it cost 75 gourdes and can last up to two or three months. They also manufactured one that is shaped like a tube which contains the liquid that is needed to clean the shoes. Most people today are actually buying these products. They find them to be handier and comes with one major benefit, the user can actually clean his or her shoes almost anywhere at any time. It also benefits those who do not have a car, for example after they have cleaned their shoes, many people complain that it gets dirty before they can actually reach their destinations. As a result, having the portable shoes cleaning is more advantageous. There are also changes that are made when it comes to cleaning shoes within the households. Some families buy the exact materials that the shoes shiners use and have some personnel at home do the job.

These factors are the major forces behind the disappearance of shoes shiners within the streets of Haiti. Even though it might be very difficult to state by what amount the number of shoes shiners have declined, we can all support the fact that they are less of them in our streets. It is more of personal matter to decide whether or not the changes are good or bad. This decision will most likely be based upon point of view and how part of the population have benefited from their services. However, we must all keep in mind that these self-employed citizens of Haiti are facing challenges beyond what they do for a living. Therefore, in what way is their disappearance beneficial or not to our society?

Ancemerfed Petit-Bois



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