|Posted by Lilly on October 29, 2014 at 7:25 AM|
If there's one draw to the business of Italian Ice, it's the fast, somewhat easy cash you can make day to day. But if you think you're the only one drawn to that, think again.
On more than a few occasions, I've felt that I needed to be on high alert as to my surroundings when selling Italian Ice. But truthfully, I have continued to sell without much regard for my safety, not to mention that of my teen daughter who also sometimes sells with me. However, the issue of prevention and protection came front and center the other day when I sold at a large Walk-Your-Dog-for-Cancer type event. It was business as usual, until the end of the day. Since I always seem to get the straggler sales, I opted to stick around a little longer to make a few more bucks instead of taking down my booth and leaving with all the other vendors. It was at this time that a customer came up to buy ice. As I was serving, he was eyeballing my operation, and as he began to walk away, he asked how I did that day. I have certainly had folks consider getting into the Italian Ice business, and I can usually tell those types when they ask simple questions like how I keep the ice frozen. But I this guy's eyes wandered onto the apron around my waist, my money bag. That unsettled me. I very suddenly felt that this guy's intentions could turn in a different direction. Luckily he was with a female companion, and she started to walk away, so he went with her and that was that. But this encounter has lingered in my mind for a while, raising a lot of questions for next season.
For starters, I'm a woman. Secondly, I often sell alone. Thirdly, a profitable event leaves a noticeable bulge in my apron! But really, regardless of whether the first two issues apply to you or not, the last one is the key exposure. You're carrying cash, and everyone knows it. Heck, the thieves hit up Italian Ice stores, for crying out loud! So, besides quitting this business (which isn't going to happen, I love it too much), what are my options for protection?
1. Sell only during day events.
This has a good probability of reducing my chances of getting muggged, but I don't like to lie to myself that it solves the entire problem. There's always a desperate criminal who sees me as an easy mark, day or night.
2. Get outta Dodge!
The "Safety in Numbers" rule applies here. Close down the booth when every other vendor starts to do it. Luckily my takedown is lightning fast, so I can get out before everyone else a lot of times, for which not sitting in a jammed parking lot alone is a great reason to bolt.
3. Get a dog.
Having a dog, preferably on the larger side, is always a deterrent to would-be thieves. Additionally, it might even be a draw for the kids, if it's cute! This is a win-win. A protective dog is a great asset to have guarding my back as I take down the booth, and a great companion for the rides home at night. Better yet, I could keep the money belt ON the dog! Luckily so far, nearly every event would allow me to have a dog present too. So, looks like I'll be hitting up the pet adoptions!
4. Get a gun.
This one sounds extreme, and may be, but it's still a viable option, and not near as hard to do as it seems. In fact, in the majority of states, it's easier to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon than it is to get approved from a Health Department to sell mobile food! To learn a little bit more, read this Wikipedia article. The only issue here is what a trained gun carrier told me... only take it out to actually use it, never to just warn. And that's a little scary to me.
5. Keep a bullhorn at hand.
No, really. Okay, you should know by now that I don't think like most folks, so this idea actually is plausible to me. Thinking about a home and how we protect it, there are lessons to learn. A home alarm system serves really only one purpose, and that is to SCARE OFF THE BURGLARS & ROBBERS. So the same principle applies. If I'm alone and about to be mugged, an exceptionally loud noise will hopefully scare off the criminal, but more importantly, it will draw attention from anyone nearby. And for only $20 for one with a siren, it's worth it!
6. HIre security.
While this is more a joke idea, maybe it's a way to go. Bring on a tough friend who has nothing to do that day and would love to be paid with Italian Ice. Let him sit in your booth all day. On a similar note, I tend to get into conversations with lots of my customers, and I think that helps too. And when I get offers of help from other vendors to take down, I now take them up on it, for the company. I have had up to seven people (customers, friends, kids, kids' friends, even politicians!) in my booth just chatting with me and each other at the end of events. While fun, it allows me to leave in safety. Lastly, I make friends with my local police. They are often at the events where I sell. I need to get clever and offer all cops free ice at the end of the gig!
7. When needed... LIE.
If I get a snoopy customer asking obvious questions like "Is this your business?", "Do you run it alone?" or "Do you need any help with your tent?", I have now opted to lie. Yep, I simply tell them my partner or friend is coming back to help me, or went to get the car, or I'm waiting for my crew to come back. Anything that makes them think twice and leave.
8. Use your bank's drop box.
While you still have to close down your setup and get out of the event safely, one way to make yourself less of a target on your way home is to use your bank's drop box. if you have a business account, you can ask for those plastic bags bank use for after-hours drop offs and dump your cash right after each event. UPDATE: also make use of a locking cash box.
Which leads to...
9. Never drive home directly.
if a would-be thief thinks he can't get to you at an event, he may consider his next best option, which is to follow the money... meaning you on your way home. Think it can't happen? Read this story!
I'm still grappling with all of this, and may come up with some other useful ideas. But I bet you've thought of it too or encountered a similar situation. I want to hear what you think. Share your ideas in the comments!