Posate Indossate (Wear Cutlery) in Pisa
Posate Indossate (Wear Cutlery) in Pisa

Fork ‘n Pisa: Street Selling Done Right [+ video]

Today our journey has brought us to Pisa, home of the leaning tower. Although the Leaning Tower of Pisa is cool to see, there was something else that struck me as the most amazing part of Pisa. It’s quite shocking, but it was a street vendor.

Excuse Me Sir, Madame

Street vendors and beggars are everywhere that there are tourists. At the Paris train station there’s a handful of girls with signs that say their family’s been killed and they need money. At the Eiffel tower there are even more girls claiming to be deaf and mute with a note asking for money. Everywhere around the tower there are people selling miscellaneous tower gear, little toy dogs, anything that they can get their hands on that someone may possibly buy for themselves or their kid.

And this is just a list of the things in Paris, suffice it to say there’ve been many vendors everywhere touristy that we go.

The interesting part is that ideas through the vendor circuit seem to spread. Eiffel tower replicas, paintings and the like are no surprise outside the tower, but flying helicopter lights? We saw at least 20 different people with these lights, which are attached to little helicopter blades that, after launched into the sky with a rubber band, fall slowly in front of unsuspecting tourists. The vendor then proceeds to try to convince the person that politely picked up the light that they want to buy it. (we never fell for any of the tricks, but we saw them happening everywhere)

This is basically the standard script for any street vendor, get their product in your hand and then ask for money. This happens with everything from necklaces to roses, but some things require an incessant “Madame, Madame” as one person sounded like he was stuck on repeat, trying to get the attention of one particular person who must’ve looked ready to buy.

Quatre! Quatre!..Five!

A funny little thing happened to us at the Eiffel tower. We were walking through with a persistent vendor trying to get us to buy a tower replica for quatre (4€). He just kept saying “Quatre! Quatre!” as I was shaking my head no. Then he said something more, followed by the same “Quatre! Quatre!” so I politely replied “No thanks” and he instantly said, in English “Five! Five!”

I guess that’s the English speaking “discount” ;)

What the Fork?!

So that’s the rundown of the typical street vendor, one of sometimes hundreds who are all selling the same thing in very close proximity of one another.

Here in Pisa it’s “Rolex” watches, in Venice it was handbags along with some apparent transplants from Paris with helicopter lights, and in Montmartre (Paris) it was Heineken in front of the main church (this had to be the strangest)

Although Pisa has it’s share of copycat vendors, there’s one who sticks out and does everything right. Walking down the main street that heads to the Leaning Tower we were greeted by several pizza places, a few traditional pop up shops, and one little table with bracelets.

Although they aren’t simply bracelets, they’re bracelets made out of forks. He has a very smart design, he takes spaghetti, fruit, and fish forks (3 distinct sizes, with 4, 3 and 2 tines) and shapes them into artistic designs, adds a hinge and clasp and voila! A bracelet. He’ll also attach your choice of stone.

Securing the Sale

His system, if you can call it that, is to be the nicest guy around. There was always someone at the table when we walked up so he was laughing and joking with them and generally sounding like someone that you wanted to be around, unlike the pushy vendors who were trying to work everyone over.

While attending to the customer he would greet anyone that came up and briefly show off his goods, not rudely stopping working with the current customer mind you, but politely attending to everyone.

The benefit of his product is that it speaks for itself. And if you had any question he had the original, unadjusted forks lying out on the table, a paper with his name and website, and social proof of his work with a full page article (with photo) about him clipped from a magazine. Everything to tell onlookers that he’s the real deal.

Then he just went over and above when it came to delivery of the bracelet. He places the stone in front of you, and in our case the specific bracelet that Marla had chosen had a slightly loose hinge so with his smiling happy tone he told her that he sadly couldn’t sell her that one because he doesn’t want anyone leaving and becoming unhappy if their bracelet ever broke in the future. Although he had an alternate one that was very similar. She liked it and everyone was happy.

After that he offered to engrave something into it. We wrote down “Jeff & Marla – Pisa 2010″ and he quickly etched it in. Then being such a nice guy he also gave Marla a free necklace (also made out of a fork head), sizes her head with black twine, jokes that it’s good that she has a normal sized head and then ties it all up and puts it around her neck.

Before he takes the money he says, “When I say free, I mean free” alluding to the other vendors who put a necklace around your neck and then want money. So for 20€ we were leaving as very happy customers with both a bracelet and necklace.

But before we could leave he simply asks if he can have a photo for his website. He poses, see the fun picture above, stamps his URL on a piece of paper for us to keep, and we’re on our way.

He did everything right.

  1. He gave us a “special deal” (free necklace) just to be nice (it’s likely he does this for everyone)
  2. He didn’t let anything less than spectacular go out of his shop (I use the term shop lightly as it was a folding table on the street).
  3. He gave us a reason to visit his website by asking if he could have the photo for it. (Not everyone will go through with it and visit, but that little piece of paper and the positive experience is an excellent reason to consider it)

All in all it was of course cool to see the tower, but it may have been even more inspiring to have stumbled across this man who not only offered an excellent and unique product, but who is also an all around nice guy who knows how to sell it.

As an added bonus, here’s a little video I threw together :)

If you’re reading this post in your email or feed reader, click here to watch the video

What have your experiences been like with street vendors or “toll collectors” (beggars) in the past? Let us know in the comments.

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Comments

  1. Louie (Lou) Cannata says:

    Hello Marla & Jeff,

    Street vendors sound like the famous “Maxwell” street in Chicago, years ago !!

    Thanks for all the great information….

    Cousin,
    Louie (Lou) Cannata :)
    Minnesota, Iron Miing Country

    Were Ore and More !

  2. Hi
    A very interesting site. You have done a great job with the information. Glad to see you are having such a wonderful time.

    Love,
    Your cousin Chetta and Les

  3. Peter Kershaw says:

    Hi,

    We had the same great experience with the “fork guy.” He was fantastic and made the trip to Pisa all the better. Hes not a local, come from Peru or somewhere like that. Teaches sculpture in Pisa. We want to order some more from him but lost his email. I checked out his web site but there doesn’t seem to be a contact for him. Did you have his email address?

    Cheers

    PK

    • Hi Peter,
      There is a phone number on his website, different from the number I listed below. I knew I had more information than what was listed on his site and I had to look for it in my pile of stuff ready to be scrap booked from the trip! Luckily before we left his booth he stamped his information on the envelope he had us write our inscription details on to engrave on my bracelet so I’ve got more info here for you.

      Scultura In Acciaio “Steel Sculpture”
      Zoulafi@hotmail.it
      3290925881
      http://www.posateindossate.com

      Best of luck, I’ve really enjoyed my bracelet & necklace!!
      Marla :)

      • Thanks Marla, just email Jeff and found out you replied here. Much appreciated. We bough a couple of bracelets for others and wish we got one for my wife. Hoping to get one sent over.

        Regards

        Peter

  4. We were just in Pisa a couple of years ago, but must have missed this guy’s booth. To be honest we only had a short time there, so we were checking out the tower and surrounding buildings, and that was about it. Hope to go back to Italy some day when we have more time – and not on a cruise!

  5. June & Spike says:

    Just came back from Tuscany 2 weeks ago. On a visit to Pisa with my family we came across The Fork Man. What a nice guy he is. Nothing was to much trouble & we didn’t feel pressurised into buying anything, but we did.
    My daughter & I both bought a lovely fruit fork bracelet, inscribed. I love mine & wear it a lot. A bargain at 20euros. Love it, wish I’d bought more.

  6. I too have a knife bracelet and I also got a free necklace. I loved them but I should have asked more questions. They contained nickel and everyone I bought them for had an allergic reaction, including me. Bummer..i loved them so much!

    • Oh man, that really stinks! I’ve never had an allergic reaction to jewelry, maybe you could use the bracelet as a napkin holder or candle decoration instead…I’m sure there’s some creative use you could find for it, other than the typical use as a bracelet.

      It’s so fun hearing from people who’ve met the ‘fork guy’, makes the world seem that much smaller of a place :)

  7. Hi- I just went to Pisa and met “the fork guy” this past July- unfortunately I lost my bracelet this weekend when it must have come unhinged. I also got the stamp of email and website but the website is no longer a real domain. I want to see if I can get a new one sent over- I’m devastated I lost it. Does anyone have a new website or anything? Thanks!!!

    • Peter Kershaw says:

      Hi, I have also tried to contact him via his email and web site, no luck.
      Haven’t tried the phone number. If you do get through I would love to get the
      contact details. Cheers Peter

  8. I just came back from Italy this weekend and also saw the “fork guy” in Pisa. I fell in love with his bracelets. I bought a spoon and a fork bracelet. Unfortuantely my fork bracelet was stolen and I’m looking to replace it. I remember a sign with his website address but I didn’t take it down. If anyone finds it, please forward it. Thanks!

    • The website was down for a very long time (like since October) but it’s back up now! it’s posateindossate.com – it means to wear cutlery.

      Peter- he responded to my emails. I hope he responded to yours as well. =)

  9. Peter Kershaw says:

    Thanks Sarah, I will give it a go.

    Cheers

  10. Sjaak and Audrey ( Netherlands ) says:

    We also bought a bracelet from the guy in Pisa. All you write about him is true!

  11. Lowanna M. Owens says:

    You just saved me from a life of “bad mommy”. Our “baby girl” for her 30th birthday traveled to Europe and in Pisa purchased two of the exact fork bracelets shown in your photo, both with turquoise stone, both engraved. In trying to snap the bracelet closed, my heavy handed effort accidentally snapped a bracelet in half. I am so upset that I broke her bracelet because it means so much to her. Thanks to your blog, I was able to email the vendor to please help me out with a replacement. Hopefully I will hear from him regarding cost and mailing process. Once I replace the bracelet, I’ll be a good mom again. Can’t thank you enough…thank you…thank you…thank you.

  12. Hey Jeff,

    We met the same guy, probably still at the same spot, in Pisa. He did everything right, spoke mamy languages very well and seemd real enthousiast about his product. besides the free necklacases, he also gave free advice about nice things in the area. And yes, like you I saved the paper, searched his website (and then found yours).

    Nice to read that more people had the same experience, although in another time, but the same place.

    Claudia

  13. Juliette Manning says:

    I was in Italy during the ending of May and I also met the “Fork Man.” He’s by far the nicest street vendor I’ve ever met in Italy…and trust me I lived there for 2 years. This guy was so friendly and his jewelry was so unique that I couldn’t resist. Great price, great presentation, great guy and I took the same picture shot… Looking forward to going back and buying more bracelets from him. I get so many compliments on my bracelet, it’s definitely a conversation starter..

    Juliette

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  29. Hello Jeff and Marla
    First of all great page you have created!!!
    We were recently in Italy with our children; after the tour of the lovely Pisa sites, we took a stroll along the side street and of course we saw the FORK artist….. we were so impressed by his work. My husband and children were totally captivated by his creativity and quality of work produced.
    Of course we bough many pieces for us and gifts to bring back home. I wear my dessert fork every day and each day i receive a wonderful comment; at times by total strangers in the streets. It is a definite conversation starter. It looks like silver even though it is stainless steel.
    This was a great find. If you are in Pisa look for the FORK MAN…
    Merita
    Australia

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