"Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please. Pardon the interruption..."
The announcement is familiar to many New Yorkers, who as they ride the subway, get visits from various people asking for their spare change, sometimes in exchange for an accordion tune, a belted 1960s ballad, or a pack of M&M peanuts. Probably few of those travelers know that at least one of those peddlers earns $150 a day.
Alex "Tracks" McFarland started selling candy on the subway at age 11, and is the subject of a two-minute documentary by Bianca Consunji (via New York magazine). With his 13 years of experience, Tracks knows the business well. Peanut M&Ms is his biggest seller, but he's got Welch's Fruit Snacks if you prefer your candy grape-flavored and gummy.
There are trail mix bars "for people who like to eat healthy," he says. "But this has got the most sugar in it," he chuckles.
Tracks carries cookies too -- Famous Amos chocolate chip and shortbread, "for people who claim they don't eat candy."
He covers every person's predilection. "If you don't spend a dollar with me, either you don't have it or you're a hater," he's concluded.
And many New Yorkers spend that dollar. Tracks walks the D train in $300 kicks, and takes home around $55,000 a year, in cash. "These M&Ms, I take care of my family with this," he tells the camera.
While it might frustrate some to learn that the man who hectors subway riders to buy a granola bar is making more money than many of those commuters, there is something impressive about Tracks' entrepreneurship.
He started selling candy in order to get out of the "hood," he says. And he not only offers a valued service -- helping boost the blood sugar of wilting travelers -- but he does it with a human face. And a side of entertainment.
Tracks summarizes his simple business strategy at the end of the film:
"I do what I gotta do, just to stay on my feet.
I'm flipping them sweets, I sell cavities,
and s*** believer, hole in your teeth."
Next: Blue Collar Billionaires