Big Ish Myths...Busted!

29 May 2019 Katherine Smyrk

Big Ish Myths...Busted!

The Big Issue has been sold on the streets of Australia by people experiencing homelessness, marginalisation and disadvantage for 23 years. Over that time, a few strange rumours have circulated, some more damaging than others. So, we’re here to set the record straight. It’s time to bust some Big Issue myths.


MYTH: The Big Issue is just a socialist/religious/propaganda rag.

FACT: The Big Issue is not aligned to any political party, set of beliefs or religion. It is an independent magazine that strives to feature diverse and balanced content.


MYTH: The Big Issue only features articles about homelessness or disadvantage. That’s all well and good, but it’s a bit of a downer for every fortnight.

FACT: The Big Issue features a huge range of articles and topics. We do always include a profile of one of our vendors, and our ‘Streetsheet’ page gives vendors the chance to contribute to the magazine. But we also have celebrity profiles, opinion columns, in-depth social justice investigations, political cartoons, photography spreads, arts and entertainment reviews, media commentary and personal essays on life, love, death and everything in between. It’s really worth a read!


MYTH: It’s better to just give vendors the money and not take the magazine.

FACT: Not taking the magazine when you’ve paid for it is not what The Big Issue is about. Vendors are selling a product, so paying them for their wares helps to empower them as contributing members of society. Also, this is a fantastic magazine that a team of editors, writers and designers work really hard on every fortnight.


MYTH: You should always give more than the selling price.

FACT: The magazine is a product that your vendor is selling. Vendors are not asking for donations – they’re selling a magazine that is worth $9. If you really want to show your appreciation, buy a second copy of the magazine for a friend who may not have read it before!


MYTH: Vendors are stuck with magazines they cannot sell, putting them at a financial disadvantage. 

FACT: There is no minimum amount of magazines a vendor needs to purchase. When a vendor joins The Big Issue, we provide a few free magazines to get them started. Any unsold magazines can be returned for a refund or traded for the new edition if they prefer.


MYTH: That vendor has a smartphone. They obviously don’t need my custom.

FACT: Vendors work hard for their money, and often save up for a long time to buy what they need. Smartphones are particularly important for disadvantaged people to stay in touch with other services, community and connections that can help them. Smartphones are also an important part of many vendors' work, as they help allow them to accept digital payments.


MYTH: If I give a vendor money, they’ll just spend it on drugs or alcohol.

FACT: Each vendor faces unique challenges that have brought them them to The Big Issue, and for some this does include issues with addiction. This is by no means the case for all our vendors, so it is innaccurate to assume a vendor will spend their income on drugs or alcohol. While we do not control how vendors spend their income, we do offer a great amount of support and resources to help those facing addiction. 


MYTH: Big Issue vendors just roam the streets hassling you to buy the magazine.

FACT: Big Issue vendors sign a code of conduct and are assigned a pre-determined pitch for which The Big Issue has acquired a council permit. Like other traders, vendors are always expected to be polite, but also have a right to spruik what they have on offer. Each vendor has developed their own way of getting noticed, but nearly all are happy for you to stop for a chat. The Big Issue is about social inclusion, and interacting with people helps achieve this.


MYTH: I thought only people who experience homelessness could sell The Big Issue, but I live next door to a seller…

FACT: There are more than 570 vendors working every fortnight across the country, and they have had a wide range of experiences that have led them to The Big Issue. This can include things like homelessness, long-term unemployment, intellectual and physical disability, mental illness, drug and alcohol dependency and family breakdown. Every vendor has a different story, but all are looking to improve their lives.


MYTH: The Big Issue uses people who experience homelessness to make loads of money.

FACT: The Big Issue is a not-for-profit, social enterprise organisation. All of our profits go towards producing our high-quality magazine, and supporting various programs that help the homeless and disadvantaged – such as the Women’s Subscription Enterprise and Community Street Soccer.


MYTH: Selling The Big Issue is just a scam.

FACT: Being on the street every day, trying to sell a magazine to busy people in all kinds of weather is not an easy job. If you were looking to ‘scam’ people off and make fast money, selling The Big Issue is not the right path. To quote our friends from The Big Issue UK: “To say that selling The Big Issue is a money-making scam is the same as saying going to work is a money-making scam.”


MYTH: I’ve moved away from a big city, so I can no longer get The Big Issue.

FACT: While a large proportion of our vendors sell on the street, our magazine is also available through subscription. By purchasing a subscription you are helping our Women’s Subscription Enterprise program, and creating a safe space for disadvantaged women to work in. These women are employed by The Big Issue to pack the magazines for distribution to subscribers every fortnight, giving them an income as well as access to training, mentoring and support.


MYTH: I can only purchase The Big Issue with cash.

FACT: Vendors now have the option to accept digital payments via tap-and-go or mobile app Beem It, as well as cash. Though not all vendors have gone digital, chances are you'll pass someone on your morning walk to work who will gladly accept your card or app payment. Easy!