Vending ventures

Each year vendors come to Portland State to peddle their wares beneath tents outside the main buildings on campus, seeking to tempt our sizeable student body.


But some vendors say that the venture can be a bit of a gamble.


It costs $100 for outside vendors to set up a stand in the eight total spaces Auxiliary Services rents out to student groups, school departments and outside vendors. The benefit to PSU, according to Auxiliary Services Manager Charlene Levesque, is that students get a variety of lively and interesting products.


Carrie Atkinson, a vendor who runs her own business, Sock It to Me, out of Portland, has sold at PSU three times and credits being able to reach a wider market as a main reason for returning.


“I have good days here,” Atkinson said, “and it’s close.” She also sells her products online and opens booths at the Saturday Market and other campuses. Even though the market and other campuses charge about half as much as PSU, she keeps coming back because of the large amount of people she can reach here.


Kitty, a first-time vendor from Woodland, Wash., came to PSU for the same reason. She didn’t think she had made back the $100 fee, blaming rainy days and the often limited budgets of college students.


“People generally say that they have no money to buy anything,” she said.


Levesque said that most outside vendors are local people who make their own products.


“We don’t pick and choose who can set up,” she said. “We don’t invite credit card companies, though,” she added, explaining that it only usually adds to students’ already problematical financial situation.


The $100 profit made from the vendors is used toward operate and maintain all of the various aspects of the Smith Memorial Union building. Levesque said the reason Smith sees all of the money is that they are the ones putting the work into setting the vendors up and organizing everything. The fee is collected from outside vendors in before they open shop at the school.


“We found that outside vendors paying at the time or after is not good business practice,” Levesque said.


Each vendor is limited to selling at the school a total of eight times a year, making it possible for more vendors to reach Portland State students.


Levesque credited the $100 fee as being decided on “some time ago,” saying that it costs more than most other booth spots because of the potential market vendors can reach. She also mentioned that Auxiliaries wanted to keep the fee high enough that they were not bombarded with possible vendors.


Previously, it had been allowed for student groups to organize and co-sponsor vendors by helping to pay part of the fee. In turn, the student groups would receive a percentage of the profits. That quickly ended as many problems arose because of financial conflict.


Levesque also added that there have been no reported problems with theft or with vendors being too forceful trying to make students buy the product. She feels that the entire program is a positive addition to Portland State.


“It’s a real benefit to students, the Smith Center, PSU and the vendors,” she said.

According to Levesque, she has “two and a half” other people helping her with setting up the vendors. The half, she said, is a student who does most of the placement of vendors in the eight spots on the campus.