Big Issue Vendor

Big Issue vendor hits the headlines after buying card reader

The Bristol seller saw his sales rise after spending £30 on a contactless payment reader and the story of his ingenuity has reached more than 230 million people

An enterprising Big Issue vendor has hit the headlines after he bought a card payment reader to enable his customers to go cashless.

Robin Fabian, who sells the magazine at outside the Co-op store at St Michael’s Hill, Bristol, has seen his sales skyrocket after investing £30 of his proceeds from selling the magazine in supporting card payments.

Big Issue Seller Goes Contactless

Would you be more likely to buy a Big Issue?

Posted by BBC West on Tuesday, February 20, 2018

His story was featured in our My Pitch feature in the magazine earlier this month when he told The Big Issue: “Just before Christmas I invested in a credit card reader, which paid for itself after the first day. I reckon since then I’ve sold about 200 extra issues by having that on me, although I have to hold it on top of my issues so people can see that I have it.

“I think I’m the only vendor in the area who has one, which gives me a bit of an edge over the others.”

From there, Robin’s inspirational story captured the imagine, spreading across the national UK newspapers in print and online, first making the Daily Express on February 19. A flurry of interest followed with pieces appearing in The Times, Metro, The Daily Mail, The Daily Mirror, The Sun and The Daily Star and the i Paper.


The Big Issue magazine is a social enterprise, a business that reinvests its profits in helping others who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or whose lives are blighted by poverty.

Robin also made a splash in the broadcast world and spoke about his experience as a vendor in regional media, including Heart Radio and BBC Points West before appearing on Talk Radio and making the trip to the Channel 5 News studio.

The media merry-go-round spread the story to a total of 234,441,780 people and even inspired devoted reader Joe to pen a poem to honour Robin:

This is not about Robin
most certainly not begging
keeping head above water by bobbing
no criminal activity or illegal bootlegging.
This story is fantastic
even if Mr Fabian won’t read my crap
would not encourage use of plastic
but strongly recommend this tap.
Spotted a market
no over flow or spillage
unlike the highgate target
did not want a single pound from my village.
£30 was your over head
no business rates to slash
cottoning on to no one carrying bread
society nowadays does not trade in cash.
Mr Fabian don’t vent
this idea is a money spinner
you get your idea patent
and you really will be a winner.

Big Issue vendor Robin Fabian
Bristol vendor Robin Fabian

The Big Issue is actively investigating methods to bring the option of cashless payments to all vendors. It is a complicated issue with many considerations as managing director Russell Blackman discussed in a recent interview with Creative Brief and said: “It is vital that we develop the right contactless solution for our vendors, ensuring that they can get instant access to their funds, even if they don’t have their own bank account due to a lack of permanent address.

“As we work to draw in a wider and younger community, we must ensure we are developing a solution that overcomes the obvious barriers to entry – people not carrying cash – and one that allows for spontaneous and opportunistic street sales.”

We have opened up The Big Issue to ideas with The Big Issue Platform – non-partisan and open to politicians, policy-makers, business, third-sector leaders, readers and vendors. Anybody who has an idea that can be part of the solution to breaking the cycle of homelessness, including on implementing cashless payments – send it to us.

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