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Popular Bristol vendor Mike Hall has earned himself a job at WH Smith

Station staff were so impressed with Mike’s customer relation skills at Bristol Temple Meads train station that he earned himself a permanent job in one of the shops

Mike Hall

Michael Hall Big Issue Bristol Temple Meads (8th February 2019)

Hard-working Big Issue vendor Mike Hall has hung up his iconic red tabard after he earned himself a permanent job working at WH Smith in the same Bristol Temple Meads station where he sold the magazine.

Popular seller Mike ended his two-year spell selling The Big Issue before Christmas after summoning the courage to ask the station’s WH Smith store manager if there were any vacancies.

The employer was impressed with the customer relations skills Mike showed while selling the magazine on his train station pitch, which was made possible thanks to The Big Issue’s partnership with Network Rail.

It’s a remarkable turnaround from Mike’s time spent on the streets and he credits The Big Issue for supporting him to lift himself out of poverty and into full-time work.

Once I started selling, I’ve never looked back since. Rather than sitting down looking up at people and feeling sorry for myself, I was still stood there trying to offer a service having face-to-face conversations rather than people looking down at me

“The job’s really good,” Mike told The Big Issue. “I was actually offered a job at Christmas 2018 but I wasn’t really ready for that step yet, I was still quite happy going along selling The Big Issue and waiting until I felt ready.

“Then a few months ago she was walking past me and I literally turned around and asked her: “Do you have any jobs going?” and she told me she had. I filled in the application form and got the job the next day. Because she had seen me selling The Big Issue and my customer relations I think she might have fast-tracked me.”

Mike was one of the first vendors to offer his regular customers cashless payments when he took part in The Big Issue’s iZettle trial in late 2018.

He was also keen to go beyond just selling the magazine, representing the Big Issue at Downs Festival in Bristol, where he worked as part of the event’s accessibility team, as well as at vegan food festival Vegfest in Cardiff.

Mike also sold the magazine with Welsh Assembly member Jack Sargeant on the streets of Cardiff to give the politician a taste of what it’s like to work as a vendor on a daily basis.

And his devotion to selling the magazine went a long way to securing his role at WH Smith.

“When I first heard about The Big Issue, I was sat down begging at the time,” said Mike. “I’d only just become homeless and didn’t know about The Big Issue, the only way I could see of making money was everything that everybody was doing around me.

“But once I started selling, I’ve never looked back since. Rather than sitting down looking up at people and feeling sorry for myself, I was still stood there trying to offer a service having face-to-face conversations rather than people looking down at me.

Mike was very dependable, he was on his pitch when expected and always polite and approachable

“The Big Issue has helped me along every step of the way and then they could see that I was trying to make a difference in my own life so they supported me as much as they could. “There is a support network behind the whole thing and I never would have thought that before I started selling the magazine.”

Bristol Temple Meads station manager Andy Phillips said: “Mike joined us at the station during 2018, becoming our second Big Issue vendor. He was shy at first, but soon settled into his regular location within the passenger subway.

“We noticed as the months passed that he was more confident and was seen on many occasions giving customers directional advice. Mike was very dependable, he was on his pitch when expected and always polite and approachable. He even dressed in a Santa outfit, to bring Christmas cheer to our customers.

“In a review, he said he was beginning to feel more comfortable to take the next step, he felt ready to move into employment. We let the station teams know and a job arose within WH Smith. Mike was taken on at the end of last year and we are delighted to see him getting on so well in his new role.

“We now have our new vendor taking up the pitch at Bristol Temple Meads as we continue to support the Big Issue.”

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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