Ghetto Pass 2.0: The Long Tail of Street Entrepreneurs

The Assimilated Negro is the issuing authority for your own personal Ghetto Pass, helping you safely navigate among the people and places of browner territories.

Internet futurism, meet the ghetto. Earlier this year, a book tagged as a manifesto on "the new economics of culture and commerce" set the business, tech, and publishing world on fire. That title, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More (perhaps you've heard of it), comes highly recommended, and certainly constitutes an impressive presentation on how largely online trends are creating a new economic paradigm. The thing is, for a book that is landscaping the future, many of the trendsetting principles are well-worn truisms in the ghetto. So this week, we take a peek at a slightly more obscure manifesto called, The Long Booty , and its Hood Hustlers holding ghetto MBAs. They may not have blogs or use Amazon, but they certainly understand Why the Future of Business in the Ghetto is More or Less Selling More of Less.

Examining The Booty
Premise: If you have enough hustlers and vendors on the street selling "niche" items, those people in aggregate can outsell the "hits" of food, drugs, and alcohol you find in corner bodegas and chain drug stores. The Long Booty functions as a market for those who say "Pfft!" to being encumbered by aisles, and dealing with people and checkout lines. But unlike The Long Tailers who also have to avoid the hazards of virtual online shopping, The Long Booty presents the truly ideal scenario of just going outside on your block and getting it direct (I'd like to examine my bootleg Seven jeans in person, thank you very much!). When the big stores don't got it and online is too dangerous, enter: The Booty .

The Booty vs. The Tail
As with other ghetto trends, The Booty shares much of the sensibility of the more mainstream Tail, but dispenses with the pretense. You won't hear catchy buzzwords like "niche marketplace" and "radical transparency" associated with The Booty , but the fact remains there is nothing more niche than the man direct-marketing his inventory of a power strip, one slipper, and a two-pack of ninety-minute "is it real or is it Memorex" audio cassette-tapes. And there's no transparency more radical than his pulling those items out of a garbage bag when he sells them to you. In the end, it could be said The Long Booty is an entirely old model for business that is just starting to have its principles applied by people with money on the Internet.

Along The Booty
As you move along the booty the market becomes more and more niche, so here's a taxonomy of some of the ghetto-preneurs you might see along The Booty :

Bootleggers - The vendors you know and love, bootleggers are the Fat Ass of The Long Booty .

Invisible Gods - Anyone who serves food or drink from a cart, or truck. These people are often invisible during the day, only to become your salvation late in the night when you come home drunk and hungry.

Package Artists - Package artists don't know how to offer you something by itself, they always have to add on. Everything is "2 for $5," then "5 for $50," then "the table for whatever you got in your wallet right now."

Smoke Dogs - These guys only know four words and two phrases, "I got smoke" and "Newports."

Street Evangelists - The religious sector of the market (though not to be confused with Invisible Gods), redemption never came so cheap. Be sure to read the riveting literature.

We Steal, You Get the Great Deal - Incredible bargains, but dealing with this vendor invariably prompts looks over your shoulder for police, and renditions of the Clint Eastwood "So, are you feeling lucky?" line in our head.

Random & Useless Shit Sellers (RUSS) - RUSS's have items you buy just so you can show your friends and family that such an item was for sale. Think used pajama bottoms, or a broom with no bristles.

Potpourri Peddlers- The typical PP has a towel and an array of items that look like he just ran in someone's house and hurriedly swept the contents of your desk and nightstand into a hefty bag for later pawning. Similar to RUSS, but he sometimes has things you can use. For example, a girl wearing a designer dress to the Oscars may hit him up for some Scotch nipple tape.

Freelancers - As expected, these guys are wild cards. They might happen to have a remote control for a nonexistent VCR you can get off them for cheap. They are also often service-oriented, i.e. will carry your futon up the five-floor walkup for $5.

General Tips

Is The Long Booty full of crap? - In this discussion, Anderson explains how you find both good and bad along the Tail. Similarly, the Booty provides hits and misses. For example, my last Booty purchase netted me an authentic version of Prince's Purple Rain on DVD. On the flip side, a friend of mine purchased a DVD player, only to find a brick when he got home and opened the box.

Economics of Perceived Abundance - The Long Tail is touted as the economics of abundance, but The Long Booty is known as the economics of perceived abundance. Perceived because it seems there is an infinite number of vendors, but the only thing really in abundance are shots from police officers (ha! take that coppers).

Fun Facts

• Did you know there is now a bootleg version of everything in the universe? If funds are tight this year, you can probably even find a bootleg version of your family to spend the holidays with.

• Did you know independent movies often purchase everything a RUSS has to offer? Placed on set, it's instant pathos — an easy way to subtly establish the character as a conflicted soul.

• Did you know Smoke Dogs only carry items with the color green somewhere? Marijuana or Menthols. It's all about being organic. Also they have been on the endangered species list since the Giuliani administration.

Ghetto Terror Alert - While The Long Tail is predicated on conversation in the marketplace, The Long Booty prefers consumers to keep their opinions to themselves. Treating the workspace of any vendor as if it were a comment box solely concerned with your opinion is grounds for assault, or at least a stern, highly audible, and embarrassing lambasting on the street.

Slang Check - The Long Booty , that's all you need to know.

Earlier: Ghetto Pickup Artists