Eli remembers when he saw his first selfie stick.
"I was here," he said, gesturing around where we stood at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan, where vendors peddle everything from hot dogs to American flag playing cards. Beside him, a table crammed with phone-ready extendable poles sat stacked in a rainbow of colors. A washed-out photo of President Obama, staring dubiously at the selfie stick clenched in his hand, was taped to its side.
"I see all these people walking around taking selfies," he went on. "And they were saying it out loud. And I was like 'a selfie? A selfie stick'"?
Eli has been in the vending business for more than a decade, but only began dabbling in selfie sticks a few months ago, after seeing them popping up for sale on Canal Street. Eli is no fool—he recalls a time around eight years ago when he considered selling perfume, before it became a hit with other vendors. "I didn't go along with it—but I should have," he said. "This time, I grabbed hold of the idea. Everyone is taking selfies. I just grabbed it by the horns."
Natasha, a tourist from New Zealand, approaches the table while we're talking. She picks up a pink stick, and Eli shows her how to extend it. "I don't really want one, but it's so much easier," she explained as she handed Eli a $10 bill. "If I wasn't traveling, I probably wouldn't be doing this."
Eli said the number of sticks he sells each day varies, but it's rarely fewer than 50. He said his youngest customer was a 7-year-old boy, whose parents bought one for him to affix to his iPhone 4. His oldest customers were a European couple in their 70s. "The husband bought it for his wife," Eli said. "She loved it."
Eli may be doing brisk business now, but he doesn't expect it to last.
"It'll probably die out in the next few months," he shrugged.
(h/t John Surico)