When I first started my food truck back in 2010 I had no idea the myriad of licenses, certificates, and permits that would be required to run this business. But, I was determined and not thwarted even by the city’s own confusion over which permits or which department I was supposed to go to. Five years later the city of Boston and surrounding towns have thought about, developed plans, and instituted regulations to handle this new industry. Food truck licensing and permitting requirements vary from town to town, except for one special state license–Hawking and Peddling–one of the first I needed and obtained and it has not changed an iota since the beginning of time, I think. It’s a permit to vend or hawk or peddle to the public. All vendors–be it a truck, a cart, or a person standing there with goods must have this license.
Getting this license is a two-step process. First step, trek to my local police station which happens to be Boston Police Headquarters for me, have the Chief of Police sign off on my good character standing. Next up, the Division of Standards, at One Ashburton Place. Since it’s a state building you have to go through the metal detector (same with the police headquarters), I always seem to set it off–keys, change, belt buckle?
This office doesn’t accept credit, debit cards, or personal checks, they do accept cash, certified check, registered check, or money order. Really?! What year is this? The state building, however, is very accommodating in that they have an ATM machine conveniently located in the lobby. After handing the form over to the woman behind the big glass window (why is there a big glass window?), I head down to the lobby to get cash, “exact amount” she tells me. The ATM machine is not my bank so inconveniently there is a $3 service charge–I’m asked if I’d like to continue with the transaction. I don’t have much choice, so, yes, I continue on taking $80 out for my $62 license. By the way, the license is actually $60 and $2 is for the plastic sleeve it comes in. One year I said to the kindly woman behind the glass that I still had a perfectly good plastic sleeve, I didn’t need a replacement, just charge me the $60 and I’ll reuse the old one, thank you. No, that’s not how they do it. You must pay for the sleeve and license together. So much for recycling.
The ATM machine spits out nice new crisp twenty dollar bills and I head over to the little convenience store also very conveniently located in the lobby. I grab a water–it’s been one of those humid days–there’s no easy way to get to Ashburton Place, you have to walk a bit from any T stop. I put the water on the counter. The clerk, a courteous man in his late 50s or early 60s, is tilting his head in the general direction of where I imagine a small television must be showing the ball game I can hear in the background. He picks up the water bottle, says “one water bottle”, and I hand him the $20. He feels it, really feels it then holds it close up to his face. I think he’s looking for some kind of watermark or something, he says, “$1.10 out of . . . ” and hesitates, waiting for me to answer him. I catch on to the fact that he is blind or vision-impaired in some way. “Twenty,” I say, and now I’m wondering if everyone says they have a twenty. “Sorry,” I say, “that’s all I have.” “No problem,” he says and counts out my $18.90 in change. I glance down to the other end of the counter and notice another clerk, a woman, and think, oh, that’s good, someone else to “verify” what customers are handing them, but to my surprise both of these people are blind or vision-impaired in some way. What!? the two of them!? Obviously, they are well able to do their jobs and customers must be honest–good to know. There is a tip jar directly in front of me and I do feel extra-compelled to tip them for their service.
And it’s back through the metal detector, up the elevators, and to the Division of Standards I go with exact cash in hand. So, this license, if you’ve never seen one, looks as it it’s been typed on a really old typewriter using Prestige Elite or some very old typeface. Not kidding. You almost half expect the person behind the large glass window to head over to a big metal typewriter and hear her click, click, click, click-clickity-click. But she does not, I don’t think. I didn’t hear clicking anyway. She magically produces this incredibly old-fashioned looking piece of paper with an official state stamp embossed on it. The text on this thing reads:
BE IT KNOWN unto all to whom these presents come, that the above-named person is herby licensed to go about as a HAWKER or PEDLER in all the Cities and Towns in this Commonwealth, and to sell or expose for sale or barter any ….
I’m not making this up. Don’t even get me going on how peddler is spelled on this license, or should I say spelt. It’s this part of the business that I feel like I’m in merry ‘ol England. If you look up hawker and peddler in the dictionary the terms used to describe this profession are not very flattering. And this is how your food truck career begins, my friends.
I have no idea why this particular license amuses me. I suppose that in our current world of internet access, mobile phones that can do incredible things, the fact that my 80-something-year-old mother not only has a cell phone, but knows how to: text, use Pandora, sign up and watch Netflix, and grocery shop online–just makes this particular license seem so interestingly unique (read odd) and quaintly historic (read outdated). That and the fact that it has seemingly not changed since the days of yore when people actually knew what a hawker and/or a peddler were is incredibly surprising to me.
As amusing as this license seems to be, it is by far the quickest to get and probably the most straightforward and understandable. Good for historic, odd licenses of yore!
Stay tuned for the next post: The Unicorn Food Truck Location.