Shoe shiners will definitively cross your way in some historic centre or in other touristic places. I got them in front of my camera in Quito, Cuzco and La Paz. Sometimes they are a little too pushy I have to admit but their style of marketing is truly remarkable. They identify those local or foreign potential clients that wear the worst shoes with just a blink of an eye. That is why I happened to be asked if I would consider repairing mine.
I was in Cuzco by that time and especially the climbing sessions in Ecuador and Peru made my shoes look increasingly ugly. The reason to not buy me new ones was simply that shoes in my size (I am not a giant though) are barely available in the cheap places. So I took that offer and sat down to watch the shoe shiner do a perfect job for almost nothing.
“I will do a fantastic work”, or “It is going to cost you little more than we agreed on” he told me. I had my shoes done and looking almost new in less than twenty minutes.
Locals also use this service.They would always fix a price before the Shoe shiner begins. Their job is highly mobile since these guys would have everything at hand: polish, repair kit, cloth and even a little step for your feet not to get dirty while you are barefoot.
I just recently found out that many of them are students. They often cover their face in order to not get detected by student colleagues. They find it embarrassing to earn money like that. I thought this work would probably stand in line with other service jobs carried out by mainly poorer people, but many of them just try to pay the University-fees.
Either way I feel respect for them, because it takes persistence and a strong will to walk around all day and get your hands dirty for some coins.