The Wrong Way

I was accosted by a panhandler today while shopping. I’ve not had this particular experience before today, being confronted while inside a store – the man walked up, asked if he could ask me a question, and launched into his spiel. I have to give him this, he did a few things right: as a tall, bulky male, he kept himself bent over his cart while talking to me (less than average height female), used his full name (or at least a full name) to introduce himself, and said repeatedly that he didn’t want cash money. He said he, his wife, and son, had just moved from another state, they had used their last money to get here, and would I be willing to pay for part (or all) of his cart full of goods? I gently commended him to a couple of local charities, and he got the message and shoved off very quickly. He’d done one thing wrong… he was alone, and approached a solo female. That creeped me right out and I wasn’t going to question my gut. 

I was thinking about it afterward. The things he had in his cart were not poverty-minded. They weren’t wildly impractical, just not desperate enough. He wanted paper plates, paper towels, and such. Honestly what I probably should have done was looked at him and said I’d help. But only if he let me do the shopping. Look, I’ve been all but homeless and with negative monies to my name (I wound up paying off someone else’s debts even after they were court-ordered as I had no other option). Paper plates? No. Go put those back, then walk into the homegoods section and buy three cheap plastic plates for $0.50 each. Pick up cups (same price) while you’re there instead of that big pack of red solo cups that costs like $6 and you’ll have to replace them and the paper plates when they get dirty or broken. Paper towels? Honey, I lived without those for years, those suckers are expensive. If you’ve got $20 to set up housekeeping walk you back to the automotive department and pick up ten rags for less than $2. Are you going to be washing out a lot? Yeah. No, you don’t even need a kitchen to do this, you can wash up in a sink in a hotel if that’s what you’ve got. 

Given time, there’s even cheaper ways to do it. Thrift shops, garage sales, free groups on facebook… I’ve garbage-picked, scrounged, traded and bartered in my life. Yes, it takes time. It sucks. But eventually you’ll be able to kick enough of a toehold to start your way out of this hole you got yourself into. I know. I did it. But if you don’t take a good hard look at your spending habits, and start to see, really see, where you could make real progress, you don’t have a chance. 

I wasn’t comfortable enough at that moment to have this conversation in the store, and looking back I’m not sure he’d have been willing to let me put that many strings on a ‘donation’ to his family. Sadly, people generally don’t want to learn. 

Pity, really. We’ve all gotten ourselves into pickles, sometimes we need a little help out of them. Just… Dude. Don’t be walking up to random women alone in the store. 

25 thoughts on “The Wrong Way

  1. Random women are the most likely to be easily guilted into buying things.

    Only thing I’d add is to hit the CLEARANCE section in WalMart first, I got some really nice cups and stuff that way.

    Of course… *those* are not returnable for a refund.

    1. Hadn’t even thought about the returnable (or for that matter, resellable) aspect. I was trying to figure out how his hustle was supposed to work. Risky, I have to say, hassling people inside a store. A couple of gas stations in OH where I was approached while fueling by panhandlers went on my ‘do not stop there’ list, so I think it would behoove a store to strongly discourage that sort of thing.

        1. I know I’d been told that a lot of ‘minor’ shoplifting is of items that can then be resold on facebook marketplace and the like. I was also giving serious side-eye to a book in the local OH fleamarket that had stuff like laundry detergent and what-not that are evidently popular with shoplifters for resale value.

      1. They can try. However, it is hard. As to the paper if they don’t have a place to stay it works better. But yeah super creepy. We had someone try to husstle us for gas here. Their mistake was wearing a brand new NASCR jacket. And everyone way way to nicely dressed. And several people from same car hustling for cash. Funny how fast they disappeared when I told the clerk about them.

  2. Nope nope nope. Never happened to me and I hope it doesn’t. I’m sorry you got accosted by a creepy guy when you were by yourself. :hugs:

    And yes, there are plenty of things a person can do to help mitigate the situation. His problem started way back when he decided to pick up and move his family without enough ready scratch to support them when they got there and while they were looking for employment. If what he said was even true. Sadly, I’m skeptical of most anything strangers tell me anymore. What a world. =o\

  3. Years ago, a friend of my wife’s was accosted by a guy outside a LaBou, who said he wanted money to buy himself a sandwich. Friend said that she was sorry, but she didn’t have any cash.

    She did buy the guy a sandwich and a bottle of water, but reported that when she handed them to the guy, he got very angry, since he didn’t want food – he wanted money.

    Luckily for our friend, one of her co-workers walked up at the time. He’s a very tall, muscular Indian fellow who, at the time, had a magnificent mustache.

    The panhandler took the sandwich and water, before nearly running away.

    Our friend was confused, since she has a big heart and it took her co-worker about 10 minutes to explain what was really going on.

  4. Gave a guy with a sign saying “Homeless, hungry” food once. Once. Got the bag of McFood thrown at me for my troubles.

    1. That really sucks 🙁 I used to keep protein bars and water bottles in my door pocket. There was an intersection in Dayton OH right at the entrance of the VA hospital and there were always panhandlers there – not the same guys, but a constant stream. I’d hand them one of each. Never had them say anything other than thanks, fortunately.

    2. I’ve been really lucky on that one– I usually buy simi-bulk, so I’ve handed out a lot of loafs of bread, peanut butter, bottles of water– either I get food by really good actors, or they can actually use the stuff.

  5. My favorites are the panhandlers who use the same schtick in the same place, time after time. We had one in Arlington, VA who insisted he was a recently-released convict. He needed bus fare to get to a halfway house in Maryland somewhere, but for some reason, the bus he was on dropped him Manassas, on the Virginia side, leaving unanswered how he made his way back to Arlington. The same guy was peddling that spiel for a couple years, anyway.

    1. Twenty-some years ago I was approached by a guy in a parking lot in Chicago asking for some cash to help him get a bus ticket to St. Louis. I was feeling generous, so I gave him a buck or two. A week later he approaches me again, same spiel. I pointed that fact out to him — at which he replied, magnificently, “No, that must have been my brother.”

  6. We have a scam going on here where a “family” parks their car at an intersection–usually the underpass–near Walmart or Target. Always a couple of kids with a single parent. When someone stops to help, they ask for money. They need to pay for the tow truck or get a new battery, etc. Several good Samaritans have been caught in their net. But they aren’t real smart. They keep using the same several intersections and people have started recognizing them and posting warnings–with pictures–on the neighborhood app. Since the cops monitor the app as well, they are usually moved along pretty quickly.

    1. Yep – the Neighborhood App has some worthy uses – a faster transmission belt for warning, the straight scoop, and information of note than ever gossip by word of mouth over the back fence ever was.
      We were alerted to a good few neighborhood needs and issues through it.
      Refreshingly, our local Neighborhood seems to be refreshingly free of Karens, political or otherwise.

  7. Ooh, I just remembered– I had a cousin that REALLY DID “lose” his wallet, and couldn’t get his car out of the parking garage.

    He spent roughly two hours asking people for money to get it out– and kept getting JUST ENOUGH to get it out…right before the dang time charge flipped over again– until a big guy decided that he’d had enough of this and said FINE take me to your car and SHOW ME–

    Cousin said that the guy was utterly gobsmacked to see that yes, there was actually a car, with the parking ticket and all, and my cousin really did just need a few dollars to get it out.

  8. One of the best places to learn about scams is through AA/NA.
    I have a family member who is years sober, but who got a world-class education on scamming in the process, and is endlessly entertaining as a result.
    The in-store scam is usually lumped in as a gypsy scam classic, because it works.
    From what I was told, anything under $3 is probably a legit request for help. Anything over is a scam.

    I’ve been in South FL for 7 years now. The homeless come down around Thanksgiving and stay until it gets unbearably hot- May 1 or so. The intersection pandlandlers you can set your watch by. One of my favorites is the fat black lady with a ‘homeless and pregnant’ sign these past 6 winters. That 15th trimester is a challenge I bet.

  9. It was a scam. They did this all the time in LV and after awhile people here lost good will. When a guy who is better dressed than you ask you for money because his wife and child in the car can’t get to their destination. “I only need a five” he said. “I’ll get you the rest of the money next week.” Know that it was a scam and it is done to connect with people’s better natures. Unfortunately when folks are like that– it’s hard to discern who is needy and who is not.

  10. Also I had another experience of a guy bicycling to the side of my car and putting his hand out. When I said no, he followed me into the store. I called the store manager who walked him out. They can be dangerous.

  11. I’ve had several occasions where rather well dressed black ladies have tried to hit me up for five bucks in both Lowes and Home Depot. I either ignore them or say that I’ll find an employee to “help” them.
    More often are the grifters in grocery store and restaurant parking lots who approach and try to start a conversation, the obvious goal being a request for money. I stare right at them and say “NO” in my command voice. It generally works though it often starts them swearing and complaining that I’m picking on them.

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