Friday, September 25, 2009

Just a suggestion.

…. I know I rant and rave about panhandlers at the Chevron a lot, but I’m not completely immune to the plight of my fellow man.  Which is why when earlier this week some guy at a Sinclair I stopped at asked me for money for gas I didn’t say no, completely.  I didn’t give him any cash but I did ask him which pump he was on, went inside and used my debit card to put $5 on it for him.  I bring this up not because I want a few verbal pats on the back, but because of what happened at the Chevron tonight. 
…. Some guy came in and prepaid for his gas.  When he came back to get his change he asked if “that lady came in and got 20 bucks in gas.”  She was a perfectly respectable looking woman in a minivan with some story about running out of gas and needing to get home, but she never came in to get the gas, she just bought a pack of smokes and took off with the change.  He wasn’t happy, with himself – not us, he felt like he got ripped off.  Scammed is what he got.
…. So, here is my suggestion:  If it ever happens to you that you feel someone really is in need and you want to help out, but you don’t want to get scammed, there is a couple things you can do to curb that fear;
  1. Don’t give them cash, be sure to prepay for their gas.  It may take a couple of minutes out of your day, but that way you are sure they are using it for gas.
  2. Prepay with a credit or debit card.  If you prepay with cash, they could pump 37 cents and then come in and get the change.  With a credit card if they only pump 37 cents that’s all you get charged and when they go in for the change they’ll be told there isn’t any.  If you are afraid that they will get a receipt with your credit card number on it, look at yours next time you use a card.  It only prints the last 4 digits for a reason – they would have to figure out the other 12 digits from 1,000,000,000,000* different possibilities.

*I come up with that number thusly: There are 10 possibilities for each of the 12 digits (0 through 9, repeatable), so the number of possibilities is 10 to the 12th power, or a 1 with 12 zeros after it.  Voila, you just got a mini-course on permutations.


A Paperback Writer said...

I once knew a guy who worked in an area where a lot of people begged on the streets. He didn't like the idea of giving them cash they could use for drugs, so he kept a supply of McDonald's gift certificates on hand. Most of the panhandlers turned him down, but those who were truly the hungry ones were grateful for the chance to get a free burger. And even McDonald's food is healthier than drugs. :)

Personally, I give to establishments that help those who are stuggling (the Road HOme, the Women's Shelter, the DI -- which trains people how to work, the food drives_). This way I know my donations are not going for inappropriate things and are going to people who actually need them.
And that's what I tell beggars who ask (although I have once or twice fallen for a few lines in the past).

Max said...

Gift certificates for food - great suggestion - and giving to those organizations is a good way to help the homeless.
What that guy ran into last night was what looked like someone just having a bad day. It's even worse than beggars, because when you give them money you know there's a good chance it's not going to food. But he thought he was helping someone in a bind, and next time it happens he's going to be more likely to say no. And next time it may be someone really in need. So, don't let the scam artists ruin it for the real people, help them out, just don't hand them any cash.
Ok, I'm off my soapbox now.