Would You Give These People Money?
Kathy Liebert and I have been tweeting back and forth on twitter recently about something that is a part of life in many large cities, and has even spread to some smaller communities.
You go into a gas station or are at a local shopping center and someone comes up to you telling you that they are having hard times and are wondering if you could spare them some spare change or a dollar.
The question we discussed was whether you would actually give them money or not.
Personally, it depends on the situation and how it goes down. I would like to say that I am an extremely generous person and would just give them the money, but the reality is that I am very distrusting of many people in general.
I have been approached by those that clearly need the money, and others where it's clear they are just trying to get money for another purpose. Let me give you some examples over the years and think about how you might handle them.
Example 1 - I watch a car pull up into the parking lot of the hotel I was staying at and the occupants are pretty much just hanging out. I go to my car 20 minutes later and they are still in the parking lot. The woman then starts speaking up and starts asking me if I could spare some change for gas. What would you do in this situation?
Example 2 - I'm inside the Four Queens at about 1:30 in the morning and someone comes up to me while I'm playing one of the machines and asks for bus fare. What would you do?
Example 3 - I'm in a McDonald's in Chicago and a 6'3", clearly homeless black man comes up and asks if I could spare some change so he could get something to eat. What would you do?
Example 4 - A man, his wife, and two children are standing on the side of the road in a town 20 minutes from where I live here in Virginia. The sign says that they are living in their car and will work for food. What do you do here?
Example 5 - Just off the strip near the Rio, there is a man that goes up to the cars at the stoplight every day. Same guy, every day. Do you give him money?
Example 6 - Two kids, clearly not over the age of 16, come up to me at the Green Valley Ranch casino wanting bus fare. One has a skateboard. What do you do?
All of the above examples are examples of real life incidents from my own life. What did I do? I gave money to the people in Examples 2, 3, and 4.
Example 1 seemed like a clear scam job to me, so I did not give them money. The guy in Example 5 was literally there every day I went to the Rio, and I swear he has been there for years. So obviously he is just working the corner.
I don't know if the kids in Example 6 thought I was an easy mark or what, but no way in hell I'm giving them money. I reported them to security instead. They were gone before security could find them obviously.
So why did I give the other three money? I will admit that in most of the cases, it was not due to altruistic reasons.
The guy in Example 2, I gave him money so he would go away, pure and simple.
It was late - 1:30 in the morning. I don't know if the guy is one that is going to start shit or even try and assault me. It is clear he isn't going to use it for bus fare, but if $1 or $2 gets him to go away, in that spot, I'll give up the couple bucks.
Example 3 happened to me when I was 18 years old. I was at the Rock and Roll McDonald's in Chicago with a couple girls and a guy, all three around 16 or 17. We were there as part of 4-H National Congress. We were inside getting ready to order and this guy comes up to me. He asked for some change so he could get something to eat.
This was my first encounter with anyone homeless face to face and it scared me a bit. At the same time, I had two girls with me, and I was already in "protector mode" after a bum fight broke out a block from the restaurant. I reached in my pocket and gave him the change I had so he would leave us alone.
Out of all the encounters I have had with people over the years, this is the only time I have seen someone use the money for what they said. He went up and purchased a couple of cheeseburgers and a coffee. When we left, I saw him over in one of the booths eating and he thanked me. There is actually more to this story, but it has nothing to do with this blog so I'll skip it.
Example 4 was more alarming when I saw it than anything. It wasn't because it was a homeless guy with a sign. It was the fact that he had his family with him and this was happening in Lynchburg, Va.
I can only think of one other time in my life I have seen a homeless person with a sign there. I ended up giving him money more for his kids than for him. If that was a scam, it was a good one.
I realize that some of the examples I gave make me look like an unfeeling jackass. These are just examples that I picked out to make you think about whether blindly giving money is a good idea.
Hopefully some of you will see the wisdom of maybe coming off of a dollar or two to prevent potentially dangerous situations.
While this isn't a truly poker-related blog, it is something some of you are going to face if you play in the live casino environment. Those of you that live in big cities deal with it on a daily basis most likely. I just wanted to give you something to think about for a change.
So what do you think? Was I being too judgmental or was I right in my assessments? Feel free to comment.