Panhandling…Begging or Working?
I pulled into La Jolla Village yesterday. For those of you who have not been here, La Jolla is one of the wealthiest communities in America. A place where the recession/ depression seems to be more a rumor or slight inconvenience then an every day reality.
At the 5 way intersection by the entrance to the Mall were 6 panhandlers. The closest to me was a twenty something with a sign proclaiming that he was a “down on his luck” Vietnam Veteran in desperate need of money. Given his age, this was clearly untrue. I made the comment to my friend that someone that young could find some job that pays as much as standing on a corner. Is there no shame? My friend told me not to be so quick to judge and explained why I was wrong. “The young man in question does have a job. He makes his own hours and pays no taxes. Begging is it”.
In the new America begging represents the height of entrepreneurial spirit. The act of making something from nothing with minimal resources. Standing on the corner with nothing more then a sad look and a piece of cardboard is boring and tedious work. But, given the right person with the right facial expression, the right amount of dirt and the right sign, on the right corner, someone can make as much as $50 or $60 an hour during peak traffic times.
The truthfulness of the sign is irrelevant. It is advertising, plain and simple. It is designed to illicit sympathy and spur the “customer” into giving. My friend also pointed out that it really isn’t “Money For Nothing”. The panhandler is providing a service. Everyone that hands over a dollar feels better and is saying to themselves, “There, but for the grace of God, am I”.
Still, if all of this is true and begging is just a new type of business, we quickly noticed that the “advertising” signs being used are poorly crafted and hugely antiquated for such an affluent community. After all, advertising has rules. Your message should be three to five words, maximum, finish by asking for the sale and, most importantly, know your demographic.
Wendi & I have decided they need our help.