Flutterby™! : A new approach to panhandling

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A new approach to panhandling

2008-06-01 22:56:58.835912+00 by Diane Reese 12 comments

Seen today at the exit ramp from northbound 17/280 onto eastbound Stevens Creek: a paunchy, well-groomed panhandler in shorts, sneakers, sunglasses, and baseball cap. His cleanly made sign read:

"I've run out of GAS. I'm from out of town.

Please help."

There was a red plastic gas can at his feet and a ring of keys on a green lanyard hung from the bottom center of his sign.

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-01 23:54:32.383255+00 by: ebradway

I got hit up by a guy in Chattanooga with the same schtick. Clean clothes from Salvation Army. Recent shower. He was down by the aquarium and claimed he ran out of gas on I-24. I doubted anyone would have to walk that far to bum gas money to make it through town. So I blew him off.

Must have been really bad because a week later the same guy hit me up with the same line. I called him on it.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-02 03:17:52.666214+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think the gas can and keys are the touch that I haven't seen before. It's amazing how cynical these scams have made me, I'd hate to think of what'd happen if I ever legitimately got in trouble. Hell, if I managed to run out of gas in a strange town and for some reason not have my credit cards work, I wouldn't give me money...

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-02 11:23:07.4829+00 by: meuon

Chances are he got dropped off by the "team leader". I've been seeing organized panhandling, it pays well. Recent schtick is granola-looking kids with a dog at the Wal-Mart on Signal Mtn exit and a sign saying "help us get home". Except I see the exact same kids downtown at GreyFriars coffee buy $3.00 expresso's. Or the guy that pan-handled a bunch of bicyclists was caught later at Stone Cup Coffee with a 6" roll of $1's.

Coming back from )^( last year, I filled up a 5 gallon gas can for a young man at the gas station and gave him a ride back to his car. My favorite was picking up a young couple that were walking along the road holding hands, and a gas can. They had borrowed a friends car and did not realize <1/8th a tank meant empty. I laughed and said he must be a good guy if she was still holding his hand. 15 miles to the gas station, towing our colorful trailer.. and SHE figured out I've been to Burning Man, and her preacher warned her about people that would would do such things. I laughed, asked her how many Christians passed them on the road. She shut up. Turns out he was in the USAF and about to get out, and we had fun trip to get gas and back to their car.

My point is, I do help people, a lot. You'll find the guy really needing gas hoofing it to the gas station... the guy needing a fan belt heading towards an auto parts place or a garage... Not walking around downtown looking for yuppies or on the street corner.

Broke and broken down happens.

Dan, I'd talk to you for a few minutes and give you some cash. At least when you had long hair and wore bright tie-dyes.. :)

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-02 11:54:36.814597+00 by: Larry Burton

I keep a gas can in my truck. I've had to use it for myself before but it's real handy to point to and offer a lift to the gas station to people running this scam. My offer of running them to the station, putting gas in the can and then bringing it and them back to their car has been turned down more than once.

One guy didn't turn me down and I figured he really was out of gas. I got to the station and the station owner jumped this guys case, telling him he had banned him from his store and never wanted to see him again. I noticed he was starting to fidget when I turned into that particular store.

Turns out the guy was a "homeless" fellow that had been hanging around that neighborhood. The guy in the station had caught him sleeping in his bathroom and the fellow had threatened to hit him trying to get out. I guess I'm fortunate this played out this way. I've wondered since then what would have happened back at his non-existant car.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-02 13:17:54.120054+00 by: petronius [edit history]

Years ago the Moonies infested the Chicago Loop, with nice young ladies in wheelchairs selling flowers. Only once my wife passed an alley and saw them walking about and loading their chairs into a truck for the trip back to their HQ. I know that Jesus commanded the crippled man to take up his bed and walk, but Rev. Moon?

Which reminds me, I just thought of some unheralded victims of the post 9/11 security state: all those Moonies, Hare Krishnas and LaRouchians who used to sell literature at the airport. Has it been long enough for some nostalgia over those more innocent days of scamming?

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-02 14:06:16.012361+00 by: JT

I arrested a couple of guys for panhandling a long time ago. I watched him now and then on a street corner with his sign and his cane, the sign read something along the lines of "God Bless You, help me <insert random thing here>" I watched him at about 19:00 one night while working the evening shift leave his street corner and walk over about two blocks with is little cane. As he approached his lincoln continental, he used the key fob to pop open the trunk, threw his cane in from a distance, then take off his jacket and put it in the trunk before he started to drive away.

After I stopped him, arrested him, had his car towed, on inventorying his valuables at the lockup he had over $500 on him. He said he pulled that in almost every day standing at that street corner. He also told us we couldn't stop him and he'd just move to Algiers (the next town over) and find another corner. Of course we never saw him after that, so either he moved to the next town, or NOPD found him and he moved along again.

The second was a guy who was holding up a sign saying "Will work for food". I offered to pay him cash if he'd help out moving some firewood. We bought a house with firewood right against it, and out of fear of termites, we wanted to move two cords of wood over near a fence. After he shouted a few obscenities and told me he wasn't interested in working, I called the station, produced a badge and the extra pair of handcuffs I kept on me and then promptly arrested him for panhandling. The judge got quite a kick out of my story and offered the advice to the guy "next time I'd suggest doing the work" and, in a stroke of irony, promptly gave him a hundred or so hours of community service providing services for no charge to the public.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-02 19:39:36.849816+00 by: Nancy

That's funny JT! I once offered my lunch leftovers (a baggie of chips or something, I don't remember now, but it wasn't chewed on is my point) to a panhandler and he blessed me out and turned it into a race thing - how white women don't help black men or some crap like that. I was disgusted to say the least.

My other two favorite stories are the time the guy told me he needed "bus money to get to Nashville." A week or more later: same guy, same place, same story. The second time, I told him if he'd started walked the first time he'd have been there by now. (Obviously he wasn't actually motivated to actually get to Nashville.)

And the lady I gave some change to? She asked "Is that all you have?" She now recognizes me and doesn't talk to me anymore. She knows I'll end up screaming at her if she does.

I try to be compassionate, I really do, but I have "311" cards to hand out now with social services numbers listed on them. 'course, they'd have to walk back to their Lincoln and get their cell phone I suppose.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-02 20:31:49.153892+00 by: markd

I usually make a point to look at their feet, then mine, and say "your shoes are nicer than mine" (and they usually are), and walk away. That usually confuses them enough to make a quick exit.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-02 21:11:28.13044+00 by: Dan Lyke

JT, you win with the "Community Service" story. I've tried the "I've got a job for you" thing, as, I believe, has Meuon, and like apparently most everyone else I have run into the same schtick from the same person at different times.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-02 22:52:52.941859+00 by: ebradway

I haven't had to use it yet, but I keep thinking the next pan-handler to hit me up will here "Sorry man - I'm a grad student. The only difference between you and I is that I'm running up more debt than you are..."

There's a guy here in Boulder (I'll have to snap a picture the next time I see him) who's sign says "Who am I kidding? It's for beer!"

And in Boulder we have two groups worse than the panhandlers: the DNC and a group called Environment Colorado. The EC guys pester you every time you walk by. Panhandlers, at least, just hang back. Boulder's a generous town to panhandlers. I see them make a good bit of cash.

Of course, we also have a thriving community of professional buskers: musicians, contortionists, jugglers, magicians, etc. I see some of the young panhandlers practicing some of the busking techniques in the park.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-05 03:17:13.444063+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

When I lived in New Orleans, I had a not-too-shabily dressed guy hit me up 3-4 times for "gas money" in different parts of the city. I have no idea why he targeted me each time.

Once he was even driving some sort of large Chevy.

On the last two times, I told him he was a scammer who had hit me up multiple times already. He got really, really angry at being told he was dishonest.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-06-05 04:30:41.47837+00 by: Diane Reese

One of my earliest memories of the aftermath of moving to California 11 years ago was when a guy outside the DMV approached me with a clipboard and asked me what radio station I listened to. I didn't know many of them at the time, but mentioned the local NPR station. He pretended to write something down, then beamed that I had won a free cassette tape of my choice! He showed me some possible prize tapes from a set he had with him, and I found one I liked. He told me that in exchange for the free prize tape, he'd like a contribution to some children's charity I'd never heard of. I reached in my pocket and extracted a handful of coins which I offered him, thinking "contribution" meant "contribution" and didn't involve a means test or a minimum donation. He looked at it for a moment and then turned to look me in the eye and said, "Could you write a check?"

I didn't even bother to wonder whether he was insulted by my hearty and genuine laugh. You can't make this stuff up.