Join 3,416 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Pitbulls, Lies and Videotape
June 25, 2014 3:30 PM   Subscribe

Welcome to the Internet crowdfunding, where the cutest, blondest, and most adorable victims of unverifiable woe seek to fund their health care via the largesse of outraged strangers. This isn't uncommon. We've seen the stories about mean things written on receipts, or even fingers in chili.

But what makes us to gullible in these cases, why do we suspend our skepticism when we see something that outrages us, or touches our heartstrings?

Why do we even give money to random strangers on Kickstarter?

Hell, we'll even bail out some shopaholic, if only she's cute enough.
posted by Ruthless Bunny (105 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
There's a sucker born every minute.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:34 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Excellent! Now I don't have to feel bad about failing to donate to any cause.
posted by aramaic at 3:35 PM on June 25


And things like this only make it worse for the many legit, good people who turn to crowdfunding because it is literally the only option left besides starvation or death.
posted by dekathelon at 3:41 PM on June 25 [16 favorites]


We help other people because most of the time they actually need help. They help us for the same reason.

The fact that there are people who abuse the general happy cooperation of society changes very little.
posted by Meta Filter at 3:42 PM on June 25 [36 favorites]


Cute blond ladies suffer most. The science is settled.
posted by jfuller at 3:42 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


I, for one, don't give money to random "victims" on kickstarter.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:50 PM on June 25


Not even two bucks? Geez...
posted by klanawa at 3:53 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Guys, let's start a Kickstarter for victims of Kickstarter. I'll be in charge of distributing the funds to victims.
posted by vorpal bunny at 3:57 PM on June 25 [22 favorites]


The fact that there are people who abuse the general happy cooperation of society changes very little.

Though I agree it doesn't change the amount I give, it does change where I give it to.

I feel worse about lining the pockets of a rich guy, than if a homeless guy were buying whatever they wanted.
posted by FJT at 3:57 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


But what makes us to gullible in these cases, why do we suspend our skepticism when we see something that outrages us, or touches our heartstrings?

Because it was easy to believe that some small-minded person treated a little girl this way. All of these stories are easy to believe.

It's a shame that desperate people are driven to desperate measures.
posted by bleep at 3:59 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


I feel worse about lining the pockets of a rich guy, than if a homeless guy were buying whatever they wanted.

Yeah, but I bet you let a Ferrari merge as easily as a junker.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:07 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


My book, Virtual Unreality (coming out tomorrow!) talks about phenomena like this -- faux personalities and phony stories -- and how the interweb-tubes give them particular power.

(Sorry for the plug, but this really is dead on the topic of book. Besides, MeFi is referenced several times in the text, what with Kaycee Nicole and Scott Adams and numerous other incidents involving digital fakery/sockpuppetry/general weirdness.)
posted by cgs06 at 4:09 PM on June 25 [35 favorites]


A week ago a young woman knocked on my door, and in great agitation told me that her baby was sick and needed to go to the hospital, but her car was out of gas and she didn't have any money to buy gas with. I gave her $40. She asked my name, shook my hand, and promised she'd get the money from her husband and return it to me the next day.

I never saw her again.

I don't feel bad about it; when I handed her the money I wasn't expecting to be repaid. All I can say is that I'd rather be me than her. I don't know how someone can be like that and still look at themself in the mirror.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:10 PM on June 25 [14 favorites]


In front of a DC hotel in a pretty nice part of town not long ago, saw a poor bike messenger carrying his bike, which had a horribly bent wheel. He looked hassled and bedraggled, a little scuffed up, but covered with messenger regalia, stickers and permits and signing devices and whatnot. I asked him if he was OK and he said he had been run off the road, bent up his bike, couldn't ride it home and needed to buy a bike permit for the metro but never carried cash when working cause DC. I felt terrible for him, gave him my last $10, and kicked myself for the next two weeks because I didn't offer to just drive him home.

Until he came up to me in front of a different nice hotel in a different part of town with the same bent bike and haggard stare and cheap story...he ran pretty fast for a guy carrying a broken bicycle.

Sorry, I don't believe any sob story I don't have first-hand knowledge of anymore. People are the worst. Darwinism for suckers.
posted by umberto at 4:19 PM on June 25 [21 favorites]


You know a story is fucking disgusting when the good guy turns out to be KFC.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:21 PM on June 25 [35 favorites]


I see these sorts of things on Tumblr sometimes, but I think there it's a little different, because there's some power of community norms in place, there's something that could pass for oversight. Yes, one could still fake it, one can fake most anything on the internet, but the people you're asking for help are not just random strangers. I sent someone $10 to help cover transportation expenses the other day because I'd been in the same spot myself once. I've chipped in at a similar small level for funds intended for gay/trans young people who need to get away from their parents. But the more sensational the story, the more I question it. Thankfully, I rarely see anything that shocking. Usually I'm concerned less about liars than about young people making poor financial decisions and propping themselves up through that instead of applying for real aid programs, but then, in the US, the supply of those is pretty slim.

Much like Metafilter, if it seems like the primary point of the message is to make me outraged, I think it's best to proverbially flag and move on.
posted by Sequence at 4:23 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]



It's a shame that desperate people are driven to desperate measures.

Was it a desperate measure? Or was it more a cynical attempt to milk a tragedy, for whatever they could, from whomever they could get it from?

I know that humans generally like to help, but at what point should we decide to fund a charity that's in the business of actually helping actual people.

I think a lot of this stuff is a way that people who are used to cutting corners and telling folks what they want to hear, all to get a bit more than their fair share--of whatever.

We're seeing it here, "I got taken in by someone asking for charity, but that's okay."

I don't know that that's a healthy attitude. I'd like to think that it's okay to get angry when you discover that someone perpetrates a fraud against you.

I'm angry because this little girl was caused greiveous injury by one set of grandparents, and has had her dignity robbed from her by another grandparent and on top of everything, KFC got roped into this mess--and I FUCKING HATE KFC, so I don't want to feel sorry for them.

So I guess at this point, I'm wondering why this kid hasn't been taken into state custody, because I gotta think that as shitty a state as Mississippi has to do a better job for this kid than these sleeze-balls that she calls MeeMaw and Pap-paw.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:25 PM on June 25 [14 favorites]


Chocolate pickle- I agree. I would rather be someone that is taken advantage of trying to help someone than someone that has shut themselves off.
I can't tell you how many times I have gotten checks in the mail (and a nice card or letter) for paying for someone's car to be towed, someone's concert tickets (they waited in line but only they didn't have enough money) and a small car repair.
I recalled an incident from years ago, listening to the scanner as a kid. During an ice storm/deep freeze a man called the police asking if there was a tow company that would come out to start his car so he could get to his night shift job. The tow company would but they needed payment immediately. The guy asked if they would take rolled coins. It breaks my heart to this day. It can feel very sad being poor in a wealthy nation.

I'd rather be a "sucker" than someone that doesn't give a shit about people.
posted by beccaj at 4:25 PM on June 25 [46 favorites]


I just really really hate that this discourse is entirely about how screwed up one family is (I agree!) rather than the fact that they felt motivated to do it to pay for medical expenses for their mauled three-year old. It is just such a bigger systemic issue that someone would need to crowdfund something like that. That troubles me way more than some skeevy scammers doing what skeevy scammers do. That poor girl. This crappy healthcare system.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 4:27 PM on June 25 [49 favorites]


c'mon sea legs, I'm not sure we can assume it would even mostly really have gone for medical expenses. Whether she has bills or not, however, you are correct: this is truly a crappy healthcare system that it is even a vaguely plausible problem in need of a drathstic "solution" as this scam.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 4:34 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


If you can free yourself from the idea that only "deserving" people should receive your compassion, events like this become less upsetting. So far I can manage it only part of the time, but it helps.
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:36 PM on June 25 [21 favorites]


I've given people with obviously made up stories (of the "I need $20 for bus fare. I'm going to Las Vegas to fight Mike Tyson." variety) money, food, or cigarettes because it was clear they were just trying to save face. The KFC story strikes me as the same kind of thing.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:36 PM on June 25 [6 favorites]


It would be nice if we actually had a safety net in place so people wouldn't need to go begging.
posted by monospace at 4:38 PM on June 25 [8 favorites]


The problem is not that some of the people begging for money to pay for medical expenses in the wealthiest nation on earth might be lying.

The problem is that most of the people begging for money to pay for medical expenses in the wealthiest nation on earth are telling the truth.
posted by scody at 4:39 PM on June 25 [88 favorites]


Guys, I need about $35k to start a collaborative media foundation. Please donate.
posted by entropicamericana at 4:46 PM on June 25 [6 favorites]


I don't know that that's a healthy attitude. I'd like to think that it's okay to get angry when you discover that someone perpetrates a fraud against you.

It all depends on the details. If there was no little girl with life-changing scars who needed all kinds of unaffordable care, that would be bad. If they took the money and ran off to Vegas, that would be bad. The state of healthcare in this country is such that I'm fine with "Alls well that ends well" except for the fact that this will just make it harder for legit cases to get noticed.

I also wonder what the effect of it being a slow news cycle lately had on the spread of this case.
posted by bleep at 4:49 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


I'm a little disappointed how much warm fuzziness is being directed the poor family's way. This wasn't a harmless white lie. They villainized other people in order to con money from strangers. Local KFC employees were sworn at and had things thrown at them because people—terrible people, granted—believed this family's story.

It's also annoying that the major press keeps getting a pass on this. They publish the fraud like it's a press release and just sit back collecting pageviews, then someone spoon-feeds them the truth, and of course they happily publish that to collect more pageviews. How about doing some journalism.
posted by cribcage at 4:50 PM on June 25 [33 favorites]


medical expenses for their mauled three-year old

I'm going to call bullshit on this. For all we know, this kid is in the system, which is highly likely if grandparents are raising her. That means she gets her medical stuff handled by the state/taxpayers, etc.

Secondly, we can always sue Pap-paw's house insurance for the expenses, or the landlords insurance.

Or we can go to St. Jude in Memphis for help.

There are TONS of options, other than perpetrating a fraud.

I also don't think your options are:

1. Give money to no one, they're all moochers. Atlas Shrugged!

2. Give money to everyone, after all their life is worse than mine, and I can feel GOOD, even if they do use it for beer and pretzels instead of insulin like they say.

There has to be some amount of thought process to this sort of thing. Can you buy the groceries of the lady in line in front of you at the grocery store when she doesn't have that extra buck? Absolutely. Can you throw a five on top of that stack of pennies at the gas station, sure.

Is it wise to give money to beggers? That's the eternal question.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:53 PM on June 25 [7 favorites]


Is it wise to give money to beggers? That's the eternal question.

Why are so many people reduced to begging? That's the more pressing question to me. (Not being combative, just saying that there's not a universal way to frame this.)
posted by scody at 5:13 PM on June 25 [9 favorites]


It is ALWAYS wise to give money to beggars. ALWAYS err on the side of compassion.
posted by monospace at 5:15 PM on June 25 [29 favorites]


I just really really hate that this discourse is entirely about how screwed up one family is (I agree!) rather than the fact that they felt motivated to do it to pay for medical expenses for their mauled three-year old. It is just such a bigger systemic issue that someone would need to crowdfund something like that. That troubles me way more than some skeevy scammers doing what skeevy scammers do. That poor girl. This crappy healthcare system.

I'm with Sea Legs. The options here are never give money to a suffering individual or never give money to a suffering individual until you have verified their suffering and the financial structure at work. We have no way of knowing who's scamming and who's controlling money--or if it's a scam intended to get her some money. I guess 'wait a few days for the internet to do its work'? But if you're like me you are on to the next thing in three days and you have to send twenty bucks to Planned Parenthood because Kansas has done something horrid.

But if you're just like 'that little kid. I want to help that particular little kid' -- how many ways are there to do that that don't wind up with the potential for you to get scammed in some way and maybe Grandma goes and spends it all on blow and Doritos. Who knows??? And this might be a scam to get Grandma blow and Doritos, but the next thing -- do you resist the next thing?

I don't know. We vet the best we can I guess. KFC asks disfigured girl to leave sounds bullshit. But you just have to do the best you can. It's terrible when stuff likes this makes people resistant to helping others. There have always been scams. There will always be scams. We'll all get taken sometimes.


It is ALWAYS wise to give money to beggars. ALWAYS err on the side of compassion.


More succinctly put.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:26 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


A week ago a young woman knocked on my door, and in great agitation told me that her baby was sick and needed to go to the hospital, but her car was out of gas and she didn't have any money to buy gas with. I gave her $40

I've heard variants on this same bullshit story so many times. Next time offer to call 911 for them, get out your phone, and watch them bust a move.
posted by thelonius at 5:30 PM on June 25 [9 favorites]


Charity begins at home. To me that means the most effective charity is to people close to you in some way. Basically like 'Buy Local' except giving.
posted by BinGregory at 5:36 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


It is ALWAYS wise to give money to beggars.

It is? "Always"? Most people aren't sitting on briefcases of cash just waiting for the right yacht to come along. If you're relatively well off then maybe those dollars are your kid's future college tuition and not tonight's actual dinner, but still. None of us have money trees. And in your calculus, does it really not matter a whit where the money is going? No matter whether a particular beggar is going to buy a sandwich or a blowjob, you should just let him decide because, compassion?

Sorry, no. It's a complex world. There are myriad ways you can accomplish actual good with your charitable dollars that don't require a dose of blind faith in something that looks strikingly like an old, clichéd con. It doesn't make you a bad person to donate to an Internet con, but neither do you get to pat yourself on the back and say, "Well, I tried to do some good." That's facile. You didn't try very hard.
posted by cribcage at 5:48 PM on June 25 [37 favorites]


Recently I came across an Indiegogo started by some of the family members of the passengers lost on MH370. The fund was to be a reward for anyone who had credible information on the missing plane, because they were frustrated that the international authorities were no closer to finding it. They were also planning on hiring a private investigator to track down the plane.

I had really major mixed feelings about the whole endeavour. On the one hand, I understand the frustration and the desire to take matters onto your own hands when it feels like everyone's failing you. On the other hand, there's just so much wrong with that situation:

1. What are they counting as "credible information"? Just from running the MH370 debunking blog we got so many emails from people claiming they had some previously unknown information on the plane - except it turns out that they didn't understand how flight tracking sites or Google Maps worked, or they were relying way too much on "religious experiences" and "psychic omens". How much diligence will the fundraisers put towards verifying and vetting information? Media reporting is already super shoddy as it is, never mind all the quacks treating this as some sort of spy thriller.

2. Which private investigator can they hire that can even accomplish 10% of what's been done? This is an international case involving a lot of classified government and military information. There's a lot behind the scenes that doesn't get reported simply because no one's allowed to speak about it. Is there a track record of private investigation companies that are able to tackle a major case like this on their own?

3. Who's going to take care of the money in the meantime? Which legal and tax jurisdiction will it fall under? Where's the oversight in ensuring the money is well taken care of? For all the fuss they made about the Malaysian authorities not being forthright and reliable, can they be counted on to take care of this fund (which has already gone from $1mil to $10k without any rhyme or reason?

4. Why not use the money to help support the families? Many of whom lost breadwinners in the flight? There's all these kids that are now left orphaned by MH370, a lot of widows and widowers - all that money could go towards a huge scholarship or trust fund for them. (Provided the proper oversight is applied here too.)

they were pretty close to their goal when I stumbled onto it yesterday. They're definitely pulling on the heartstrings of the people who are convinced that the disappearance of MH370 is part of some major Zionist/Taliban conspiracy. Is there any truth to their efforts? Who knows.
posted by divabat at 5:50 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


I have mixed feelings here. Part of me thinks it is just awful that people like the grandma in this story or the waitress who pulled off the "denied tip for being gay" hoax have taken advantage of people's sympathy as a cynical money grab.

On the other hand, the fact that many of these stories about horrible, awful, insensitive, rude, homophobic, prejudice, hateful people have turned out to be invented out of whole cloth actually makes me feel a little bit better about humanity in general.
posted by The Gooch at 5:52 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


It is ALWAYS wise to give money to beggars. ALWAYS err on the side of compassion.

I was a pastor for 15 years. Churches get hit up all the time to help with expenses. My approach was always to provide the thing they said they needed, not just cash. Need gas? Let's go to the station and I'll fill up your tank. Need food? Let's go grocery shopping. Fill up your cart, we'll pay for it. Need medicine? I know a pharmacist that will help us out. Behind on your rent? Let's go pay your landlord.

And here's what I learned. In over 90% of the cases that hit our door, the person said "no, thanks" and walked away. Only cash would do. Meanwhile, the people who could really use our help would wait until the electricity had been off for a week and the eviction notice was served before finally letting us know that they were in trouble.

I understand the moral impulse to always give to beggars, and I'm certainly not telling anyone not to do it. But I came to believe that for my own limited resources, they best thing I could do overall is just choose one or two charities I trust that meet the needs of the poor effectively and give them as much cash as I can. With any charitable dollar I have I can give it to a beggar and have a 90% chance of being scammed one way or another, or give it to a reliable charity and have 90% of it helping someone with a verified need.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:56 PM on June 25 [110 favorites]


This seems to be a place where having a Basic Income and Universal Healthcare would be beneficial. If we as a society take care of people's medical issues and give them enough to support themselves on a subsistence level, less people would feel they have to lie about their personal circumstances for financial support, and we would have a much more productive society.
posted by GregorWill at 5:59 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]


(On the other hand, I do try to point beggars to the charities I know, and I've given my fair share of rides to shelters and food banks. But I don't just hand over cash anymore.)
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:59 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]



I'm a little disappointed how much warm fuzziness is being directed the poor family's way. This wasn't a harmless white lie. They villainized other people in order to con money from strangers. Local KFC employees were sworn at and had things thrown at them because people—terrible people, granted—believed this family's story.


Thank you for this, I completely agree.

Also, no it's not always good to give money to beggars/panhandlers/whatever. I think giving it to charities is better. If I gave money to everyone in the street who asked for it, I'd give out money constantly. I feel like some people here don't live near a lot of poverty and this is a hypothetical.
posted by sweetkid at 6:02 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


It is ALWAYS wise to give money to beggars. ALWAYS err on the side of compassion.

That sounds nice, but in reality I'm going to continue giving to vetted charities and ignore the implausible stories of people who randomly approach me for money.

I must look like a sucker, because I get hit up all the time by panhandlers. And I do the same thing that Pater Aletheias does - I offer to give them the thing they're asking for instead of money.

I've been doing that for twenty years. How many times have I been taken up on my offer of food, or paying for their gas, or a bus ticket? Exactly never.

So I'll keep my money going to places that I know are doing good and leave the scam artists to others. I don't have enough money to fund random strangers' drug habits.
posted by winna at 6:05 PM on June 25 [6 favorites]


That bent-bikewheel scam is at least twenty years old in DC. Back in like 1994 some guy came to my door lugging a bike with a seriously pretzeled front wheel and I actually went and got cash from my room. Just a few steps before getting back to the door some kind of subliminal warning bell went off in my head, and I got rid of him with an excuse. A couple days later I saw the same guy ringing doorbells on another street, carrying the same bike.

I don't know how someone can be like that and still look at themself in the mirror.

I would assume they look in the mirror and see a genius who's way too clever to have to work for a living like all those ordinary fools. That's a delusion, of course, but we humans are usually pretty good at justifying ourselves to ourselves.
posted by Zimboe Metamonkey at 6:06 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle: I don't feel bad about it; when I handed her the money I wasn't expecting to be repaid. All I can say is that I'd rather be me than her. I don't know how someone can be like that and still look at themself in the mirror.

There are certain situations that make me uncomfortable about just giving people money, and knocking on doors at random is one of those. When I worked in California, I attended public meetings where the local police warned the (largely older) community members to be skeptical of people who randomly came to their door with any sort of story, though the police often had a specific scam to warn people about (I remember one about people claiming to be from the IRS or the census or something).

But on the other hand, if you're really in a tough situation and need money, and your family and friends are in similar tight financial situations, your options (as I understand them) would be payday loans and random strangers. If you're at that point and you are willing to ask strangers, asking more affluent strangers would make sense, so it would make sense to ask people who aren't in your (potentially impoverished) neighborhood.

In short: there are people who live in a reality removed enough from my own that I can only try to comprehend the sorts of things they might face, and I recognize that my family is very comfortable now, so we can give something to strangers and feel no financial impact, and possibly I can help someone out who's in a tight spot.

beccaj: I'd rather be a "sucker" than someone that doesn't give a shit about people.

Well put. Thanks re-aligning my head a bit. I'll still be skeptical, but I will consider that there are a lot more situations that I have never faced, and people are making choices that were never before me.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:12 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Still, there are some people who are very comfortable with lying to strangers to get free money. Unfortunately, drug addicts are among those who are OK with lying to get money, so that's a chance you run with giving strangers money when they ask for it.

If someone asks you to give them money for some help, you can always offer to stay with them for a moment and try to get some help. 311 is a phone number you can call in many areas of the United States and in Canada (with similar services in other countries) that serves as a central information source and access to non-emergency municipal services. We've done this before, but it can take some time to help someone get connected to appropriate services.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:28 PM on June 25


There's a guy (or was) who hung out near the Flatiron Building in NYC with a story about being a costumer, but the costumes being in a warehouse, he had to go get them, needed 30 dollars for a cab or would lose his job, etc. He kept interjecting to me "it's ok, you don't have to worry about me, I'm gay!" so I guess I wouldn't be scared. He set off my scam alarms though (overly elaborate story: usually a tell, folks!) so I didn't give.

Two years later, same guy, same story, comes up to me. I laugh and tell him so. He just stomps off without missing a beat. Can't say I admire what he does, but he appears to have found a reliable gig of a sort if he kept doing it that long.

I've put 20 dollars of gas in people's cars a couple of times; it's always the same story "My kids are in the car, we need to get to X town, out of gas." And there are always kids in the car. So I use my card and pay for a partial fillup (sometimes). Mostly because I never carry cash. I don't know if they really need it or not; the car is usually in need of gas. The kids do look tired. Shrug.

Which I think probably is one factor that has driven begging online; who carries much cash anymore to give?
posted by emjaybee at 6:31 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Still, there are some people who are very comfortable with lying to strangers to get free money.
But most of them are employed as fundraisers for 'legitimate' charities who keep 80-90% of what they raise in their name.

So research how much of your contributions to "vetted charities" goes to overhead/administration/fundraising. Then estimate the likelihood any specific beggar you encounter is a scammer (as a percentage). If that percentage is less than the charities' percentage, give 'em some money and don't worry about it.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:34 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]


Ah yes, the trope that charities are so bloated with administration that any true Christian—or good-hearted opponent of Citizens United—would give United Way the middle finger and just hand a bottle of whiskey to the alcoholic on the corner. Maybe Dan Pallotta can elevate the conversation.
posted by cribcage at 6:43 PM on June 25 [8 favorites]


We give cash directly to certain families. It's not popular with donors but the pilot we've been running has shown good results, and we're slowly expanding it because the amount spent ($25-$200, depending on family configuration) is cheaper than providing the services directly, and mostly the families are improving steadily. But that's after like two months and a stack of paperwork and then they have to agree to high-contact visits and meeting certain standards, so it's very much cash-with-strings attached.

One of the families on the waiting list to be verified include two professional beggars. They have a visible physical challenge, and would definitely have limited employment opportunities. But still - they make more than the minimum factory wage in Cambodia. It surprised the hell out of me and some of our other staff, even though we'd heard the stories about beggars getting picked up in nice cars at the end of the day, etc.

The story still cheered me up because he was working in a non-tourist area mostly, and begging is a way that sans-state support, communities have supported vulnerable people. It was good to see compassion working in a fairly grim area.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:53 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


the cutest, blondest, and most adorable victims of unverifiable woe

The 68-year-old bus monitor and the lesbian server he uses as examples of "the latest moral crisis to warrant the Pavlovian response of righteous indignation" don't fit this description, and I don't think the breastfeeding IKEA mother does either. It makes sense for only one of the examples in his story, the 3-year-old girl.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 6:54 PM on June 25


I live in a neighborhood with a lot of poor people, and my husband and I happily "lend" small amounts of money to people we know (and pay for things like having our car washed incompetently) to help out. Most recently, the neighbor's girl solicited some money for a school project, and I gave it to her, but the next time she asked (she forgot she had already hit me up with her crumpled piece of pretend fundraising paper) I politely told her I had already donated.

I can't count the number of times our neighbors have helped us out in return. People give what they can. I still remember the couple across the street who gave us a big chunk of government cheese in return for some help we gave them. It was big of them.
posted by Peach at 6:57 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]


It reminds me a bit of the Joker's diatribe in TDK, where he says that people don't panic when everything is going according to plan even when the plan is horrifying.

So in this instance everyone* is okay with KFCs godawful employment conditions, which diminishes the lives of who-knows-how-many employees. That's just Business As Usual. But one baby gets her face bitten off and everyone* Freaks Out and suddenly KFC magically produces $30k.

* not literally everyone. Not you, for example. Other people.
posted by um at 7:04 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]


I think giving money to people who are asking for charity, like "please give me money because I need it" is different than a "need gas money and my child is in the car" and these online scams. Nothing scammy about asking for money, even if it goes to alcohol or something to me, I just don't give to them because I prefer giving to charity for a variety of reasons. It's not dishonest or morally wrong to me, and doesn't put the blame on others like the KFC thing.
posted by sweetkid at 7:06 PM on June 25


I give to three or four charities, but I also keep about twenty bucks in fives and ones in my center console just in case. Yeah, I know I'm probably being taken most of the time, but I find I'd rather lose the cost of a candy bar to a grifter than to miss putting a meal in someone's stomach that might otherwise go hungry.

I feel bad for the grifters and scam artists; their conscience may be sleeping now, but when it wakes up, I can tell you from experience it's a cruel taskmaster.
posted by Mooski at 7:33 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


I feel bad for the grifters and scam artists; their conscience may be sleeping now, but when it wakes up, I can tell you from experience it's a cruel taskmaster.

Is this your wallet?
posted by valkane at 7:45 PM on June 25


The one that gets me is when adults have their children in tow, with a sign that asks for money because of hard times. People will also do this with pets. Too often, the adult asking for money is well-clothed, looks well-fed, and the kid looks kind of pathetic, just standing there. I have always given money to these pairs, but yesterday I decided not to. I still feel a little guilty for not giving the woman any cash.

How many of us would venture out this way to ask for cash? It's either the height of sociopathic manipulation, or desperation. It's a confusing, conflicted scenario. I don't know if I'll pass anyone by again, but it's still maddening to see kids used this way. (btw, where I live there are plenty of places where kids can be sheltered and kept safe).
posted by Vibrissae at 8:07 PM on June 25


they were just trying to save face. The KFC story strikes me as the same kind of thing.
posted by ob1quixote


I see what you did there.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:08 PM on June 25


With any charitable dollar I have I can give it to a beggar and have a 90% chance of being scammed one way or another

If you give someone $20 to buy gas, and they buy crack, have you really been "scammed"? What is the harm to you?

FWIW, as far as donating to charity goes, the Red Cross gets some bad PR, but when my apartment burned down, they were my ONLY assistance. Without it, I would have had at least one winter night on the street with nothing. They were an invaluable lifeline. My2c.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:09 PM on June 25


BinGregory: Charity begins at home. To me that means the most effective charity is to people close to you in some way. Basically like 'Buy Local' except giving.

This is true, and though being conflated in the thread, is very different from the actual FPP point, which was people perpetrating scams on the internet. If they're lying about why they need the money, there's no guarantee that they've been 'reduced' to begging, or that they even need the money. This doesn't make anyone who doesn't like giving money to someone lying to them a believer in welfare queens, or some unfeeling compassion-free monster.
It would be great if America, the world even, had better social safety nets. That doesn't mean giving money to strangers who ask for it is actually helping anyone the state is failing.

beccaj: I'd rather be a "sucker" than someone that doesn't give a shit about people.

These are not your only two choices.

I mean, I can't help but imagine the smug self-satisfaction of the 'I don't care if they're lying, they must need the money in some way if they're begging for it, because only the desperate would stoop so low' crowd not surviving if they were to find out exactly where the money went. It also appears to diminish the legitimately poor and needy while meaning your charity dollars are weighted most towards only those with the chutzpah to ask for it.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:10 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]


There's a bit in Ursula K Le Guin's The Dispossessed that really affected me. Towards the end of the book a sort of local committee is having a meeting, and one person says that [protagonist] doesn't deserve help. This outrages another committee member, who says
... we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think.
It really sucks that so many people feel they need to lie to get what they want, or want more than is fair, or want things that aren't good for them. But that describes most of us here, on one occasion or another. I can't say that I have a magic principle which, if followed, means that I will always Do the Right Thing, but I do find that (a) I feel a lot better about myself when I help other people; and (b) it doesn't help me when I obsess about whether they are also Doing the Right Thing.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:12 PM on June 25 [21 favorites]


If you give someone $20 to buy gas, and they buy crack, have you really been "scammed"? What is the harm to you?

Maybe you're only out $20 you won't miss, and anyone who was actually needing $20 for gas or food or what have you wouldn't have gotten the money either way. But you are being lied to and therefore scammed, whether you acknowledge it or not, and while that might not mean you are being hurt you are definitely not helping anyone else. Because that is $20 of charitable giving that is actually hurting another person in the throes of addiction (in the example you cite), which is something much less easy to be sanctimonious about.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:14 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


Here gadge, let me help you with that smug self satisfaction thing. I give to all kinds of folks on the street if I have it. I give because I've been a few meals low, and wondering where the next roof was going to come from. I don't feel self satisfied because I gave them money with no concern on what they spend it on, I gave because I managed to reach a place in life where I can. And those who need a hand up, whether it's for groceries or a bottle of maddog, will get what I can afford, because I'm not their daddy and I don't care to judge them. Guess that makes me smug and self satisfied.
posted by evilDoug at 8:16 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]


The saddest thing here is of course that a little girl has been mauled by dogs, but it's also pretty sad that a bunch of dogs now have to be destroyed because they have been raised wrong by asshole humans.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:55 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


I've given money to various people online and off over the years. That is, when I have it; it's always a precarious thing. But It's only money, so when I have it, I share it. I don't care what the money goes to; I can't be scammed in that way because I do not care what the money is being spent on. Or more exactly, I don't feel the need to be the morality police, nor do I feel that the money that was once mine bought my entitlement to someone else's agency.

I've never regretted giving some one money. Not once.

posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:30 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


The thing that bugs me the most about this case is that we know who should pay for this kid's medical care - it's the god damned grandparents who thought owning a pack of pitbulls was a good idea. And let's face it - nobody who owns 10 pitbulls is up to anything good, unless they're operating a rescue or something. And someone operating a rescue would have had better sense than to let this happen.

So as long as those grandparents have anything of value left, it's their job to pay for this. Not the parents', not the taxpayers', and not charitable individuals. In a just world, they wouldn't need their property anymore anyway because they'd be starting a prison sentence (well, at least the one who was responsible for the dogs.)

This is honestly the thing that pisses me off the most about this case. Not the fraud, because fraud happens and it sucks, but I accept that. It drives me crazy that nobody is holding the grandparents who cause grievous injuries to this girl responsible for their terribly negligent behavior. Because nobody ever seems to hold anyone responsible for when they own dangerous dogs that maul somebody.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:33 PM on June 25 [13 favorites]


Exercising thoughtfulness about charity is not about being the morality police or anybody's daddy. If you opt to enable somebody's heroin habit for another day, for example, that's your prerogative. Certainly an argument can be made. The person legitimately is in a bad way, and if you keep walking, who knows what he or she will do next. Your $30 might mean the person doesn't resort to prostitution that night, or it might prevent a stranger from being robbed. I've been asked many times, and in that moment I know what's at stake. It's not an easy call and I'm not pretending otherwise.

The trouble is, if you give them the money, they are definitely going to spend it on drugs right now and they are definitely not going to seek help right now. And tomorrow or Friday, we'll be right back here again. Will you give another $30? How often can you afford that? How many times can you do it before deserving some responsibility for their circumstance?

It's not about judging anyone. It's about helping versus, to use a polite word, enabling. If you have the ability to help, then you also have some responsibility in how you do it. I would suggest that if you have never, not once regretted giving a person money, then probably either you have indeed exercised judgment about what to give and when, or else you have not really given the endeavor much thought.
posted by cribcage at 9:48 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, in New York, a man walked into a McDonalds with a knife in his back. He was not denied service. Should've known the KFC case was a fraud - fast food places do not turn away potential paying customers.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:00 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]


Cribcage, I probably wouldn't give somebody $30 if I knew they were going to buy heroin with it. I think a better person than me might, though, especially if they thought it might stop someone from being killed, raped, or robbed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:59 PM on June 25


The trouble is, if you give them the money, they are definitely going to spend it on drugs right now and they are definitely not going to seek help right now. And tomorrow or Friday, we'll be right back here again.

It's not about judging anyone. It's about helping versus, to use a polite word, enabling. If you have the ability to help, then you also have some responsibility in how you do it.


This is the line of reasoning conservative politicians take against expanding social welfare and unemployment benefits. I understand wanting your dollars to be used in the most efficient way possible, but charity is, at the end of the day, charity, and everybody makes different judgement calls. Even if all of us gullible bleeding hearts were to stop the kind of "enabling" behaviour that you describe here, it's not going to make people more honest/sober and less desperate.
posted by peripathetic at 11:09 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


especially if they thought it might stop someone from being killed, raped, or robbed.

Nice, so now we're talking about letting junkies blackmail us?
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 11:32 PM on June 25


ShutterBun: “ they were just trying to save face. The KFC story strikes me as the same kind of thing.
posted by ob1quixote


I see what you did there.”
Entirely unintentional.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:45 PM on June 25


It drives me crazy that nobody is holding the grandparents who cause grievous injuries to this girl responsible for their terribly negligent behavior.

The grandfather Donald Mullins, and his girlfriend, Rita Tompkins have both been arrested for child endangement, and posted bail. Supposedly he also shot 3 of the pit bulls to stop the attack, 1 escaped, and the remaining 6 were taken by the Mississippi Animal Rescue League.

A friend of Donald Mullins says the dogs were extremely dangerous.
"If you raise your hand in a violent, quick movement, he'll jump on you," said William Jones.
"The dogs were lose, the baby was unattended," said Matthew Jones. "If the baby would have been attended, this would not have happened."


Child endangement (if child is substantially harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally) in Mississippi is a felony with a tariff of up to $10,000 fine and/or 10 years in prison. Who knows if they'll be convicted, though.

The rest of the family could sue Donald Mullins for the cost of medical care, but since it looks like he lives in a pretty crappy trailer, there may well not be much to get.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:02 AM on June 26


Because it was easy to believe that some small-minded person treated a little girl this way. All of these stories are easy to believe.


Okay, maybe I'm the most cynical person on the planet, but has the whole of America drunk some kind of Kool-Aid? Or is it just too easy to whip up moral outrage on the internet? Because I didn't find this story remotely believable.

Firstly, there would have to be customers (plural, mind you!) who were visibly 'disrupted' by seeing a little child with facial injuries, and were crass enough not to hide it. Then an employee of a huge multinational like KFC, whose main customer base is families, would have to be both callous and stupid enough to actually kick a 3-year-old girl out for having facial scars. C'mon. If it was an adult, it might be slightly more believable, but as soon as I saw the original article, and the photo of the kid, I was like...nope.

Instead of getting all schmoopy about how good it feels to help others, I think we should take this as a bit of a wakeup call. Journalism these days is shit: quality control is non-existent, and it's no skin off the journo's nose if they have to retract a few days later, after they've already had the page hits. It's been shown time and again that they'll publish first, and fact-check later. Use the appropriate amount of scepticism when reading news from any but the most trusted sources.

As for the noble idea that 'I give what I can, and it makes no difference to me what someone uses it for'...okay, fine if you feel that way, but I don't. I have a finite amount of money. If someone says they need $20 to buy their kid food and I give them $20, and they spend it on booze, that's $20 I can't give to another person who really is going to buy their kid food. It's not me they're cheating out of the $20, it's the guy round the corner with the hungry kid. And it's got nothing to do with judging: for sure, a homeless person has just as much right to get smashed on a Friday night as I do. If I could afford to throw 20 to them and 20 to the guy with the hungry kids, I totally would. But I can't, and many people cant, and I resent the implication that we are somehow 'the morality police' for wanting to choose who our charitable giving benefits.
posted by Salamander at 12:53 AM on June 26 [17 favorites]


This quote from the Daily Beast article is bit strange:
In short, the entire affair appears to be the work of a family of grifters too lazy to even order a 560-calorie sweet tea and mashed potatoes with 24 percent of your daily allowance of sodium.
Is that supposed to be a poke at the family for (not) ordering unhealthy food in their (fictional) order? Like, man they're so lazy that even their fake food orders are really unhealthy! Think of that poor kid and her non-existent terrible diet! Or is it just a criticism of KFC's food, lest they get away with looking like a respectable business? All of the above?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:04 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


All I have to say on the whole 'deserving' angle is that people begging on the streets for money are not well-off, regardless of whether the exact story they tell you is true or not. They experiment and use the stories that work the best, but that doesn't mean they don't need the money. Begging is demoralizing and not especially lucrative. It's not like America is full of professional panhandlers who pack up and go back to their upper-middle class mansions with the $50 they managed to scrounge up that week.

They're pretty much all people in rough circumstances and I guarantee that dollar means far more to them than it ever would to your average middle class person, which is why they're willing to work so hard selling you a story for it.
posted by zug at 1:52 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


We help other people because most of the time they actually need help.

Here's the thing. Even if these stories had been (and in some cases were) true, there's no way some lady who's the victim of bullying "needs" 703K in order to go on a vacation. At any point people could have stopped donating, taken that money and donated it to a credible organization to stop the systemic problem. But they didn't, because it feels better to be a part of this big outrage thing.

Meanwhile, actual legit charities miss out because they're not willing to abuse the dignity of their clients in order to make a buck.
posted by corb at 3:46 AM on June 26 [8 favorites]


scody: Why are so many people reduced to begging? That's the more pressing question to me. (Not being combative, just saying that there's not a universal way to frame this.)

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why are they poor, they call me a Communist. - Hélder Câmara
posted by Jakey at 3:59 AM on June 26 [6 favorites]


My wife had a middle-class, university-educated friend who used Facebook to solicit donations from all her friends to help her pay off her student loans, so she could "start the next chapter in her life".

I found it fucking absurd, not least b/c 80% of her friends were paying off their own loans. The audacity to just flat out ask for money for loan payments... I'd rather flip some cash to a homeless guy any day than donate to someone who works and just wants to be able to buy more stuff.

That said, I generally make it habit to not give cash to people on the street, and would rather donate to organizations when possible.
posted by modernnomad at 5:02 AM on June 26 [6 favorites]


A few years ago, on a Friday, I was approached on the street by a young woman who said that she'd been punched by her boyfriend on the way to a night out, had lost her bag and needed money - £20, I think - for a cab home. Although I'm naturally an unpleasant and tight-fisted person, I wasn't unsympathetic. However there was something too… I get a lot of these scammers, I suppose I look like a typical mark, and there's something too well-thought-out about the story, particularly when people are supposed to be distressed, like they've carefully thought through the objections and want to answer them before you think of them. So, caught between not wanting to be a person who doesn't believe a woman who claims she's been beaten up by her boyfriend and not wanting to be caught out by another scammer, I dithered a bit. At which point she said, 'Look, there's a cash machine right there", and pointed at the ATM we were standing near, which I hadn't noticed. Wait, what? I thought. My affect must have shifted because, her distressed demeanour dropped immediately and she walked away. A couple of Fridays later, at the same time, she approached me again, but I told her that she'd already done me, and she walked away again.

Personally I'm now particularly keen on engaging skepticism when someone approaches me in the street with such a story, because I'm not sure that it's useful that that sort of thing is encouraged. And of course it fits with my unpleasant and stingy nature.
posted by Grangousier at 5:45 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


It's not like America is full of professional panhandlers who pack up and go back to their upper-middle class mansions with the $50 they managed to scrounge up that week.

I'm not so sure about that. Or about this.

When I was very young, we were approached by panhandlers outside a restaurant. They approached my Dad, probably because we were hippies like they were. They gave my Dad a story about being stranded, needing bread, yada, yada. Dad politely brushed them off. But I didn't understand why. Didn't we go to Glide Memorial Church because of their outreach? Wasn't he a Social Worker, helping others? So he explained it to me.

"When I was a kid, I had a job working at Islay's Ice Cream and every night this guy would come in. He was one of those dudes who rolled around on a cart because he had lost his legs. So he'd roll in and hand a huge sack of coins to the manager, who would count them out, and exchange them for cash. That guy brought in over $100 a night! In 1958! Now, there was nothing that prevented him from getting a job that he could do with his disability, it was just easier and more lucrative for him to beg. From there on I decided that pity wasn't going to determine how I would donate my money. So when a panhandler approaches you, be nice, but don't give them money.

I am not unsympathetic, but I'm also not a mark. Have I turned down someone genuinely in need? I don't think so. Have I helped those in need by donating to food pantries, contributing to my local non-profit vet, building houses with Habitat for Humanity? Yes I have. Because not giving to panhandlers ≠ heartless jerk.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:10 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


It's not like America is full of professional panhandlers who pack up and go back to their upper-middle class mansions with the $50 they managed to scrounge up that week.

If you listen to my brother, it is. And yeah, re Ruthless Bunny's links, some of them are scamming pros, no doubt.

But here's the things that I wonder:

1. If you are panhandling smoothly enough to pull in 60k a year, you're actually working pretty hard. You're out in all weathers, you have to be good at reading crowds, watching for cops, and coming up with good stories. You have to manage your personal appearance to be believably poor but not offputting. The story RB's dad told, about the legless guy making 100/day in 1958; who would have hired a legless guy in 1958? What would he have made at that job assuming he could get one?

2. How does a "professional" beggar become such? What is the 60k guys' story? And if he suddenly felt guilty about his profession, what job could he move into that would net him anything close? You can't put "panhandler" on your resume.

I mean, we have these assumptions about people who panhandle, and I'm not going to say they are angels of any kind, especially the ones who have/use their kids as part of the pitch. But I have to think there is a lot to the story of how someone gets to that point that we never think about.

I think a lot of us give because we all have this feeling now that Things Are Bad right now, and we are uncomfortably aware of the holes in whatever safety nets there are, and how close many of of us are/have been to falling through them.

My grandpa grew up desperately poor and went to work for the railroad. He commonly brought hobos home, fed them, gave them some clean clothes and money and sent them on their way. Probably some of them were terrible human beings, or preferred homelessness to a real job. But he'd been hungry too many times to not offer his help.
posted by emjaybee at 7:13 AM on June 26 [10 favorites]


There are a bunch of young people who beg in Portland, Maine. They generally spend the money on alcohol and/or pot/drugs. There are sufficient places to get food, nobody here needs to go hungry. The shelters fill up in winter, but make a serious effort to make sure no homeless person sleeps outside when it's cold. I have compassion for the mentally ill homeless, and donate to the Resource Center that helps them. But the people who live in the neighborhoods near the Resource Center, shelters and soup kitchen have to deal with lots of litter, human waste, used needles, etc., littering their neighborhoods. I'm sure many beggars are perfectly safe, but some portion of them will break into cars, homes and small businesses. So my friend in that neighborhood wants to be compassionate, but is tired of paying the price. No, I won't give to beggars who might buy beer and leave the broken glass where people walk. Or buy heroin and leave a needle where people live. I'll buy gift cards for Dunkin Donuts when I feel like I want to give.

The story about the little girl didn't resonate. I admit, I was put off by Grandpa and the 10 pit bulls, so I hope the child can have a home where it's safer. And I wonder if the family was like some I know of, who hate Obama and refused to sign up for the ACA. But if the money gets used to help a little girl, I'm fine with that.

Why will people send money to a stranger whose unverified story is on facebook, but will cheerfully deny foodstamps and health care?
posted by theora55 at 7:22 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]


I think a lot of us give because we all have this feeling now that Things Are Bad right now, and we are uncomfortably aware of the holes in whatever safety nets there are, and how close many of of us are/have been to falling through them.

Sure. There but for the Grace of God. That's not just a compelling rationale, it's a good one. But the question to ask in how you help is whether you are helping someone, or just helping them to preserve their station, and whether the latter is really helpful. Some people rely on the beggar's volition to distinguish between handing them a $20 bill versus actually injecting a needle into their arm. That's a convenient fiction. Consider it this way: when you give that person cash, are you giving them enough cash to do anything but preserve their station?

If you give a homeless addict $60,000 and they blow it all on drugs, then yes, you can lay some of that on their volition. (Not entirely, if we view addiction as a disease. But some, yes.) With that amount of money, a person could climb upward. Are you doing that, giving them help that helps? (It sounds like your grandpa was.) Or are you handing them the exact amount they need to score, and then shrugging your shoulders because hey, they could have stashed it in a shoebox to save toward rent. That's not charity. That's abdication. You are, in effect, using your privilege to make sure someone else remains less privileged.

There are a bunch of young people who beg in Portland, Maine. They generally spend the money on alcohol and/or pot/drugs.

My favorites are the kids from Lexington who trek into Harvard Square and then sit on the sidewalk with a change cup all afternoon. They're wearing $100 sneakers and Hollister.
posted by cribcage at 7:45 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Why will people send money to a stranger whose unverified story is on facebook, but will cheerfully deny foodstamps and health care?

Perhaps this viewpoint is itself uncharitable (no pun intended), but I suspect a lot of it has to do with the ego of the giver.

To use an actual verified story as an example, the elderly bus supervisor who was bullied by some of the students in her care, people rewarded her experience with nearly 3/4 of a million dollars. I generally don't think it is my business to tell people how they are allowed to spend their own money, but this case definitely gave me an uncomfortable feeling in a "Is this really the best use of this substantial amount of cash, making ONE person rich?" kind of way. It felt like, for lack of a better term, "rage"-charity, a virtual FU to the guilty kids ("Ha, Ha, we made the lady you were mean to rich you little shits, what are you going do about it now?"). This kind of charity allows the givers to feel like they were part of creating a "feel good" story and give themselves a nice pat on the back for being on the side of righteousness. Being generically pro-social programs doesn't allow for the same personal acknowledgement of having done a wonderful thing.
posted by The Gooch at 8:27 AM on June 26 [6 favorites]


Just because this is one of my personal bugbears:

But most of them are employed as fundraisers for 'legitimate' charities who keep 80-90% of what they raise in their name.

That link describes the 50 worst charities in America. That is a tiny, tiny proportion of the ~1.3 million charities in America.

So research how much of your contributions to "vetted charities" goes to overhead/administration/fundraising.

Administration is what lets charities: vet their recipients; ensure that taxes/etc/etc on the donations are handled in the right way; lobby; raise awareness, especially among the rich; and put together plans to find and effect ways to spend money that are much better than individuals slinging cash at whatever worthy cause they stumble across or think they have stumbled across.

Fundraising makes, not loses, money. It almost always offers a much better ROI than any other type of investment, whether it's done in-house or through a third-party company. (Barring mismanagement or scammers, but as above, these make up a tiny proportion of charities).

And seconding Cribcage, I would recommend watching Dan Pallotta on the strange ways that we think about charities and their balance books.
posted by Drexen at 8:28 AM on June 26 [10 favorites]


For everyone so worried that the money they give will go toward alcohol/drugs instead of something good, like food, then just give food. I had some serious thought about this a few months ago and didn't like to give money because 1) I don't really have cash and don't really have enough to give to make that much of a difference and 2) I also did not like the idea that my limited resources might be going to something like drugs/sex/alcohol. But I also could not live with the idea that people are going hungry so I decided to buy cans of soup/ravioli/vegetables to give instead of money, as well as cans of dog and cat food for the homeless that I see with pets (although I've heard plenty of people say that the pets are probably better fed than the people anyways).

It doesn't matter to me why you are begging, but just because you do drugs or made some bad choices or just life happened does not mean you deserve to starve. I just keep the cans in my car and hand them out when I see a beggar at an intersection. Also, it frees up money that they would have spent on food to spend on some other necessity or want.

I also follow the above comments about giving what was asked for. I will put gas in your car if you need gas, buy your medicine, etc. if I have the available funds.

Pro tip: get the cans with lids that don't need a can opener, got a few comments about having to find a can opener after I gave someone some food.
posted by LizBoBiz at 8:44 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


I'm sitting in the doctors office waiting for a few tests. I'm anxious and scared - they are serious tests, serious enough that I haven't really told anyone in real life about them.

And they just called me up to the window and asked for payment. I haven't even seen the doctor yet, and they want me to pay.

"I'm more comfortable settling up after I see the doctor," I said. They acted like I was putting a big imposition on them.

I make $16K a year. I have health insurance. I have a job and I work hard and I am decent. And yet because I was born with a chronic illness I will always, always be poor. I will never get ahead.

This country is broken. Healthcare in this country is broken. People who are poor have to resort to asking for help. I'm this close to asking on Facebook for financial help from friends. It's demoralizing and sad, that the best option is to beg.

We do not take care of our sick. This is shameful and we should be ashamed as a country that this story even happened. That the climate here allows and encourages people to ask others - usually similarly poor people - for help for medical expenses. I don't have rich friends. If I did, they wouldn't be sick. You can't be rich and sick in this country. We don't allow it.
posted by sockermom at 8:47 AM on June 26 [8 favorites]


bleep : But what makes us to gullible in these cases, why do we suspend our skepticism when we see something that outrages us, or touches our heartstrings?

Because it was easy to believe that some small-minded person treated a little girl this way. All of these stories are easy to believe.

It's a shame that desperate people are driven to desperate measures.


Grifters are not desperate people driven to desperate measures. They are liars, who choose to lie for profit. But it's interesting that you have framed these cheats as "desperate" and "driven to desperate measures"... without any proof.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:48 AM on June 26 [5 favorites]


The City of Seattle's City Light operation fell for an amazing, horrifying scam. "A chance meeting in the lobby of the utility led to a 20-ton heist by a fast-talking pair who claimed they needed scrap copper wire for an Indian charity teaching disabled Cherokee children how to make jewelry." They made off with $120,000 worth of copper.
posted by Carol Anne at 9:03 AM on June 26


So I was recently approached on the street by a man with some other people nearby. He said he needed money to buy diapers, because they were homeless and they had walked to the shelter but the shelter didn't have diapers.

Except aside from looking like a soft touch, I also worked in social work. So I was like "Oh, that shouldn't be the case. Why don't I get them on the phone and find out what the situation was?" "Oh, uh, no, I don't want to get them in trouble." "Okay, how about this drop-in shelter?" "Well, we, uh, walked here from that shelter." "Really? Because they give out Metrocards. What did they tell you at the shelter?" "Uh, uh......sorry for bothering you."

And that sort of thing infuriates me. Because there are actual homeless people in real need, and these guys are ensuring that no one ever listens to them, because they're inventing BS. These are not victimless crimes.
posted by corb at 9:05 AM on June 26 [11 favorites]


Hell, we'll even bail out some shopaholic, if only she's cute enough.

I followed that link to the Wikipedia site and and then the link to the "original website." The only photo it features is one where you can only just see a small part of her face peeking out from behind a laptop. Maybe the site was once full of photos that established her cuteness and they've all been pulled down? If not--and if that is, in fact, the site she used to raise money, she's a really bad choice as a poster child for the claimed phenomenon.
posted by yoink at 9:31 AM on June 26


If not--and if that is, in fact, the site she used to raise money, she's a really bad choice as a poster child for the claimed phenomenon.

She's not famous for being cute and having others pay her bills, she's famous for being possibly the first person to have others pay their bills in this way.

(Also cuteness doesn't have to be explicit. Being white and a woman might be enough to trigger the charity in some people. Hell, just having a female avatar in online games makes people give you stuff)
posted by ymgve at 10:02 AM on June 26 [6 favorites]


Honestly, I can't blame the family for this. What do you think this little girl's outcome would be absent a manufactured bullshit outrage campaign with tip jar? She sure as fuck wouldn't be getting pro bono work from major league plastic surgeons. This is just what you have to do in late-stage capitalism if you or a loved one has a major medical issue.

Think of it as the reality TV version of Breaking Bad, Anywhere but America edition.
posted by Naberius at 12:25 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]



Honestly, I can't blame the family for this.


Really? Not even for blaming some completely innocent KFC employees?

This is just what you have to do in late-stage capitalism if you or a loved one has a major medical issue.


So everyone should just be able to do this because capitalism?
posted by sweetkid at 12:56 PM on June 26 [5 favorites]


Naberius: Honestly, I can't blame the family for this. What do you think this little girl's outcome would be absent a manufactured bullshit outrage campaign with tip jar? She sure as fuck wouldn't be getting pro bono work from major league plastic surgeons.

Your sentiment presupposes that pro bono plastic surgery was their goal, and not just internet fame, attention, and cash.

I don't see any reason to suppose such. Poor people aren't more entitled to rip their neighbors off than the wealthy.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:03 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Whenever I give any amount of money to any charity, I always make the following calculations:

- 50-80% of it is going to be fucked away in fees and admin somehow (higher if online)
- 10-40% of it is going to be spent on something I didn't intend it to be spent on
- circa 10% of it is actually going to be spent on the thing I intended my donation to be spent on

So fully 90% of any donation is basically you saying "Here, I don't need this money any more...the system needs this money more than any of us." So if you're giving ten dollars of money to the upsetting child face trauma website, you're only really giving one dollar of money, so you probably don't have much to complain about, plus you are a skinflint so shut up.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:43 PM on June 26


What the family did was awful and unacceptable, but my outrage at their actions does not preclude me from feeling outraged at the way medical care in the USA is primarily rationed by wealth, rather than need.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:33 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


I'm sure he wasn't the first person to say it, but a friend of mine once gave a fiver to a tramp on the walk between pub and club. Another friend challenged him, saying 'Why'd you give him so much, he'll just spend it on alcohol or drugs', to which he replied 'I'm a student on a night out, what was I going to do with the money?'.
posted by Ned G at 6:40 AM on June 27 [3 favorites]


but my outrage at their actions does not preclude me from feeling outraged at the way medical care in the USA is primarily rationed by wealth, rather than need.

where is anyone saying it should preclude you from feeling outrage at the healthcare system?
posted by sweetkid at 7:15 AM on June 27


So fully 90% of any donation is basically you saying "Here, I don't need this money any more...the system needs this money more than any of us."

You should check out the work of Dan Pallotta.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:45 AM on June 27


She's not famous for being cute and having others pay her bills

Here's what the FPP says about her:
Hell, we'll even bail out some shopaholic, if only she's cute enough.
If the argument had been "we'll even bail out some shopaholic if we have the slightest grounds to believe she's white and female" that website would support that claim. It doesn't, however, support the claim that we'll do it only in cases where we deem the supplicant "cute enough."
posted by yoink at 8:04 AM on June 27


I support charities instead of people who approach me directly because I hate the thought of prioritizing extroverts.
posted by yorick at 8:52 AM on June 27 [3 favorites]



I support charities instead of people who approach me directly because I hate the thought of prioritizing extroverts


This is a joke right?
posted by sweetkid at 9:11 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


I was cleaning out an old memory box last weekend and I came across a scrap of paper that read "To Jerry. I O U." and then two names. It took me a minute to place where this had come from, but then I remembered that one summer 11 years ago while working near Pioneer Square in Seattle, I took two guys to get some coffee on my way to work. They asked for cash for coffee, and I offered to get it with them. They were thrilled. They suffered from some sort of mental illness I soon could sense that prevented them from holding a job/friends/family, but otherwise were pleasant, cheerful guys. I remember most of all is that these two guys wanted to pay me back. They invited me to join them for lunch at I declined, but they insisted on giving me this I O U. I probably hadn't thought about that day in 10 years, but that damn IOU made we wonder if they were OK, if they were warm and dry, and if they had a hot coffee recently.
posted by yeti at 10:05 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


This is a joke right?
It's a humorous simplification of a real position I take. When I worked at a food rescue organization, I quickly became aware of a blind spot regarding the populations that we served. Only a small percentage of the people we served resembled the people that ask for help in public. It seems obvious in retrospect. Populations that often needed our help most, such as young children and the elderly, are not in a position to hustle even if they wanted to. I wanted to make sure my contributions had the potential to benefit people who might not necessarily have the ability (or desire) to approach individuals directly for help.
posted by yorick at 12:58 PM on June 27 [4 favorites]


Yorick has a real point. People who hustle for help usually have energy and social resources still. And they are often in crappy situations, but there are unseen populations that are in even worse circumstances but either lack the energy, social connections or have strictures (shame, internal or externally pushed on them, fear of authorities, etc) that prevent them from going out to ask for help, or make them close the door on help. It's actually a good question to ask a charity working with a vulnerable group, how do you identify and reach all of them?
posted by viggorlijah at 6:03 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


« Older The Pugs of Westeros: Scenes from HBO's series Gam...  |  World Cup Downhill MTB Run - W... Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.