Hard luck stories abound

No Soap Radio

“The beggars are no longer content to sit on street corners or wander around gas stations at night. They’ve figured out where the people with jobs live, and they’re coming over.”

We’ve had our fair share of hard-luck-story con games make the rounds in our neighborhood over the years.  To combat it, we utilize the neighborhood listserv.  Descriptions of the con artist and their pitch regularly make rounds on our modern day version of the town crier.

The best one I can remember, from several years ago…

A thin, youngish man came up on our porch and rang the doorbell.  As I stood on the threshold with the door half open, he went into his windup … “Sorry to bother you.  My wife and I recently moved in a few streets over and we are expecting our first child in a few months… and … my job doesn’t start until … and ….yada, yada, yada…”. Then came the pitch… “…Anyway, I just need a few dollars to go to the store.  My wife ran out of Kotex.”

I could barely control my laughter as I slammed the door.

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  1. Posted July 15, 2006 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    I had one in Atlanta not too long ago. Young guy, well dressed came up to me on the street said he’d just flown in and the airport had lost his luggage with his AIDS meds and his money. He had his doctor call in a prescription, but needed $40 to pick it up.

    Got to give him credit for asking for $40 instead of a couple. Never hurts to dream big.

  2. T. O'Krsa
    Posted July 15, 2006 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Years ago I worked in a bank loan department that was led by a good “Christian” man who darken the church door every time the lights were on. This good “Christian” man, Herb, doled out the loan money with a tight fist and begrudging attitude to any and all with the idea “if you have to ask for money” then you were, by that logic, a poor risk. He didn’t mind lending to his church buddies, the well-to-do, the movers and shakers in town that could help his career. He just didn’t like dealing with the “riff raff.”

    One day a man came into the bank to borrow $50.00 (back in the day when $50.00 could actually buy something). His clothes were very worn but clean. He needed a hair cut, his work boots were worn down at the heels, he looked tired, and embarassed to be in the bank. Herb gave this man approximately five minutes before showing him the door since he didn’t have any collateral saying he couldn’t trust the man to to repay the loan. The guy had just moved to town, rented a house, paid deposits for utilites, had a new job with a major employer in the area but wouldn’t get a paycheck for two weeks. He just needed some food money for his family until his got his first check. (Now Herb had just cost the bank over a million dollars in bad loans he had made to a car dealer who went belly up just a few weeks before. Loan Manager knew the guy was in trouble but just kept handing him money because he and his family were “somebodies” but the bank couldn’t afford to lose $50.00?) But I digress…

    The poor guy who was turned down for the $50.00 loan shook the loan manager’s hand, said he understood and thanked him for his time. He left the bank with shoulders slumping and feet dragging each step back to his old beat up car. One of the other loan officers, Charlie, who had overhead the exchange between the guy and the loan manager, followed him outside, took $50.00 out of his wallet and handed it to the guy. Told him to pay him back when he got the chance. Two weeks to the day that guy came back into the bank and handed the second loan officer the $50.00. He tried to pay interest on the money but Charlie wouldn’t accept anything but the $50.00.

    When I asked Charlie why he did that he said it is better to be gypped every now and then to let a family go hungry. He just wasn’t willing to take the chance the guy’s children went to bed hungry that night if there was something he could do to help. He said if he lost the $50.00 by a con,so be it, but whether the guy cheated him or not, he knew he had done the right thing – and he could live with that.

    There are good and decent people everywhere, some just need a hand up, not a hand out. Don’t overlook them in your search to ferret out the bad. T Charlie taught me a lesson, all those years ago, that often you have to believe in the goodness of others and be willing to take chances to see the good in people. Sometimes you will be cheated, lied to, tricked and conned but if all those things do happen to you it is the other person’s problem and it doesn’t diminish your act of kindness in any form.

    I don’t believe, and certainly can’t afford, to throw good money after bad but I am willing to put my faith in people more often than not and because of that, I feel it has made me a better human being – and that I CAN live with.

  3. David Wharton
    Posted July 15, 2006 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful story, T. O’Krsa.

    One of the cool things about a neighborhood listserv is it helps to sort out the con artists from the people in real trouble. If several people hear the same con over a couple of days, the word gets out and the con gets shut down fast.

    On the other hand, we’ve used the listserv and neighborhood newsletter to spread information about a wealth of services for people who really are down on their luck.

  4. T. O'Krsa
    Posted July 15, 2006 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    David – We are all on this big blue marble together, sounds like you have a wonderful, caring place to live. I was taught that we can either be part of the problem or a small sliver of the solution. That is what so good about some neighborhoods today, I just wish they weren’t so rare in today’s busy times. I would like to think your neck of the wood is the norm and not the exception. At the risk of sounding corny – sometimes it does take a village, or at least a really cool bunch of friends who just happen to live close.

  5. LL
    Posted July 17, 2006 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    too bad that guy didn’t come to my house…in the spirt of “can i have a few $$$ for something to eat”, where i hand them a loaf of bread and some deli meat & cheese, this guy would have been handed…well…what he asked for!

  6. jsm
    Posted November 21, 2009 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    hah, being the broke college student I am I’ll take that bread, meat and cheese