November 11, 2015

"A panhandler outside Grand Central Terminal says he rakes in up to $200 an hour from kind-hearted New Yorkers."

It might be the dog and it might be the location (Grand Central):
“People are more generous because I have a dog, 100 percent. They throw me a dollar and say, ‘That’s for the dog,’ ’’ Andersen said...

Another beggar, working the northeast corner of West 35th Street and Seventh Avenue near Penn Station, said that just like everything else in the city, it’s all about location for vagrants. “There are other spots where people get hundred-dollar bills. I could go over to Fifth Avenue and make $150 before lunch.... But I don’t want to deal with the hassle,’’ he said. “There’s people that bully you to get out of the good spots.’’
By the way, the headline uses the word "bum"...



... which we were just talking about in connection with Halloween costumes. I'd said that circa 1960 the go-to costumes were "bum and gypsy." I used the word "bum" (and "gypsy") because those were the words back then, not that I hadn't moved on to more respectful terminology. I got some (comic) pushback in the comments: "Hey, hey, hey, I'm gonna need a trigger warning if you're gonna use words like bum and gypsy."

The Post is using the word "bum" to rile readers, but I think "bum" is the wrong would for a person who is engaged in remunerative labor. You may disapprove of his money-making scheme, but he's not a bum. He's a beggar. But if you think "beggar" is too mean, I would call him a Provider of Charity Opportunities.

Or is "bum" the best word? The verb "to bum" can mean to beg, as in "He looked so immaculately frightful/As he bummed a cigarette/Then he went off sniffing drainpipes/And reciting the alphabet...."

51 comments:

Ron Winkleheimer said...

bum and beg are synonyms. So, wouldn't that mean that the guy is a bummer?

Henry said...

It's The Man with the Twisted Lip!

Tank said...

He's in the business of allowing people to feel good because they think (incorrectly) that they gave money to a dog.

Con man.

The Mark feels good about being taken.

rehajm said...

These people are service providers. They soothe the guilty conscience, and stimulate dopamine in unsettled minds.

Hillary can tell us if their compensation is fair.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Anyway, bum (noun) is a synonym for vagrant.

a person without a settled home or regular work who wanders from place to place and lives by begging.

Presumably, he is not wandering from place to place, so I'm going with Tank, a con man.

Bay Area Guy said...

Is he paying all appropriate NYC taxes? Does he have the requisite permit? Is his dog being adequately fed, groomed and sheltered?

The guy's a bum, con man, tax cheat, animal abuser all wrapped up into one. Welcome to New York!

Derp said...

Bum is the perfect word, as in "Can I bum a cigarette?"

Deirdre Mundy said...

Wouldn't publicity like this hurt his take, though?

If he's serious about the business, why didn't he feed the reporter some sob story?

My guess: Out of work English major hoping for a book deal.

rehajm said...

Some of the same people have been at this for decades- everyone recognizes 'Homeless Veteran', 'Back Brace Guy', 'Strokie'. They have regular locations organized and allocated according to profitability and seniority. Shifts are taken. Hooks are sometimes tweaked to improve hit rates. You can tell when someone has innovated and shared information. The industry of the participants could almost be admired.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

@dreams

There is nothing new about begging. Nor in able bodied men and women doing it. I'm reminded of a trip I took to Rome a few years ago. The road my hotel fronted to was being worked on and you had to traverse a very narrow path to get from the hotel to a main thoroughfare. At the narrowest part a gypsy (Roma) woman was sitting on the pavement with her baby (who had to be approaching his early teens) in her lap, begging for money.

n.n said...

He's the owner and operator of a nonprofit corporation. His dog is head of the marketing department. He has a cat that manages government relations. They plan to hire a full staff of idealistic mice to solicit donations.

Bob Boyd said...

Best beggar sign:

"Family kidnapped by Ninjas.
Need money for karate lessons."

tim maguire said...

There isn't a homeless advocate in the world who would encourage giving directly to the homeless. Pure waste of scarce philanthropic dollars, spent on drugs more often than anything else. If you give a buck to some guy in the street, you're not helping anybody but you might be hurting someone.

robother said...

I remember the gypsy/bum Halloween. They were favorites in my family because they could be put together by kids themselves from old clothes and scarves and charcoal from unburned tips of firewood.

gspencer said...

A dog's a great draw. Bandaged arms or legs help too. If you can get a prosthesis device of some sort, you won't go wrong. Make sure the sign says "God bless" or something like that. Anything to get at the heart strings of your would-be donors.

A real winner - a dog with a prosthesis device. You'll be needing an Abe Lincoln-sized stove pipe hat to hold all the dough.

Anonymous said...

Scam artist may be the better term to use, since he is creatively projecting the image of being needy while managing to avoid any direct lie with his pitch. I'd be curious to know what his weekly or annual income approaches, I bet it probably exceeds the earnings of lots of people in the city ($200/hr comes out to more than $400,000 annually assuming 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, every week).

And yes, like anything else in life, if you reward beggars by giving them cash, you will get more beggars. This is why inner-city churches I've attended have pleaded with people to not give beggars cash but instead send them to outreach.

carrie said...

Get the IRS to after them for not reporting their income.

Titus said...

There is this panhandler in Harvard Square who has a dog and I want to take it away from her every time I see her.

Do you know my grindr trick's headline on his bio is Freudiandick-I don't get that.

Anyway he is so hot-from Pakistan-econ/chem double major-harvard.

We have done it 5 times now.

thanks and have a great day!

Chris N said...

Receiver of alms, mendicant, panhandler, guiltfondler, aspiring-tramp

cubanbob said...

"The Post is using the word "bum" to rile readers, but I think "bum" is the wrong would for a person who is engaged in remunerative labor. You may disapprove of his money-making scheme, but he's not a bum. He's a beggar. But if you think "beggar" is too mean, I would call him a Provider of Charity Opportunities. "

Yes mam. He's a Clinton.

Peter said...

So, what's current Constitutional Law precedent regarding panhandling? As far as I know, it's mostly protected by the First Amendment, and not limited by commercial codes (because the donor has no reason to expect anything in return).

Meanwhile, Big Charity has become another big business, filled with manipulative operators (is anyone else fed up with receiving all those stupid trinkets in charity pitch envelopes?) who use carefully tested methods to maximize contributions.

Overall Americans are a generous people, yet I think most Americans feel that one can be ripped off by charity, despite legal precedent that implies this is not possible.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

And yes, like anything else in life, if you reward beggars by giving them cash, you will get more beggars. This is why inner-city churches I've attended have pleaded with people to not give beggars cash but instead send them to outreach.

Our church makes care packages. Zip locks filled with a water bottle, some food (tuna, crackers) some other stuff to eat, a paperback new testament. You keep them in your car and if you see someone begging you can give them that and reach out to them.

Fabi said...

Remunerative labor? Holy fuck! You can't be serious. Labor?

traditionalguy said...

Da Bums are from Brooklyn.

The opportunity for charitable acts is a famous profession. Lawyers, politicians and fortune tellers name a few good ones. No minimum wages for them, but maybe a maximum wage if professional ethics apply.

Michael K said...

"If you can get a prosthesis device of some sort, you won't go wrong."

It worked for Ted Bundy.

Bob Ellison said...

Carrie, The IRS is not in play. These are all gifts. Until one person gives about $11,000 to him, there is no taxable event. And if there were a taxable event, it would be via the gift tax, which falls on the giver, not the gifted. So all of this guy's income is presumably tax-free. Oh, would the giftee gie us the power...

We need Paul Caron to weigh in on this.

Beach Brutus said...

The dog looks like an aged Toby from Used Cars.

Gabriel said...

Bums--not the truly disabled or mentally ill--mostly don't want help or compassion. They want money, to spend as they see fit, got without working.

If you're not okay with that, don't give them money. If you give them food, they're going to trade it for what they want, and you're not "doing them good" any more than if you gave them money.

They are autonomous moral actors, and I think we should treat them as such, and not as children.

TreeJoe said...

I'm traveling through these areas 2x a month right now and you can tell the real bums from the scammers by the bottom of their shoes. In Miami I recently gave a bum a pair of my sneakers because was walking down the street with a fully worn out pair of sneakers flopping around his ankles. He put them right on.

For a city so focused on regulation and citizen health, I'm surprised at how much 2nd hand smoke I inhale by walking down the street 8 blocks in mid-town during rush hour. If I were to ever get behind NYC in banning something for the health of citizens, it would be cigarettes.

But instead they focus on increasing their tolls and fees for having a car in the city to the point that only the very well off - or visitors who can afford it for a day or two - can have a vehicle in the city.

Such a great city so poorly run. Most of southern manhattan looks like absolute crap compared to Philly's financial/old city distrists, or Boston's, or almost any other Northern major metro.

Anthony said...

We called it being a "Hobo". Kind of the cheapy costume of choice, just grab a stick, a handkerchief, and your dad's old clothes, smear a little charcoal from the bag of Kingsford on your face, and you're good to go.

Horseball said...

An old definition runs, as confirmed by H.L. Mencken: a hobo travels from place to place and he works, a tramp travels from place to place and doesn't work, and a bum stays where he is an doesn't work.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobo

Tramps and hobos are commonly lumped together, but see themselves as sharply differentiated. A hobo or bo is simply a migratory laborer; he may take some longish holidays, but soon or late he returns to work. A tramp never works if it can be avoided; he simply travels. Lower than either is the bum, who neither works nor travels, save when impelled to motion by the police.

Lem said...

This post is a bummer.

mccullough said...

Entrepreneur. He's providing a valuable service and makes more than a dog walker.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

There is a guy who sits at entrance to the mall at Northgate in Seattle with a little dog next to him. I bet he rakes it in.

This is a city with a huge homeless problem, but also a huge population of relatively wealthy twentysomethings too flighty for marriage and children who dote on their annoying dogs as a substitute. There are dog gyms and dog parks and upscale pet stores and doggie daycares everywhere you look, and Amazonians will step right over the homeless guy sleeping on the sidewalk in front of them without a second glance so they can go buy their $50 refrigerated salmon cat food. It's disgusting, really.

Michael said...

I stepped over this guy on Monday. Or I think it was him. Guy w/ a dog. Beggar. They are all over midtown now, literally two or three to the block. Lots of young women, girls, who look a bit more put together than the seasoned bums but I suppose they have to start somewhere. They are too clean looking to be sleeping on the steps of St. Barts.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Norm MacDonald joke (mostly in his delivery) from the 90s:

Ever see this? It’s a homeless guy but he’s got a dog… The dog’s really thrilled with this idea. The dog’s going, “Hey pal, I can do this by myself pretty well. The longest walk in the world you got me on here.”

Sammy Finkelman said...

Too often:

The people who ask don't need, and the people who need don't ask.

Big Mike said...

Those dogs are something. At a tech conference in San Francisco back in the day I had to walk past a guy with a thin boxer and a sign asking for help. The boxer turned his soulful eyes on me and I couldn't resist giving him a fiver and telling him to get some food for himself and his dog. The dog sure picked up on who the soft touch was, looking right past others to zero in on me.

Gabriel said...

@I Have Misplaced My Pants:This is a city with a huge homeless problem

Heard something on NPR. King County put in this ten-year plan with $X million dollars to help homeless people and they have more homeless than ever, yet cities that didn't spend any money have fewer, and the reporter was so puzzled...

And I laughed and laughed and laughed. Yes, if you pay people to be bums, you will have more bums than places that don't pay people to be bums.

Scott said...

Homeless people with pets, expensive tattoos, and Nike running shoes.

If Mayor de Blasio had ANY BALLS AT ALL, he would tell the NYPD to arrest every last one of them. And then, get the mentally ill to social services and the rest to jail.

robinintn said...

Maybe he's The King of the Road.

Coupe said...

When I went to the Pyramids in Egypt, I was immediately assaulted by young kids who said "give me a dollar". They were working all the tourists. I pretended to be French, and they left me alone like a prostitute at a wedding. They were after Americans, who gave them money like it was candy.

I decided to figure out the scheme, so I found a corner where I could see everything, and it was quite entertaining. The cops of course were the main players. All the kids would attack the busloads of Americans and then one kid would run to the police shed to pay them.

Then I noticed this guy driving people around with a pony cart. He also swung by the police shed, and the policeman would stick his hand up the back of the seat, and pull it straight into his pocket.

So everyone working the tourists had to pay the cops, as a tax on their business.

I'm wondering what amount of his take, the 'bum" has to pay New York's finest, to operate on their beat?

Michael said...

I am on the other coast now in Vancouver BC where there are bums galore. The hardcore are in numbers out on E Hastings. The younger cleaner bums in training are downtown.

Johnny Sokko said...

I bet he hasn't filled out a 1040 in a long time.

ALP said...

When I give $ to the homeless, its not a gift. I consider it payment for providing local color or other such service, such as letting me have some "puppy time" by allowing me to interact with your friendly dog.

I consider any funds given in that scenario payment for the petting zoo.

Other services I have paid for:

A really hilarious story told in a heavy Southern accent (rare in PACNW).
My own "street poem".
An offer to get me high. Don't judge, how often does a homeless person OFFER you something?

Skipper said...

I might quit my practice and follow this guy's lead. Easier, more lucrative and more socially productive.

Darrell said...

Gay marriage has done wonders for Titus.

Bay Area Guy said...

At my best, I will buy an extra sandwich with napkins, and offer it to the homeless guy.

At my worst, I ignore him, don't think about him, and go on my day.

As I get older, I do feel more pangs of guilt and sympathy for the homeless beggar, particularly if he is old and/or crippled. "There but for the grace of God go I."

I have absolutely no sympathy for young, rude street urchins though, even though I bet they've had very rough lives. Maybe, I should.

Fernandinande said...

Horseball said...
An old definition runs, as confirmed by H.L. Mencken: a hobo travels from place to place and he works,


Where do "rounders" fit in?

"Then fill the glasses to the brim
Let the drinks go merrily around
And we'll drink to the health of a rounder poor boy
Who goes from town to town

The only thing that a rounder needs
Is a suitcase and a trunk
And the only time he's satisfied
Is when he's on a drunk."

Coupe said...

"There but for the grace of God go I."

I disagree. Our fate is in our own hands.

Nothing in the Bible supports that infidel quote, which is from the 16th Century, and was in witness to men going to their executions.

Supposedly by John Bradford, who was burned at the stake for being a Protestant, which should be the fate of all such infidels.

I would rather die in a ditch than demand gifts from strangers.

walter said...

Reminds me of the guvment..except they usually use the "for the kids" angle.