1 WWYD: A Christmas Caroler | The Billfold

WWYD: A Christmas Caroler

In our third installment of our “What Would You Do” series: What you’d do when someone knocks on your door and asks for money. This one comes from Alissa.

My dad was at home by himself last week when he hears the doorbell ring, and a bell jingling. “Christmas carolers?” he says to himself, and opens the door to find a woman standing by herself, ringing a bell and singing a Christmas carol. (I don’t know whether this is relevant to the story but he described her as … weathered and sad-looking.)

He said “Hello … ?” And she said “I’m going around Christmas caroling to raise money to buy Christmas presents for my children.”


What my dad did: “I gave her $10 … but I made her listen to my movie line story.”

“What’s your movie line story?”

“Once when you were kids, I dropped you off with your mother at the movie theatre and went to get gas. At the gas station, a man asked me for change to get on the bus home. I gave him $2 and when I got back to the movie theatre … there he was, standing in line in front of me.”

I had a similar experience last holiday when I was visiting my folks in California. A week before Christmas, a woman approached me in the parking lot of a grocery store holding a basket of what was clearly leftover candy from Halloween.

“I’m selling these candies, so I can buy my kids a Christmas tree and some presents,” she said. “If you could help me, I would be the most grateful mother on Earth.”

I reached into my wallet and pulled out a $20. “I don’t need any candy,” I said. “And since it’s so close to Christmas, see if you can get a good discount off of a tree.” I was convinced that she intended to use the money as she said she would, and even if that wasn’t the case, I would have found it difficult to say no to her after listening to her story. WWYD?


Email me your WWYD experiences to me with “WWYD” in the subject line.



70 Comments / Post A Comment

bgprincipessa (#699)

I don’t even have a good answer for the WWYD but I just <3 your alt text so much.

@bgprincipessa I used to LOVE Love, Actually until I really started thinking about what was going on, especially that storyline/scene, and wow now I really hate it.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@polka dots vs stripes I can see that! It’s really sad and creepy but at least nothing happens and the friend apparently moves on. And over the years I feel less and less sorry for Emma Thompson’s character because she just seems like a really tough, not nice woman.

aeroaeroaero (#1,422)

I would probably have given money, if only to get the person away from me. Also, people who sing to themselves make me very anxious and embarrassed.

helloimgreen (#998)

when i was in elementary school, there was a family sitting near the entrance of a grocery store with a sign asking for money for food. i wanted to help so i gave them the few dollars that i had saved up to buy candy. in front of us at the checkout line later on was the mom i had given my money to, buying a pack of cigarettes. i have never given money to panhandlers since.

@noelle Do you judge all social groups by the actions of one of their members, or just the poorest and least powerful ones?

MissMushkila (#1,044)

@stuffisthings Although I agree with the point of your comment, I think you were really harsh and unfair to noelle. She basically told the same story as many other people here (including Mike’s dad).

I just think MOST people DO judge social groups by the actions of those members they have experience with – that is kind of life? Even though that means terrible stereotypes arise? She didn’t say she hates all poor people or doesn’t believe in giving her money to try to help. Maybe she just does it, like others, through organizations rather than directly to panhandlers.

Maybe it’s a moral judgment to not want to give what money you manage to scrap up to be used for cigarettes rather than food. And that’s unfair in a way – do smokers not deserve a decent life now? (apparently not judging by how some people react to smoking!) – but I also can’t really be so mean to someone who maybe does not have a lot to give and hopes to help in a specific way.

selenana (#673)

@stuffisthings I agree with this comment.

jfruh (#161)

The elaborately specific panhandler story is always a red flag for me. Also the extremely specific amount of money. I need $X for (baby food, a bus ticket, etc.). I always assumed the specific amount of money was the amount they needed for a fix, but I wonder in the wake of the extremely successful Obama campaign emails whether asking for a specific, affordable amount is just more likely to elicit a positive response.

I have given money to panhandlers, though I don’t do it with any consistency and would probably be less likely to do so for someone who actually came to my door. That feels creepier and more like a violation. On the other hand, your caroler was, legitimately caroling, so I’m not sure.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@jfruh I recently gave up on giving money to panhandlers. I work right across the street from a pretty big homeless park, and it broke my heart to know I’d never really be able to help them.

So now I make a monthly donation to a reputable local nonrprofit that provides food, clothing, housing assistance, etc. to the homeless. I know the nonprofit can do more with the money than I ever could, and this is the way I can do the most for the people I want to help. Plus, the amount of my monthly donation is far more than I ever handed out to individuals on the street.

Vicky (#2,266)

@jfruh I think you’re on to something with the specific requests: There’s a panhandler outside my office that says “Can anyone spare a penny please?” and occasionally has a really precise request for a fish sandwich and caramel drink from the McDonalds across the street. I buy him lunch a couple of times a month. Why not? He’s a good guy, it’s like $4, and if he didn’t need money/food he wouldn’t be out there. But I probably wouldn’t do much if he had just asked for change.

EM (#1,012)

@jfruh Yeah, in Vancouver I hear a lot of “I need $10 buy a bus ticket home to Whistler because I left my wallet at my friend’s place and she’s going to work in Tssawwassen so I can’t get out there to get my wallet and I need to be back in Whistler in time for work at 4PM….”

@jfruh There was actually a study that people are more likely to give when asked for a specific amount, like 73 cents, than a lower, round-number amount, like 50 cents. Some homeless guys I know used to just divide the price of whatever they wanted to buy (a tallboy, a cheeseburger, a bag of heroin) by 2 or 3 and ask for that amount.

As an advocate of data-driven social policies, I like to reward their initiative.

@stuffisthings (give to panhandlers that is — they actually sent grad students out onto street corners to beg, IIRC)

(Which is probably how they’re getting by with their psychology degrees today, actually.)

amirite (#2,677)

@Michelle Oh yeah, when I first moved to Vancouver I fell for a lot of those kinds of stories… “I lost my passport and I need money to get to the embassy” (I hadn’t lived there very long or I’d have known that the embassy was completely walk able from where we were). What I hate is that they make me feel so foolish for falling for them, and then I feel stupid and ashamed, and also mistrustful of the next person. But then there’s always a little part of me that wonders, what if it is true? A few months ago I gave $20 to a teenage girl claiming to have been kicked out of her house and the people she was staying with wanted her to start turning tricks. It maybe wasn’t true, I mean, that sounds really dramatic but also entirely possible, and if I’d refused her I probably would’ve felt guilty wondering what if.

I’ll often try to give people material goods instead of money, like a granola bar, a banana, or (in this case) a teddy bear. It always feels a little condescending to me, since it’s implying I don’t trust them, but I haven’t come up with an option that seems significantly better.

Granted, that’s easier with panhandlers than in this particular situation where she’s at your house.

EM (#1,012)

@spice&snails&puppydogtails Yeah, I worked for an AIDS organization awhile ago with a needle exchange, and so there were a lot of low-income & IDU folks around. Their policy was always give food and not change. I agree it feels weird and condescending, though.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@spice&snails&puppydogtails I don’t carry cash often, but I did used to offer food if I had it. That ended after I offered a guy a banana and he threw it at my head a minute later. Said banana was then run over by a car, and I was hungry until I got home. Ruined it for everyone else, now nobody gets anything.

@spice&snails&puppydogtails Offering food is actually kind of the worst, because it’s usually pretty easy for homeless people to find free food in most cities. Not to mention incredibly patronizing.

lizard (#2,615)

@stuffisthings it is not patronizing to offer to buy a homeless person food. they are most likely hungry.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@stuffisthings If someone’s specifically asking me for money to buy food, and I don’t have cash on me, but I do have food, why not offer food? In theory either they accept and are happy to get food, or they’re pissed off because it’s not cash and they didn’t want food, in which case they lied to me.

OllyOlly (#669)

One time two kids knocked on my door, maybe early teens. They said they were raising money for college and selling magazine subscriptions. I asked if they had a website I could look at and order something. Then they got really intense about me ordering RIGHT THEN so I declined. In general I don’t trust people soliciting on the street and especially soliciting at my door. I would rather give money to an organiazation I trust with my personal information or cash. Maybe I am a grinch.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@OllyOlly Some kids in my city like to take the free City Paper and try to sell that to you. And they can get really nasty if you point out that’s a free paper.
I don’t think you are a grinch at all.

MissMushkila (#1,044)

@OllyOlly Oh, I posted this below, but a lot of time teens and pre-teens are exploited to do this sort of thing. They are told they can make money working as an organization doing this – but usually some creepy adults are actually taking most of what they raise. The adults will bus them out to other parts of town every day. It’s basically a pyramid selling scheme that takes advantage of youth living in poverty (they sell microwave popcorn in my neighborhood)

MuffyStJohn (#280)

I would have sheepishly said I don’t have any cash (which, at any given moment, has an 87% chance of being true), wished her a Merry Christmas, and directed her to my rich neighbors.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

I seem to never have any money on me, so when I do, I end up giving money to panhandlers with abandon. I always give to the old man who stands outside of Walgreens every night and now we have a nice exchange where I make sure I don’t put money into an actual cup of coffee. I don’t care what he spends the money on, I hate thinking of an old, possibly blind in one eye man feeling like he has to stand outside in the cold for money. My parents aren’t too far from begging for money, so I guess I see them in him. And when I don’t have the money to give, he says God Bless anyway, which I like.

I usually avoid people who advertise for help. I feel like the really desperate ones are beyond making signs or stories, so I give to them. And I don’t ever give to rude people. So I would never give to someone who came to my door.

lavendergooms (#1,978)

I am constantly at a loss as to what to do/feel about my action/inaction. I work in downtown Boston and see the same group of panhandlers each day. I’m not a cash carrier and usually don’t give anything, but yesterday it was really cold so I gave some change that was collecting purse sand in the bottom of my bag to one man? But then I wondered about why I don’t give normally.

And then I think about how it’s not about me, and end up in an ouroborous of guilt/defiance.

When I was working at another job, a woman holding a full D+D iced coffee asked to come to the ATM with me so I could take out money to give her for coffee. Because her son was sick. That got a big fat no instead of my usual embarrassed grimace.

Fig. 1 (#632)

@lavendergooms What if someone upthread had bought her that coffee? //devil’s advocate

sunflowernut (#1,638)

After having a really bad experience with a guy trying to get someone to give him money “for a bus ticket” (gave him a fair amount of money, he walked right towards the ticket counter… out the door) I rarely give anyone money anymore, particularly when there is such a specific story. I’m more likely to give someone a buck or two on the street, particularly if I see them around a lot. Still, this lady was caroling – I think I would have given her some cash if she was any good/had a cute act. If she was awful, and it was clear this was just an excuse for her to solicit people for money at their homes, I would’ve told her I didn’t have any cash (my usual excuse).

sunflowernut (#1,638)

@Hey Ash Reading what I wrote makes me feel really mean. I always feel bad about saying no, even if I’m 99% sure they’re scamming me.

this could be a great scam if you picked the right neighbourhood and had no shame.

*skeptical douchebag checking in*

EM (#1,012)

1. I miss smoking because usually to pandhandlers I would say, “No, I don’t have change, but do you want a cigarette?” They almost always said yes. I probably gave away half of each pack, which feels like a charitable donation.

2. I will always give change to any homeless lady who looks to be my mom’s age, or old Native ladies who look like my grandma, because I can’t handle it. I don’t care what they do with the money; it’s theirs once they get it. I also like giving change to the friendly guy outside my liqour store who has an equally friendly pet cat on a leash, and sometimes cat food if I am going by the grocery store.

3. I would never give change to someone who came to my front door because that feels like a violation of my privacy and security, in the same way I don’t want to buy things from people doing door to door.

EM (#1,012)

@Michelle Also I do try and smile and say, “No, sorry,” rather than avoiding eye contact with people because I have handed out flyers for an event and asked for petition signatures before, and the way people avert their eyes from you when you are standing on the street doing anything is really soul-crushing after a few hours. I can’t imagine standing outside all day every day having people pretend you don’t exist.

@Michelle 1. Yep! That’s my strategy.

And also double like to your second comment, I was going to say the same thing.

Will Murphy (#2,255)

I used to give money to every panhandler, because a dollar to me is negligible, but them it could make the day.
Now, I live in Lima, and here there are people selling all sorts of things on the streets. I used to give to everyone, but go out of my way to give to the children, or people who are clearly disabled.

UNTIL one time there was a woman with her baby wrapped around her body in a blanket, the way they do here. In one hand she was holding a bag of candy she was selling, in the other she was juggling three balls with one hand, and even bounced it off her head. All of this without waking up that sleeping kid.

If she can do that, how can I justify giving money to someone “por gusto”?

Will Murphy (#2,255)

@Will Murphy Sorry, the WWID part: if she sang, do it. If she just asks outright, do it if you feel it.

probs (#296)

I used to give to panhandlers a lot more when I was younger and lived in Richmond with my parents because all of my money was disposable income (or so I felt at the time), and they were a typically a little nicer/less pushy than the panhandlers I now encounter in DC. My friends and I wound up developing and odd sort of relationship with this guy who introduced himself to us as Aurelius, but who after a while said his name was Pete. He was really big on it being more of a reciprocal relationship, and would give us slightly old promotional CD singles and other stuff when we gave him money. He’d have long conversations with us way past the point of building a rapport for the sole sake of getting money in the future. Aurelius/Pete was a nice guy. Aaaand I just realized this is only mildly relevant, oops.

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

I don’t give to panhandlers. Period. I don’t know where the money is going. I carry a cross-body purse at all times because I don’t want people to be able to get to my wallet without me noticing, so I would never want to pull out my wallet in the middle of the sidewalk or on the subway. And frankly, I don’t trust people to be telling the truth.

I do make some regular charitable donations to organizations that I know will use the bulk of my donation to help people in need. I’m an observant Jew- giving to charity is a pretty central tenet of my religious beliefs. But not on the streets. Not on the subway. Not because you’re towing around your small child. Not because you’re blind or a veteran or homeless. There are structures in place that I’m supporting, and in the meantime I’m going to keep walking down the sidewalk, or shove my face in my book, and ignore the panhandlers.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@RachelG8489 Yikes.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@aetataureate Agreed. Double yikes.

darklingplain (#938)

@RachelG8489 I’m Jewish too, and it makes me more likely to give money to homeless people, not less. My religious education left me with the feeling that my own money doesn’t even really belong to me if someone else needs it, and even if people asking for money aren’t always honest, it’s not like they’re living the high life on the change people toss into their cups!

And I think giving a few people on the street a couple bucks can actually do more than donating to an organization, because it gets the money directly to an actual person, and because it’s a way of acknowledging the existence of these generally marginalized people instead of making them feel like they don’t exist.

I’ve never really cared if they spend the money on a drink or a movie instead of something more “deserving”–I like movies, I like a drink, and who am I to say they shouldn’t be able to have one too? There’s an old joke about it:

The schnorrer is begging for money for a bite to eat, so a well-to-do businessman gives him a dollar. Half an hour later, the businessman is returning from lunch, and spots the schnorrer in the window of a fancy delicatessan, gorging himself on bagels and lox. The businessman is furious–he storms into the restaurant and confronts the schnorrer:
“You told me you were starving, but here you are spending my money on the most expensive meal in town! What do you have to say for yourself?”
The schnorrer replies, “How can you ask me a question like that? This morning I had no money, so I couldn’t eat bagels and lox. Now G-d has smiled on me and given me the benefit of your generosity, so I could buy my lunch– but you say I still can’t eat bagels and lox. So tell me, when *can* I eat bagels and lox?”

I understand not wanting to feel like you’ve been scammed, but it’s not like the homeless blind veteran is trying to steal your life savings!

darklingplain (#938)

@darklingplain Ugh, rereading my comment, obviously I don’t think a few bucks to panhandlers is a substitute for bigger more formal donations. I meant “do more in certain ways.”

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

@RachelG8489 Uuugh. So I kind of expected this kind of reaction. But you know what, people? I live in NYC. Between panhandlers on the street outside my subway station (there’s 2-3 outside my stop in the morning, same in the evening, 1-2 at the stop near the office) and panhandlers on the subway (at least 1 per day, often more) and all over the city on busy streets and in the park closest to my office? I just can’t. I can’t afford to give all of them a dollar. And I’m uncomfortable deciding which ones to give to and which ones to ignore. And I’m hella uncomfortable pulling out my wallet while walking around the city or on the subway. And a lot of them say things to young women that make me really uncomfortable- I get more “smile!” bullshit from panhandlers than you can imagine. And I’m just not capable of this shit of deciding who to give to or judging who is safe to make eye contact with and who is not and all of that. I give money, and I volunteer my time when I can, and I don’t give to panhandlers. And there is nothing- absolutely nothing- wrong with having that personal policy.

EM (#1,012)

@RachelG8489 I relate to where you’re coming from- I live in Vancouver, a few blocks from a neighbourhood famous for being extremely poor with a huge injection drug user community, aka panhandler central. And while I understand the not giving money, I do think you should not pretend they don’t exist. I think being polite, smiling, asking how their day is going if they aren’t giving off a weird “smile, girly!” vibe is also a nice thing to do to people who get treated like shit by almost everyone, always.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@RachelG8489 I agree 100%, really, your money is yours and what you do with it is your business so long as you don’t use it to actively hurt anyone else.

@Michelle I used to live in East Van; had I given money to every panhandler I’d have been broke in no time fast. I agree with being polite, but really, 99% of the people at Hastings and Main gave off a weird vibe. One of many, many reasons I no longer live in the Vancouver area – it’s the most broken city I’ve been to in Canada or the US (except for maybe Detroit?)

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@aetataureate @josefinastrummer Why the yikes? Is someone choosing to donate in the way they’re most comfortable a bad thing?

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Worker Parasite lolol “Is someone choosing to donate in the way they’re most comfortable a bad thing?”

No, but being frightened of every situation and planning your whole life defensively like this sounds exhausting and stressful, and I don’t envy the bummed broke people along this route who maybe want a buck and instead get an elaborate cold shoulder. Personal preference.

Also, ESPECIALLY lol at “My religion says I should give money to charity so I do it in these specific prevetted ways, NOT because someone is homeless or disabled” train of thought.

loren smith (#2,300)

@aetataureate Unfortunately, many women find themselves living their lives like this because of the way we are socialized – think of all the victim shaming and “stranger-danger” stories that we are exposed to. I know that I often find myself acting in ways similar to @RachelG8489 almost unconsciously.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@aetataureate I guess I don’t understand the idea that I owe someone asking me for something any kind of response at all. Having lived near the worst intersection in North America (possibly the world), if I had even smiled at every person who asked me for anything at all I’d have the wrinkles of someone twice my age.

Sadly some people find themselves needing to plan their lives defensively – I know I’ve felt the need to at times and I don’t regret it one bit.

EM (#1,012)

@Worker Parasite There are good sides to the DTES, though- it’s an incredibly politically active and engaged community, even though there is so much poverty and drug use, and there is a lot of community and economic development happening there. I wouldn’t call it “broken,” because it’s the result of bad drug laws and economic policies and racism and classism that is much bigger than Vancouver. I mean, a lot of people on Main and Hastings are poor and mentally ill and struggling with addiction, if that’s how one defines “giving off a weird vibe,” but I don’t get harassed there any more than I do in your average douchey bar.

Ellie (#62)

I’ve given to panhandlers with complicated stories a bunch of times when I was younger (like, more than just a dollar or something, and once I gave someone like $40 because my friends were with me and they said they’d pay me back for their share, but didn’t – this I deeply regret, although I don’t exactly blame them) and I always felt gross afterwards. It was always when I was in some weird emotional state, and after I turned 21 I would deal with that by drinking instead of giving away an inappropriate amount of cash. You lose money both ways though. So I never do it anymore.

I do very often give a dollar to the average panhandler who is just sitting on the street with a sign, and I don’t feel gross about that; it makes me feel good to do that. But as I’ve got older I’ve gotten much better at giving the “No, don’t talk to me” vibe.

dham (#2,271)

If I give someone money, I don’t especially care what’s done with it.

Although once, a man asked me for a very specific amount- $3 something- for the NJ transit home, because he had gotten off work late, lost his wallet, and his wife was waiting.

The next day, the same man asked my then-boyfriend (long-hair, look of a stoner college student) for the exact same amount, for the same train fare, but this time because he had gotten so drunk and high he lost his wallet at the bar.

I was mostly offended that I seemed so straight-laced?

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@dham Ha! I think a lot of men think women are easily shocked, so that’s why he was so straight-laced with you. Don’t take it personally. ;)

I typically don’t give money to panhandlers/people who ask. I don’t keep money in my pocket, and I’m not about to make myself vulnerable while I reach into my purse, dig around in my wallet, first find a $20 but put that away to find the $5, etc etc. As a smallish young woman, taking my attention away from my surroundings puts me in a situation I’d rather not be in, where I can’t protect myself or my belongings because I’ve fallen into the black hole of my bag to find money for someone, who as many of the commentators pointed out, is likely scamming me anyway.

Pathetic, doomsday-type thinking, but true. I donate to charitable organizations instead.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

Once I was walking through a kind of rough neighborhood with my best friend, who is gay, and a man yelled out that if my friend didn’t marry me today, he was crazy. Then he told us a joke: “What’s the best nation in the world? A DONATION!” So I go into my pocket and pull out a $20 and a $1 and hand him the $1. Had to save the rest of my money for our impending wedding, so he understood.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@josefinastrummer Somehow this reminded me of a time I found free parking outside a major sporting event, so I took the $20 I was ready to spend on parking and gave it to a homeless dude outside the place. I felt a thousand feet tall.

Megano! (#124)

I would have to say no, because I have my own Christmas presents to buy as well as a million moving fees. Luckily I never have any cash on me so that sort of works. I did give a couple of rookie cops some money last month mostly because I actually had it and I wanted them to go away. Darwin apparently REALLY DOESN’T like cops.

MissMushkila (#1,044)

I will sometimes give to people asking for money (mainly this is dependent on “if I have cash”), however you should generally avoid giving cash to children selling small items or looking for donations unless you actually know the organization for which they are fundraising. My mom is a probation officer, and there are a couple of sketchy con groups in the area that take low income kids and exploit them by making them go door to door. They continue running this because people give to kids. Something to keep in mind.

*(I don’t mean stop giving money to kids doing a car wash for your local school or selling girl scout cookies)

amirite (#2,677)

I would find it extremely difficult to refuse in the situation Mike is describing, with a person right of your doorstep. But I also I would resent that person for coming to my door and putting me in that situation. And also extremely embarrassed because one person singing to me is an awkward situation. So you want me to pay you to make me feel awkward? More resentment. But I would also feel really bad for the woman, because you don’t do that unless you have to, right? Part of me would be wondering if it was a scam, but part of me would be saying it doesn’t matter if it is, if people are desperate enough to scam, it’s because they need the money anyway. So I would probably give her money to get it over with and make her go away, and then spend the rest of the day alternating between cringing because I was stupid enough to fall for it, and cringing because I’m a terrible person for not believing her/judging her.

I think it’s the lying that’s most offensive when a person gives a specific reason for the ask. If I give a couple bucks to a typical panhandler, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it was spent on booze – and I wouldn’t care. As with any other gift, it’s not my place to judge how it gets used. (If you can’t be at peace with that, you probably would be better giving to a vetted charity rather than a panhandler.) But when it’s an elaborate sob story that convinces us to part with our money, there’s an element of dishonesty there that’s harder to forgive.

As for this specific example, I’d have a hard time giving that woman money. (Maybe literally, as I rarely have cash on hand.) But there is something extra intrusive about coming to my house. No real rhyme or reason to it – Girl Scouts and telemarketers do it all the time – but it does rub me the wrong way.

selenana (#673)

I would give her a couple of bucks, just like I usually do to buskers on the subway.

A dude came to my door a couple of months ago trying to sell me some soap. He had an elaborate sales routine, really good jokes, subtle (but non offensive to me, at least) flirting, the whole thing. I was totally ready to part with some cash even though I knew it was fishy (he had only one bottle in his bag, and cleaned a spot on the sidewalk in front of my house “cutting through dirt like Moses through the Red Sea!”, but he wanted 39.95. Too high of an ask! I can’t even spend $40 at one time on myself, most of the time.

ThatJenn (#916)

Situations like this make me so anxious that I actually felt physically ill just clicking on the “Read More” link.

Which is to say, I would have probably said I can’t spare any and ended the conversation wishing them good luck and felt horrible the rest of the day. Unless I had cash right on me, sometimes if I’m in the right mood I give people money, but only if nobody’s watching me (I think my partner would not approve).

AlliNYC (#1,725)

My rule: I donate to barbershop quartets or mariachi bands on the subway. Although there’s a violin player in Grand Central (just off the 7 train escalator) that I love so I’ll probably give a little there too. If I am amused/entertained and not-annoyed by a performer, I’ll generally donate. Pickle-tub bangers do not qualify.

Rachel SB (#2,832)

I usually will give what loose change (or a spare dollar or two if I even have it) to panhandlers, but I have a real problem when they invade my personal space, like when I am pumping gas. (Recently I told a panhandler asking for gas money that I did not have cash, and he actually asked me to use my debit card, which was awkward and awful.) I’m a small woman and I don’t appreciated feeling cornered.
As for the WWYD, coming to someone’s door like that is really rude and intimidating! This probably sounds paranoid, but I’d be afraid they were possibly casing my situation. My home has been burglarized, and I’m often home alone with my kids at night and for stretches while my husband is out of town. I’d give her a few dollars if I had it, and spare her the lecture, but I’d probably be in a cycle of paranoia (and subsequent guilt) for a few days.

DarlingMagpie (#1,695)

I was out with my boyfriend once around midnight in an area that is extremely popular with college kids and this girl ran up to us. She was a bit sloppy and kept telling us this story about how she was out with her boyfriend and he hit her, see here are the marks on her neck, couldn’t we give her $40 to take a cab home to a town that was about a thirty minute drive away? Her mother would send us a cheque or a money order. I told her I didn’t have $40 for her but we could most definitely call her mother with my cell phone and get her mother to order a cab online with her card, what was her mother’s number? The girl got weird and started changing her story about how she was just afraid of the guy couldn’t we just give her money instead, I told her to walk with us and we could give her a bus token for anywhere she needed to go and that we’d call the cops and wait with her or just accompany her wherever she needed to go. She eventually said “Uhhh, no thanks” and ran off into a crowd of people outside a bar. I felt really off-put that evening. I was only a few years older than her but didn’t quite trust her.

Tatiana (#194)

In both instances (person going door to door and woman in parking lot) — I would have given them money. When it comes to homeless mothers or older people asking for money, for some reason I always think “what if those were my parents?” and I get really emotional and if I have money to give, I give them some money. I don’t know why I think that way, but I do.

noralo (#581)

I was recently outside a bar with a few friends and was approached by a woman who asked for $12 to get her and her daughter to a homeless shelter. I know that people will probably say I should have offered to hail a cab for her and paid the cab to take them, or escorted them or somehow ensured that this is actually what she wanted the money for, but it didn’t occur to me until later. I knew that I had not very much cash in my wallet and because I was with friends, I felt comfortable taking out my wallet in the middle of the street and giving her the $4 I had. She said it wasn’t enough and sat down on the street and started crying. I felt hurt that she could see it was all that was in my wallet and still was telling me my contribution wasn’t sufficient, but I felt more hurt when, as we walked away, my friend told me she was obviously scamming us. I knew full well that that might be the case, but a)it was not that much money and b)the risk is worth it to me. I don’t really need someone to tell me I’m foolish after I’ve made an informed decision.
On another note, when I was growing up, my mom always carried coins around in her pocket so that when homeless people asked for change she wouldn’t have to take out her wallet, and would still be able to contribute. I think she also kept the change on her to set a good example about giving, and I appreciate it.

octagonfudge (#2,838)

I usually give something to the panhandlers on the street if I can, especially during the winter. What I would never, ever do, though, is give money at my door to someone. My mom did that a year or two ago, to a man with a sob story, and he comes back now literally every month. He’s always drunk and if she doesn’t answer the door, he will pound and pound on the door until the cops get there, hard enough that she was afraid he would break the glass. He’s always back on the street relatively quickly, and I think he has mental problems, so I feel bad for the guy being in the situation that he’s in, but it’s still very scary for her. This happens at the most bizarre hours, too. It’s awful, and happened to me a couple of times while I was house-sitting alone (I am a not-very-large lady in my early 30s). Terrifying. He has tried it with the other neighbors but they always refuse him, so he just keeps coming back to her door over and over. Please be very careful when giving money to people at your door, not to say that this caroling woman would necessarily do that, but there are some scary people out there.

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