A Banker Missing His Wallet Asks for Some Money


It was close to 1 a.m. when I left the wedding on Saturday night, and since I was still wide awake and had all of my senses, I decided I’d save the money I had set aside for cab fare and walked to the subway, which was two blocks from the venue. I’d normally feel self-conscious about wearing a tuxedo on the subway because strangers can’t help but stare, but it was late and I found a seat in the back of the car.

When I got to my stop and walked out of the subway and in the direction of my apartment, a man wearing a college sweatshirt who looked to be in his late thirties approached me and tapped me on the shoulder while I waited at a crosswalk.

“Excuse me—I need some help and you look like someone who can help me.”

“Okay…” I said. I was highly aware that it was late, there were very few people around, and that I was wearing a tuxedo.

“Are you familiar with the neighborhood?”


“I was just at a bar two blocks from here, and I had a Tumi backpack with my wallet and everything else in it, and someone took it.”

“I see. And how can I help?”

“I’m trying to get home to Jersey and don’t have any means to get there.”


“I know, but listen, I’m an investment banker. I work at Morgan Stanley … if that counts for anything.”

I was taken aback and also kind of annoyed—not because an investment banker was asking me for money (which is its own irony for multiple reasons), but because what he seemed to be saying was that he was from the upper class, and not a homeless person who was panhandling, and that, somehow, that was suppose to count for something.

“I need to get on the subway,” he said.

I pulled out a $10 bill from my wallet.

“Actually, can you give me a $20? It’ll get me to Jersey.”

Taken aback again, and even more annoyed, I was tempted to say no, forget it, just because I’m wearing a tuxedo doesn’t mean I’ve got pockets full dollars I won’t miss, but instead, I found myself handing him a $20 bill—the money that I didn’t use on cab fare to get myself home.

“Good luck,” I said.

“I really, really appreciate this,” he said. “And by the way, you look fantastic.” And then, perhaps signaling class again, he said, “I have one just like it.”

“Goodbye and goodnight,” I said, and crossed the street, making my way home.


Photo: Jason Howie


35 Comments / Post A Comment

jennonthego (#5,366)

You’re a much better person than I, Mike Dang. I never open my wallet in public, regardless of the person’s investment banker status.

I had a similar thing happen to me last semester. I was coming back to campus after having dinner with a friend and was stopped on the steps by a grandfather-type person, who asked if I was from around here. I usually don’t talk to anyone who talks to me on the street, but I figured he was looking for directions, since we’re near a lot of tourist destinations. He proceeded to talk my ear off for 15 minutes about how he and his wife were visiting from the Peninsula, and they had gotten robbed on CalTrain and the cops had taken them to their friends’ house out in the outer Richmond, but the friends weren’t home. I felt stuck by not wanting to be rude, but also needing to stop by my office before catching my bus that I didn’t want to miss. By the end, he wanted money to get him and four other people back to the Peninsula/South Bay. I told him I didn’t carry any cash and wished him luck. I felt like a rube for getting sucked into his long-winded story and kept watching my back for the rest of night, just in case he was the set up man for a robbery later. Sigh.

Allison (#4,509)

@jennonthego yeah, I only give if I have money in my pocket (and if I have cash, it’s just as likely to be there as my wallet)

erinep (#4,236)

I’m irritated by all the of the class-signaling, but he couldn’t ask you for a business card or something to repay you or send a gesture of appreciation?

Also, I’m not from New York but I do have relatives there. An investment banker and he lives in Jersey? Really?

ceereelyo (#3,552)

@erinep – he probably lives in Hoboken (or the super gentrified area of Jersey City) which are both very spendy places to live in OR one of the super rich ‘burbs in Bergen county.

keystar (#4,042)

@erinep Yeah, seriously. No way would I give a man money unless he wanted to pay me back. Wait, not even then.

ALSO WHATCHU SAYIN’ BOUT JERSEY. Lots of people who work in NYC live in NJ! Stephen Colbert lives in NJ. NJ actually has one of the richest counties in the US…

erinep (#4,236)

@keystar @ceereelyo haha, it must just be what I’ve gleaned from my cousins that tease another cousin (a federal employee! not an investment banker!) for living in Paramus.

ceereelyo (#3,552)

@erinep – i have cousins who live by Paramus! Its all shopping centers and craziness and blue book laws still.

Also come to think of it mystery brokester if he needed $20 to get could live a bit further down in the state. I live in the Princeton area and its about an hour commute by train. Buuuut I feel like its like $26-30 bucks round trip so I have no idea where he is going.

Amanda M. (#7,040)

@erinep Bankers do live in Jersey. Most common it’s bankers with families, but sometimes the youngs who want more value for their money go to Hoboken or Jersey City.

moreadventurous (#4,956)

I feel like being told he works for Morgan Stanley would make me LESS likely to give him money…

But good on you, Mike!

Once, a man approached me in the subway — middle-aged, nondescript — and after some small talk asked if I was Jewish. I’m so sorry to bother you, he said, but my wife and I are visiting from Israel and she is stuck at the airport. I have to go get her, but my card isn’t working. I really need some cash. Can you help me? I’m so sorry.

I said no, sorry, and managed to move away. Later I told the story to some friends (“How Someone Tried to Scam Me out of Religious/Ethnic Loyalty”) and one of them said, “Wait a minute, I know that guy! I gave him money! That was a scam?”

nell (#4,295)

@Ester Bloom Probably just a function of being a smaller city, but Boston seems to have a TON of these sort of sob story people. Before I moved into the city I commuted through South Station and there were two who I saw at least a couple times a month, always running the same scam. We also have a lovely pair of clearly intoxicated women who get on the green line with a story about how they’re cousins who are both pregnant and they need bus fare to get home.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@Ester Bloom @nell There’s a guy in DC who hits people up for “cab fare” so he can go see his daughter in the hospital who is in labor with his first grandchild.

Beans (#1,111)

If this guy was really as classy as he thought he was, he’d have asked for your mailing address and refunded you the $20.

RiffRandell (#4,774)

@Beans my thoughts exactly. Has Morgan Stanley heard of Paypal?

ceereelyo (#3,552)

I wish you had gotten a name, cos I totally have several friends who work in Morgan Stanley (in IT and risk management! super creep rights there!) and we could have hunted him down.

Yeah, this sounds like it was a scam. Not sure what his angle is, but the dude asking for more money when you’ve already proffered $10 seems like a huge red flag.

Mike Dang (#2)

@Intravenus de Milo
Ester: fyi ben’s immediate response was, “didn’t he realize it was a scam?”
Mike: lol
Ester: ben was raised in the city
Mike:I mean, yes
An investment banker asked me for money
That is a legit scam
Ester: hahahhaha

ragazza (#4,025)

Yeah, I never open my wallet in public either. I did give a couple bucks not long ago to some guy who came up to my car window wearing one of those reflective vests and thrust a flyer about some shelter at me. It was probably a scam too. Grrr.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@ragazza Why don’t you open your wallet in public? A lot of people here say that.

andnowlights (#2,902)

@aetataureate It’s an easy way to get robbed! Your wallet is out, in plain view, they can see what you have, so they grab it, and run.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@andnowlights Is that it?? I mean, I have nothing, sorry robbers, but I carry a purse all the time and that’s even already got a HANDLE for goodness sake.

ragazza (#4,025)

@aetataureate Yeah, and plus I might have a lot of cash in there. Don’t wanna be flashing my wad on the street, you know? Once a friend pulled out her wallet to give a guy a dollar, and he was like, “I see a five in there!” She told him not to be greedy (maybe not the most sensitive response, but come on), and he of course started berating her.

andnowlights (#2,902)

@aetataureate That’s always what I’ve been told? Also, what @ragazza brought up too- I may have a $20 in there, but that doesn’t mean I can afford to give it to someone. There’s a personal finance blogger (I forget which one) that was actually verbally berated for a full two blocks by a homeless person that saw they had a $20 in there that they didn’t give him, even though it was their grocery money for the rest of the month.

Mostly I don’t want my wallet stolen because I don’t want to go to the DMV to get a new license, not going to lie. Credit cards are easily cancelled and I never carry cash, but going to the DMV is the worst kind of inconvenience when it comes to stolen wallets.

annabanana (#5,919)

Sounds like a scam, dude. I definitely wouldn’t have given him anything, but I’m not surprised to hear you’re a nicer/more generous/less skeptical person than I am.

nell (#4,295)

My dad’s approach to these sorts of things is to be really friendly and exclaim that he’s also headed to the scammer’s supposed destination and would be happy to give said scammer a ride — typically they just walk away.

Lily Rowan (#70)

I do feel like the scammers usually have a more specific amount they ask for — doesn’t the commuter rail cost $14.75 or something?

The more specific the details the more red flags go up. It was a Tumi backpack? I’m not the police, you know I don’t need these details. I wouldn’t think of it in the moment, but also, how does he work in the city and not have anyone who actually knows him around to help him out?
One time, I was on my way home from the bar with 5 or 10 bucks left in my pocket, because it was a cash only place. I never carry cash otherwise. I walked past a lady on the street who when we were probably 10 paces past each other to called out to me, hesitated a few seconds before she said she was leaving a bad situation and wondered if I had a few dollars so she could catch the bus. I believed her and I never believe anyone, and I had the cash so I gave her what I had in my pocket and she started crying. I didn’t know what else to do, but I was just glad I’d actually had something to give her.

MollyAuden (#6,292)

About ten years ago, as an undergraduate, I was walking down the street in downtown Toronto on a warm, sunny afternoon. Suddenly, I saw a dozen yards ahead of me a large man wearing a nice business suit, and lying belly-down on the sidewalk. His clothes and his body position were so odd that some of those milling around him in rush-hour pace stopped to ask if he was all right. I, too, thought instinctively that he had fallen down or was injured. He didn’t seem homeless, or at least, I had never before or since seen a homeless man wear a nice business suit and lie down on his belly. When I approached the man, I, too, said, “do you need anything, sir?”

The man looked up at me from the pavement and said, with a mildly sarcastic tone, “do I need anything? yeah, a pizza and coke would be nice.” I immediately noticed two things: first, the wasn’t injured and hadn’t fallen down. He was “simply” begging for money in a nice-looking suit and while lying down on his stomach, to catch more people’s attention. And second, we were right outside a Pizza Pizza, a popular Canadian pizza chain.

Feeling embarrassed by his sarcastic tone, but more ashamed that I would not have stopped if he wasn’t so well-dressed, I walked into the Pizza Pizza and got him a slice of pepperoni pizza and coke. I think I was trying to prove to myself that I would help him even if he didn’t sound so grateful about it and that I shouldn’t judge. Maybe he really needed food and had none, and maybe he got that suit from the salvation army and was really homeless.

When I stepped outside with the pizza and coke, the man was now sitting up and talking on a flip cell phone while brushing away some of the pavement dust that had clung to his knees while he’d been lying down. I held out the pizza and coke to him, and he, still talking on his cell phone, simply motioned for me to put them down on the ground beside him, without saying anything or thanking me. I did so, feeling increasingly annoyed and perplexed by the whole situation. At that moment, another man standing next to him who seemed to be his friend, and who was considerably less well-dressed, grinned at me said in a whiny voice, “Miss? Will you get me a pizza and a coke too? Please? I’m hungry!”

I turned around and began walking away quickly, hearing the second man bursting into laughter behind me. I was really pissed. 7$ was a lot for me in those days. I had spent them thinking I was helping someone in need, and I felt I’d been had. But probably I was the jerk, only bothering to stop by him because he seemed like a “normal” guy in a suit, i.e. not your typical homeless guy. It was a point well-made. What kind of thank you did I expect, anyway?

EM (#1,012)

I’m from Vancouver– a tourist city with a very high population of panhandlers and folks with addictions to feed, and I am very used to long, detailed stories about why someone needs money for bus fare. As @Punk-assBookJockey said further up, the more details, the more I’m convinced it’s not true. Especially because people always start with “Are you from around here?” or “You look like a nice person, can you just listen to me for a minute?” or “I never do this, I swear, I live in ____ and I have a job as a ____ but I just had my bag stolen…” As soon as I hear those lines, I just think, NOPE.

andnowlights (#2,902)

@EM There’s a guy here that asks for money around midtown (also a lot of tourists around). He claims he’s clean, that he’s a veteran, and that his bicycle was a birthday gift. The last two things may be true, but when you see that person later shooting up behind the convenience store, you only fall for that story once.

honey cowl (#1,510)

MIKE! Nooooooo! Scam. And soooo gross.

hershmire (#695)

“Here’s 50 cents. Call one of your coworkers.”

tw0lle (#4,354)

Once I was on Delancey Street and someone stole my wallet (more precisely, I asked my friend to watch my bag while I went to the bathroom, so of course she immediately went outside to smoke a cigarette and left it alone in the bar, so of course someone stole my wallet). I didn’t realize this until I got down to the subway, at which point I realized that I had no way of getting home. So I stood outside the Delancey Street F station asking people for money to buy a single ride ticket. LOTS of people walked right by, thinking it was a scam, but finally I cornered a group of dudes who initially thought I was trying to flirt with them, and I gave them enough pathetic, specific information that one of them finally took pity on me and swiped me into the subway. If I hadn’t gotten desperate who knows how long it would’ve taken…

HRHbo (#7,403)

A similar thing happened to me one morning. A guy claiming he had to get to work at a wall street bank needed cab fare. I was highly suspicious of his story since he had pretty bad teeth but gave him two bucks to back off. Sure enough, a week later, not recognizing me, he approached me again for money. SMH

ATF (#4,229)

I am late to this but this is what we call a ‘sob story’ in Boston. Universal Hub does a great job covering the various stories these people use to get money out of strangers. They usually hang around the orange or red lines and inevitably need money to get to some place out of the city.

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