I was making an early escape from the office this afternoon with several coworkers when we exited the lobby of our building and were flagged down by a man in the sky-way. I realized he was deaf when he signed something to us and offered a piece of paper in our direction. Thinking he needed assistance, I approached him, followed by my coworker, Maria. Glancing at the paper he placed in my hands, I quickly realized he didn’t need help but was seeking monetary donations for a trip being planned by a deaf persons’ association.
Maria stood by my side as we tried to understand what he was asking while the others smirked in our direction and kept on going. The paper the man had given me was an unprofessional photocopy of a handwritten pledge sheet. It contained a brief explanation of the trip that was being planned and two columns for signatures and the amount of the donation each person had given. A few names and dollar amounts had already been recorded and it appeared most peope had given a few bucks each. I rummaged through my purse hoping to find a few singles, but no such luck. I looked at Maria warily and mumbled that I only had a ten in my purse. She told me all she had was a handful of change. At the same moment the deaf man was showing us a quickly scribbled note that said he could give change.
The first thought that crossed my mind was that this was a scam. The man could have easily forged the signatures and dollar amounts. His pledge sheet was unprofessional and there was nothing to prove that this was a legitimate fundraiser. Maria seemed to be anticipating my decision.
I’m not exactly sure what motivated me, but I signed my first name and an illegible last name and wrote down five dollars. I handed the pledge sheet back to the man, showing him the ten dollar bill and held up five fingers to reiterate that I was offering five dollars. He reached in his pocket and produced a five dollar bill and I traded him for my ten. Immediately afterwards, Maria handed him all the change she could pull from her purse. He gave her the pledge sheet and pointed to it, wanting her to record her name and pledge amount too. I saw her write down her first name and a fake last name and that she had given two dollars, but I’m sure it was closer to four or five. The man signed what I assumed was a thank you.
As Maria and I proceeded walking to our parking ramp, we laughed and asked each other if we’d been scammed. I jokingly asked her if she thought the man would’ve given me a receipt for tax purposes. We soon caught up with our other coworkers who immediately wanted to know what that had been all about and then informed us we had been suckered. I shrugged them off.
I thought a lot about that event as I drove home. What if I had been suckered? The man was not dressed well and he wasn’t exactly what I’d call neatly groomed. Maybe he HAD devised a somewhat believable hoax to collect some cash for himself. So? What if I had been duped?
I thought about the hundreds of dollars I spend each month on car payments, mortgage payments, the cell phone plan, cable, internet and any number of necessities and luxuries. And what about all the conveniences? In any given week, how much do I spend on fast food or any of the kids’ whims when we are out shopping? What about the five dollar coffee cooler I bought this morning?
If the fundraiser was a scam, then I hope the man is able to get what he needs with my money. He certainly didn’t look like he was in the habit of buying five dollar coffees or lunches at Leeann Chin.
And what if the fundraiser WAS legit? Then I donated a pittance in comparison to all the other ways my money is spent.
If nothing else, the whole situation served as a reminder of how good I have it. And that’s well worth five dollars if you ask me.
Does this kind of thing ever happen to you? How do you handle it? What would you have done in my situation?