I was on the Champs, on my way to the PSG Boutique to continue to get fanned-out for my new hometown soccer team. A fairly attractive girl came up to me with a clipboard. “Do you speak English?” “Yes,” I replied. “We are raising money for children.” “Where,” I asked, prepared to give a couple euros if it was for a good cause. “Tunisia,” she replied. I filled in my name and address and then it got to the donation line. I noticed above my name 5 other addresses with the amount 20 euros in the donation field. I held out a 2-euro coin. Instead of gracefully accepting, she looked down at it and said, “C’mon, you have more.” I smiled politely and said, “this is all I can give.” She abruptly walked off. Puzzled, I walked off as well.
Later that day, as I was journaling, I connected the dots. It was a scam. If she was really collecting for a charity would she refuse any amount? Would she have just gone for the kill without asking if I had a moment to hear about her charity? Most importantly, would she have just walked off without even taking my 2 euro donation? She displayed the calm of a seasoned scammer: leave the minnows so you can land the whales. I even saw in my mind’s eye in my later recollection that the first 4 lines on the paper had extremely similar handwriting, and had all given the exact same (very convenient) amount.
In any major city you are going to find earnest young people who want to talk to you. In Vienna over the weekend I had a nice chat with a couple Greenpeace kids. Usually they will be wearing some distinctive clothing or vests or can be counted on to engage you in thoughtful conversation. Someone walking up to you with a flimsy paper backed in a report holder asking if you, “speak English” before immediately asking you for money is scamming you. They are being creative in their scamming, and playing to the guard that might be down on a dream vacation to Paris or whatever your destination of choice may be.
When you see these kids, you can say “Non” and keep walking, or do as I do – and completely avoid making eye contact with them at all. Such cynical examples of humanity do not deserve your courtesy or your pity. Indeed, I have to work very hard not to let my anger lash out at them. An entrepreneurial mind can think up one dozen legitimate ways to make money for every nonsense scam like this. Some people do deserve your time and possibly your charity. These people are not part of that number.