Thursday, July 14, 2011

Do you take plastic?

I was pumping gas last night on my way home from work and a man approached me, squeegee in hand asking if he could clean my windows for some money. It's not an uncommon occurrence and my response was not uncommon either: "Dude, I don't have any cash?" I said.

"How about any change? Anything at all? I'm just looking to get dinner," he said.

"No cash. Nothing. That's why I'm using my debit card at the pump," I replied.

And it made me wonder. How has the ease of credit card transactions and the rise in debit card use affected panhandling? I'm sure that I'm not alone in not carrying cash, so there has to have been a drop off in donations, right?

Then I wondered about Girl Scout cookies and the Salvation Army. Those approaches outside grocery stores have been documented to have been hurt by the rise of the credit card. So much so that both organizations are testing out ways to take credit cards. I wonder if some entrepreneurial homeless person will do the same thing? In Nashville they have a paper (The Contributor) that the homeless sell and get to keep the money from. I wonder if they'll ever equip their sales force with the ability to take credit cards. The money could be loaded onto a gift card Visa and then used at any reputable store.

Apparently I wasn't the only one thinking this, as it was posted elsewhere for pondering too. But I think my suggestions are more creative. What do you think? Do you give less now that debit cards are ubiquitous?

Blogger's Note: Apparently I wrote about this in December 2008, as well. And no, I didn't remember it either. I think this post is much better though, so you should read it too.


Misty said...

As a Girl Scout troop leader, I can atest that once cookie season starts people will hit up the nearest ATM, rob their piggy banks, or do anything else to get their hands on cookies. My troop stood outside of 8 stores last season and rarely (if at all) did anyone not buy because of lack of cash. Those who didn't have cash always got cash back from their debit purchases to buy cookies. Of course, I don't know how this affects panhandling but clearly Somoas and Thin Mints take precedence over giving to the homeless...

Beth said...

I don't know that carrying absolutely no cash is the way of most. I try to always have at least some cash on me. If I have less than 10 or 20 bucks, I'll usually stop at the atm or get cash back on a debit purchase.

Hoosier Chick said...

I specifically don't carry cash during Girl Scout cookie time to avoid my weakness. Although I fear this strategy may, in a moment of utter weakness against the power of the Thing Mint, one day lead me to punch a homeless person for his cash.


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