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Saturday, November 06, 2004 

To Pay or Not to Pay: Charity or Begging?

On a daily basis, at least 5 people come into my store asking for money and I compiled the most common routines I hear below. And these are just people who walk into one of our stores. The rest can be found plying their wares/routines at coffee shops, bus stops and street corners.

"Good morning, I have just gotten out of drug rehab and would like to stay drug free so I support myself selling these candles for 5€ each. Will you buy some?"
The candles they buy at the dollar store around the corner for 99 cents. This is the newest beggars' routine...by telling you that they've been through drug rehab, they hope to get your praise for doing the right thing. By saying that the candles they sell is their means of support for staying drug-free, then the responsibility is upon you to keep them that way. Conclusion: Beggar by means of psychological extortion.

"Good morning, I have (insert number here) children and we are all hungry, will you give us money?"
Usually, they come in with the youngest child and the most sickly one to prove their dire situation. This is the most common line I hear. In the beginning I always felt bad for the children when I moved here and would give them the money. I figured if I was that child and was dragged from store to store with my mother, I'd be so ashamed and angry that no one cared. But then I stopped even giving to them since the day I saw a 'crew' of professional beggars with about 12 children getting out of a van at the central square. The same ones who came to my store except with different 'parents' this time. Conclusion: Professional Organized Beggars.

"Good morning (usually spoken with a speech impediment), out of your kindness, will you give me money to buy a loaf of bread?"
These people usually limp into the store and with one of their arms dangling as if its completely useless or bandaged up as if it had surgery. They want you to think they're survivors. By asking for a specific necessity like a loaf of bread or medicine they want you to believe they're not asking for money to squander but to use for a legitimate need. I also gave money to them in the beginning because I know the Greek state doesn't have disabled work programs or even satisfactory disability pensions for them. But then, when the same woman came into my store over a 6 month period and her disability would change each time, I stopped giving them money too. Many of them would also call you names for not giving them money as they stomped out of the store. The "disability" always disappeared when the money didn't appear. Conclusion: Beggars Employing Theatrics

"Hi! We're from (insert school name) of Argos and we're selling these calendars and postcards to get money for our school, will you help us out?"
This seems innocent enough but you have to be observant here as well. I was in a coffee square and it was August. What's a school doing sending children out to collect money in August? The things they were selling were from another island. If the scheme was legitimate, they'd be selling tourist items from their own area, not from another island. As with the candle beggars...these beggars buy a large amount of outdated and useless products at a very cheap price and sell them for 400-500% profit. Conclusion: Capitalistic Beggars

Even a priest has come into our stores asking for money and when I asked for a receipt he became angry and asked me if I was Christian Orthodox. Maybe he wasn't a priest but he certainly looked the part.

After 7 years of living in Greece, I have the whole Begging/Charity concept down to a fine science. Beggars always play on your sympathy to get money and become hostile if they don't get what they want. They never give receipts and 90% of the time, they will use one of the above versions to extort money from you. Charities will come with receipt books stamped with the name of their charity and are usually happy with whatever you give them. Sometimes, they also sell overpriced pamphlets, calendars or religious icons to justify the money leaving your till, but since it is a legal charity, I would have given the money with nothing in return so I don't mind. I also give senior citizens money as well since they've already been through so much in Greece and more than half of them are trying to get by on less than 400€ a month, I figure it's the least I can do.

Growing up in Canada, I was not accustomed to seeing so many beggars in what seemed to be such dire situations so I ended up giving a lot of money away. But then I got to thinking that my grandparents lived through the two World Wars and the Depression with 10 children and neither of them, no matter how bad things got, ever begged for money. They worked for their money. I would gladly give money to any of them if they offered to wash my car, clean my windows or provide some service of use to me. I would probably overpay them in this situation. But I guess it's just more profitable to them to walk around to 100 stores a day and my guess is that it works because there seems to be more and more beggars and NONE of them have ever offered to do any work for the money they want. They want it the easy way...selling overpriced useless products or exacting money for advertising in publications which will never be printed. There seems to be no end to the creativity them employ to force you to part with your money. If they only put that much effort into working, imagine how rich they'd be?

it is apparant that you meet many homeless folks because your doors are open to the public which includes them. i reckon there are many reasons why homeless people are homeless. one reason could be the tendency to live a life of lies which seems to be why you are bothered? each incident speaks of the deception and it feels lousy to be insulted with false pretense.

i got to thinking that when i lie, it is predominantly fear based behaviour. it is difficult to stay on track. sometimes i fall off track. i wonder that maybe they did not having the priviledges i have been lucky enough to have so far, without the goodness around me I too could spiral into a pit of not understanding the value of truth or feeling like life is too desperate to take steps towards living more honestly. i am grateful to have and be where I am in life right now and pray I don't find myself without a home one day. It can always happen. I pray for the people who visit you that something shifts their approach that will create positive change. I don't have money to give them but I do have compassion for their struggle and I identify with it too.

thank you for sharing your thoughts, experiences and feeling on this topic.

with love,
your sister,
(guess which one?)

As a fellow citizen of this glorious city we call home! I feel I have to respond and tell you how much I enjoyed reading this article. I even think you should email it to the newspaper, they'd definately print it! I think after you've been here a while, you begin to see through the charade. Of course a beggars number one target will always be a tourist, a tourist who can't believe that the heartless locals don't give these poor down on their luck but essentually kind hearted honest people money.

Other examples of begging involve:

You stop at the red traffic lights, quick as a flash, there's someone 'cleaning' (and we use the word cleaning lightly as they usually have a disgusting rag and no clean water) your windshield. Now the reason they are so quick is they think if they've already started cleaning your windshield, you'll have to pay them. WRONG!! Simply put your wipers on fast and then see how quickly they can move.

When you use the public transport network, this is when you really get targeted, sometimes by the woman and her 4 sickly children who inform you that they haven't eaten for 4 days. My usual responce to that is "well force yourself then, no-one's asked you to go on a starvation diet". Another kind of begger and these are the really lazy ones are the kind who get on with a radio, play it for 1 minute then walk around to collect money from you for the privilege. Yeah right!!

But as I tell these beggars on a daily basis "You don't realize how lucky you are, no matter how bad you think things are now, at least you don't live in Canada"

that's true you guys have gypies and professional beggars. like it is a job. i forgot. for real in this country, if someone is begging they are definitely WITHOUT. hey, remember when we went door to door, we would encounter signs that said:"no bottle collectors, no solicitors, no whatever kind of people would do cold calls...?" .(some people thought we were poor too and our parents were making us sell the watchtowers and awakes for money to live on). so i was thinking that maybe you could simply, officiously as they are about their professional begging, put up a nice but clear and prominantly displayed sign "NO BEGGING ALLOWED". I mean I think it's a kind thing to let beggars know that it's not going to be the MOST productive place to beg, straight upfront, before they invest a lot of energy into their routine. that perhaps they will have better luck elsewhere. Since it is about business, they'll want to take the easier route, as you say. even for a day or a week, just to see if it changes things. but word of mouth will spread in the begging community too. like when we went door to door-ing, we were pro and kept a notebook and remembered who paid attention to us and wo was scary or mean. they are professional too.


It's interesting that you missed one hideous tactic of beggarism that seems to be prevalent throughout the west--especially in North America. This begging tactic goes by the euphemism of "tipping".

I am sick and tired of having to tip:
- waitresses
- taxi drivers
- hairdressers
- shampooers
- colorists
- pedicurists
- manicurists
- doormen
- chambermaids
- cashiers at a diner/coffee shop/fast food court

Now before you start yapping about how poorly paid these people are, please remember that these people chose their jobs. If those jobs don't pay enough money, you have two choices:

1. Get your employer to increase your salary.
2. Find another job that pays more.

Just don't expect me to finance your employer's miserly wage habits. It is not my job to make sure you earn a decent living.

I don't get tips for my job. I don't tip pilots or bus drivers...why should I tip taxi drivers?

The sad thing is...I do tip. Not because I want to...just because I'm a sad victim of societal peer pressure. Plus...I'm afraid that my food will be poisoned, my hair will turn green and I'll be dropped off 10 miles from my destination if I don't tip. It's extortion! It's beggaristic terrorism!

Yours truly,

HRH Queen Bee

P.S. That being said, I do tip paper boys because they're doing pretty much the only job they can do at their age. And they're out in all kinds of weather. And I like to reward their working spirit. Mind you...I'm probably not doing anything more than teaching the youngsters that if your job doesn't pay you enough, expect your customers to make up the difference.

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