The Dharma’s and Their Bleeding Hearts

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Hello and happy Sunday!

So Dharma thought she would take the opportunity to offer this Public Service Announcement as a great piece of advice.  If it can help prevent you from falling prey to the same emotional scam, it will have been worth sharing this moderately embarrassing experience.

Very recently, after a lovely dinner out with some good friends, we were approached by a homeless man as we walked to our car.  In a very non-threatening and low key manner, he asked us if we liked a particular high end restaurant popular in our city.  As we said we did, he handed us a $100 gift card to this very restaurant and said we could have it, here you go, no strings attached…

He told us that a very well-meaning lady had given it to him, but when he went to use it, the restaurant would not allow him entrance due to his appearance.  They simply wouldn’t allow him to eat there.

Bam, just like that, he wins us over, round one is his.  Here’s this guy, down on his luck, just trying to get some food, and is denied this base necessity.  Why couldn’t the restaurant, even if they decided not to let him in, honour the gift card and at least pack him up a very impressive $100 take out bag?  A guy needs to eat, right?

So there he is, insisting we just take this card, and very predictably, we are feeling like, well we can’t just take this $100 card and go off to eat our steak dinner knowing he’s got nothing out of the deal…

That would just be wrong… right?

Now I’m asking how we can help, scrambling to find a solution. Brilliant, right?  He’s got me looking for a way to keep this going

He goes in for round 2 – offer a solution!  He tells us that he’s just trying to scrape up enough money, $35, to get a bed in a mission for the night… And since I don’t have any cash on me, he politely volunteers that there’s an ATM handily located just a block down the street.

A tiny alarm goes off in my head, but not quite loudly enough to stop the momentum that has built. The card is in my hand and it feels like the only way forward is forward.  It would be rude to back out now, wouldn’t it…

I tell him I’d be willing to give him $20 towards his room, would that be okay?  His response is grateful; anything we can do would be so appreciated.  Interestly, if he had pushed for $35 in that moment, I would have felt badgered and pulled away.  Did he know that?

Anyway, round 2 is a success

So off we all go, a merry little group, raging at the indignity of human kind that won’t allow a hungry man to eat…

I have enough sense not to let him into the ATM vestibule with me as I withdraw the $20, debating the whole time if I should give him $40, because after all, he needs $35… however, I settle on the $20 and incur a $3 service charge in the process.

I return and hand him the $20 bill. He looks up at me with a mixture of disappointment and disdain, like really?  I’m giving you $100 and you’re really only giving me $20 in exchange?  Quite the mood change, now that cash is actually exchanging hands.

He knows his window of opportunity is about to close, so he goes in for the TKO and really ramps up the guilt trip about needing a place to sleep, he’s hungry and has headaches, life is terrible. Arghhh, how could we be so insensitive to his plight, and actually benefit from it with a $100 card that only cost us $20?

Mr. Dharma responds in suit and starts digging through his pockets to see if there is anything else we can offer him, and comes up with another $4 in change.  The guy takes it, of course, but is staring at it like we’ve offered him mouse turds.

We stand there awkwardly for what seems like forever.  I know he’s waiting for me to get more money, and I’m waiting for him to at least say effing thank you for what we have given him, and finally, it’s a stalemate.

We mutter an uncomfortable good night and walk away in silence. A minute later I say, “Huh. Think the card is even active?”

Yeah, thanks Brain, for finally kicking in.

We get into our car and immediately Google the restaurant in question and punch in the card number.

“THIS CARD IS NOT ACTIVE”

Ahahahahhahaha – WOW!!!  Brilliant!  The guy is fricking BRILLIANT!!!  Do you see what he did there?  He GAVE us the card.  He GAVE it to us!!!  And we actively handled the rest of it all by our own selves, albeit with a few gentle nudges along the way.

Now I’m pissed.  This guy emotionally manipulated us and cashed in on the few good things left in our society, primarily the desire to be helpful and kind, and he SCREWED us!

My vigilante nature kicks into full gear and now I’m revving the car in the direction we saw him go.  A minute later Mr. Dharma yells out, “THERE HE IS – AND HE’S DOING IT AGAIN!!!” as another doe eyed couple stands as a captive audience on the street corner.

I skid off the street as Mr. Dharma tumbles out of the car screaming, “DON’T DO IT DON’T BUY THE CARD THE GUY’S A SCAMMER DON’T DOOOOOOOO IIIIIIIIIIIIIT!!!”

The guy immediately beetles off down the street as the couple wanders off in a daze, still grasping the card in their hands. Apparently there’s no shortage of gifts from fictitious well-meaning ladies to pass around.

Finally – one point for the Dharma’s!

We feel good that we saved even one well intended couple from offering this troll their first born. However, that feeling quickly fades as we drive home (me fighting the urge to continue following this guy around for the rest of his life) feeling stupid, taken advantage of, and just plain… stupid.  We’re not dumb, we Dharma’s, and yet we put ourselves in a position where our base emotional values could be used against us.

So!  Lesson learned?  I’d say so… Don’t think I’ll be running off to the bank machine anytime soon to remedy the ache of my bleeding heart…

And unfortunately for this guy?  I’m thinking he’s already living a life with the karmic results of his actions.

Want to share this experience with anyone you think could benefit from our little fiasco?  Please don’t even think twice when you hit the forward button.

Dharma

givers

 

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8 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    Oh man, sorry to hear that! What a jerk!

    I live in Vancouver, BC, a city where everyone seems entitled, even the panhandlers! I have this guy always sitting in front of my local supermarket with a sign saying he’s homeless and hungry. I usually walk by but on a particularly cold evening I went inside and bought a hot dinner from the deli and gave it to him.

    He condescendingly looked at it, said “another diner?!” and put it to the side. WTF!!

    I have to walk by him all the time and want to put up a sign saying “Don’t give to him – he doesn’t appreciate it!”

    I don’t doubt there’s real people in real need but your guy and mine spoil it for them.

    • Dharma says:

      Agreed 100%. This experience won’t stop me from helping others, but I have to say, I will have a little more awareness the next time I choose to…

      Giving feels good. Being scammed does not.

  • Irene McGuinness says:

    Gosh I saw this coming after the opening line. My first thought was that the card was ‘hot’. Then I read a little further and thought… seriously… what person would give $100 gift certificate from a chi chi restaurant to a homeless??? Maybe to Tim’s or Safeway or Save On… But a nice restaurant?? He saw you folks coming. Very creative of him. But he doesn’t represent the true homeless people and the down-and-outers. Maybe just a few.

    Gosh, scammers are out there in all walks of life, not just among the homeless. Have you had to block any phone calls lately or did you actually inherit from a long lost uncle in Kenya? …I have to say …this fellow was one crafty person who’s figured out yet again how to “work the system” with unethical intentions. The world is full of ’em…. (notwithstanding various politicians).

    But there are indeed many very needy and homeless people out there and the gap is widening. Do not open your wallet on a street. … I repeat, do not open your wallet on the street. You can ask if they’re hungry and trot over to a little place and buy them a sandwich. They’re as close as any bank machine. And you can keep a card in your purse that lists places where these folks can grab a dry bed and sleep. They’re out there. In the meantime, want to spend money? Support your local food-bank, United Gospel Mission, Salvation Army, Harvest … local church… And please don’t stop giving because of one jerk. Would you stop voting because of a big one?

    • Dharma says:

      I’d prefer to think we were just one of his many targets, as opposed to being the suckers he saw coming… 🙂

      Thanks for the suggestions for all the ways there are to give… you’re right, there are many needy and homeless folks out there who need our assistance.

      This was meant more for awareness – giving by choice is one thing, to be lied to and misled into giving money is quite another.

  • Anonymous says:

    I believe that he did what he felt he had to based on his life circumstances, as did you. No winner or loser here, just life. You have the privilege of being in the position of giver, rather than the needy person who chooses to con and manipulate to get by. It was $24 worth of life lesson you take out of it what you choose!

    • Dharma says:

      $27, actually. Don’t forget the service fee.

      While I recognize that we for sure are in the more fortunate position – thankfully – being emotionally manipulated out of money had nothing to do with my life circumstances – did it? Maybe I’m missing something…

      If we knowingly understood the situation, and gave a homeless person money with no blatant deceit involved, I would agree with your statement of no winners or losers.

      Needless to say, it sure didn’t leave us with a warm and fuzzy feeling, but you’re right, a life lesson indeed.

    • Anonymous says:

      Are you effing serious? The guy took advantage of someone’s good heart. They are the losers! There is no excuse for what the guy did. He could have asked for money. He chose to deliberately deceive them. I hope he gets what he deserves…

      • Dharma says:

        Haha – did you just call us losers? 🙂

        Yeah, well, I guess so, right? We weren’t the winners in that situation, that’s for sure…

        And that we walked away from it feeling stupid and taken advantage of (which we were on both counts!) he just turned around and tried it again.

        Sigh…

Whether you agree with Dharma or think she missed the mark on this one, leave a Comment!

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