53

I'm not sure if the answers to Appropriate ways to dismiss street vendors? apply to this situation, as it is about people asking for money without a compensation. That's why I'm asking a new question about an experience of mine, that got me thinking.

Situation

I was at a public location where usually a lot of students are around. Since I was waiting for something, I was just standing there. Then someone, let's call them "Bob", approached me.

About Bob

Bob was around 20-30 years old and blended in perfectly with the other students. Nothing extraordinary about him, a very typical appearance. So this is not about a poor beggar.

The conversation

While I remember that person vividly, I don't remember the exact wording, so please do not take everything in the following conversation literally. It's more important, what kind of information were given and what was left unsaid.

Bob: Hey

Me: Hi

Bob: Can you help me?

Me: What do you need help with?

I thought he would ask me the way or the like.

Bob: Now followed a (somewhat) longer monologue about helping people. Sounded to me like a crowdfunding-related marketing text.

Me: How can I help you?

Bob: I need money.

This is the decisive moment my question concerns.

Back then, I said something to the effect, that I didn't have money (not a complete lie, especially considering that no information was given). This frustrated Bob so much that he went away immediately, mumbling something, sounding disappointed.

Question

My question is: How do I (politely) dismiss a request for money from a stranger?

My goal is: I do not want to give them money, and want to end the conversation as soon as possible.

I would prefer a polite solution, but I became unsure about insisting too much on it and so only put it in brackets.

Now, additional details/explanations:

  • Only in the last question did Bob actually mention money. He didn't do so before (also not during that monologue).
  • Bob never disclosed how much money (or in which form, i. e. bank transfer or cash) he wanted or what (or whom) he needed it for for.
  • I was surprised that the conversation ended so quickly. But I wonder, and that's also why I ask that question, how to react if they had continued asking for money.
  • I'm not sure if my reaction was overly polite. The conversation was short and not unfriendly, but that's hard to judge now. I tried to remain neutral.
  • Comments deleted. Comments are not for answers; please write answers as answers and use comments to ask for clarifications and suggest improvements to the question. – HDE 226868 Sep 28 '17 at 15:28
  • One thing that worked for me is not to let him finish his monologue, and ask straight away: "What do you want? Money?" If what they want remains unclear, it is always money. – Florian F Oct 1 '17 at 22:03
  • Whatever the case, Bob was either on his way to dying or on his way to self-actualization. If the latter, you could have been a hero and potentially on to something greater than the plan you were on that day. If so, you and humanity missed out. If the issue is just "I feel uncomfortable", then perhaps you are putting yourself in a bind merely due to social programming. – theDoctor Oct 2 '17 at 0:35
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    Insufficient rep for answer, but I started carrying a couple business cards for the local nonprofit that runs the shelters and connects the needy with employment opportunities. A few panhandlers have taken them, most just say no or walk away - generally without even making an attempt to justify it or twist into a new pitch. The info on the cards is actually posted around the hotspots and readily available, but having something concrete to show I'm willing to help if truly needed (plus donating to the shelters / food bank) lets me say 'no' with a clear conscience, and sends them on quickly. – brichins Oct 10 '17 at 21:11

18 Answers 18

44

My go-to reply is:

Sorry, no. Have a nice day! [turn and walk away]

  • It's courteous
  • You provide no reason, so they cannot point out flaws in your reasoning
  • You have not given them nothing; a well-wish is more acknowledgement than they may otherwise receive from any stranger

This works even after they have told a long story.

I recommend committing to the have a nice day with eye contact and a smile; it's important to mean it. This is disarming enough to give you a few strides head-start. They are unlikely to chase you.

  • 3
    It can be disarming, but it's hard to mean something like this if you're surprised in the parking lot at night. If it's not genuine, they may get upset, so I would recommend saying this only if you're truly being genuine. – Casey Kuball Sep 27 '17 at 18:11
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    I live in a busy downtown area, and this is nearly verbatim my exact line: "Sorry man, have a good day!" I keep it positive, I keep walking, and more often than not they just move on to the next person, and occasionally thank me back. I think this is a good move because it doesn't dehumanize them and doesn't use an obvious white lie. – TankorSmash Sep 27 '17 at 18:34
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    Bet answer I've seen here. I like to tweak it to "No thank you". Not only does that imply that I believe they were clearly offering me something in return, likely some kind of conscience or annoyance alleviation service that I do not wish to partake of, but also by the time they work all that out in their heads I'm a couple of steps further way. – T.E.D. Sep 28 '17 at 20:02
  • 1
    I prefer "Good luck to you" for the follow-up.They may be having the worst day they've ever had. – Erik Reppen Nov 13 '17 at 4:41
83

At the bottom, this is someone asking you to do them a favor, and a stranger at that. You can choose to do something, but it is not impolite to not do so.

There is nothing wrong with saying, "sorry, no," and leaving it at that. You are under no compulsion to give them a reason or explain yourself.

Re "isn't saying 'sorry' lying?": it's phatic shorthand for "I see that you want to engage on this. I'm choosing not to. I understand you might feel bad about that because rejection is potentially hurtful. I'm acknowledging you might be feeling that and apologizing for it." Admittedly it is rather a pro forma apology, but I think it's appropriate.

And quite a bit shorter.

  • 24
    This is the best answer because you're not advising people to lie. Well done for that. "I wish I could," "I would if I had cash with me," etc., etc. are all just lies. You don't have to give a reason. – Wildcard Sep 27 '17 at 2:31
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    This is indeed a great idea. If the follow-up question to "no" is "why not?" then "I simply cannot" is both true and vague. – Eric Lippert Sep 27 '17 at 5:05
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    This is by far the best answer. Panhandlers survive by creating a false feeling of connection and desire to help them. Don't fall for it. That you need to ask the question shows you already (partially) did. If a stranger asks you for anything, a polite "no" is an absolutely acceptable answer and don't let anyone tell you otherwise or that you need to have a reason or have to explain yourself. You don't. The only courtesy you owe them is to answer the question, and even that only once. – Tom Sep 27 '17 at 15:29
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    You are also completely within your rights to ignore them after this response. You've already made yourself clear. Walk away, turn away, put in your headphones. This interaction is now over and it is not impolite to act on that. – Joe McMahon Sep 28 '17 at 19:45
  • 8
    "Sorry, no" was the polite bit. The conversation is now over. – Joe McMahon Sep 29 '17 at 4:32
19

As a guess, if Bob has a ready, well-polished long speech, he's used to asking money to people. Therefore, he's also ready to hear any denegation. Why? Because I have seen (unfortunately) many persons like Bob in cities and countries in Europe. The problem is: is the beggar a truly needing person, or another poor person that is under the thumb of a sort of local mafia?

Having said that, I'm as cautious as possible. Because I consider myself lucky, and would not want to be either one of them :( So I'll be very careful when saying no. And always be nice when I decline, with a sorry grin and a smile.

Usually, I say: Sorry, but I don't have [ enough / any ] spare change, and can not afford it.

This way, I let them know I don't have money for them, even if I have some / a little, it's not enough to share. There's not really a nice way to dismiss, only a workaround, I believe.

When doing that, I never had much trouble. If Bob is either a needing person or a "professional beggar", he won't have much more time to lose, and go away, looking for someone else. Because he already lost some time with you and his long speech.

  • 12
    As a Canadian, I'm less concerned about the "local mafia" side; but there's a decent chance anyone with a rehearsed script for why they need money may not actually be spending it well. – JMac Sep 26 '17 at 18:16
  • @JMac : unfortunately, I'm pretty sure almost any country in the world has a kind of organized crime (what I called "local mafia"). We don't always see them but they exist, in many ways: robbery, burglary, and many other hustlers, in many fields. Some 20+ years ago, some really poor polish young men (blind) were brought to Western Europe and forced to sell stuff for blind people. Pretty quickly, police found out some thugs had "hired" them, telling they would be helped and have a decent job. Until they had moved to a new country... :((( – OldPadawan Sep 26 '17 at 21:06
  • There's always some form of organized crime. I'm just pretty sure it's not based around panhandlers here. I mean either way I guess it doesn't really matter to me. I generally treat the money the same way (i.e. never giving it to them). Mostly because all the panhandlers are on the same street in my city, and I always used to walk down that street as a broke ass student having all of them ask for my change. From that point on I adopted a "they don't know what I'm going through, I don't know what they're going through" approach to the situation. – JMac Sep 26 '17 at 21:12
  • “…another poor person that is under the thumb of a sort of local mafia?” What the heck does that even mean? – JakeGould Sep 27 '17 at 17:18
  • 9
    It means, in some places, beggars have pimps. – Bradd Szonye Sep 28 '17 at 8:14
10

Bless your heart for listening to his spiel. I can't stand that. But you're nicer than me. :)

Whenever anyone asks for money and cites an organization, I always ask for some literature telling me more about their organization and their 'cause', and promise that upon receipt, I will read it and give it some serious thought.

It usually ends right there. No, not usually; always.

If the person looks like a beggar, I never withhold from giving them something.

In college, I knew someone who would spend a weekend a month in NYC panhandling to make his car payment. His car was a Mercedes. His parents were rich, but wouldn't buy him a Mercedes, so he bought it himself and financed it this way. I kid you not.

8

There's a world of difference between college student poor and homeless poor.

That said there's a few options.

Sorry, I don't carry cash.

Often true, in the US at least many people use debit and charge cards as their primary means of paying for stuff.

I would if I could.

Implies that you're also struggling financially, and would help if you were more able.

And my personal favorite:

Sorry, I'm broke as a joke.

I used this one often, because it was often true and it offers a touch of humor and camaraderie.


As a side note, I'd like to add a basic thing I learned about being "street smart". When a stranger approaches you for money, the longer and more elaborate their pitch/story is, the more likely it is that they're lying. When someone gives you a long sad story, there's a good chance that it's an addict or a hustler who's been at it for a while. Don't get me wrong, these people probably have a very sad story, it's just likely not the one they're telling.

People who are honestly "just in a rough spot" don't like to be reduced to panhandling and usually don't want to have a long conversation about it.

  • In this case, no reason whatsoever was given, especially not a sad story. That's why I described it as a "crowdfunding-like marketing text". That's what gave me the impression, that there was something fishy about it. But your last paragraph seems to suggest, that this may mean that they were being more honset? – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Sep 26 '17 at 16:45
  • @AnneDaunted I was trying to say that this person having a long prepared monologue probably isn't a good sign. – apaul Sep 26 '17 at 16:58
8

I used to work in Downtown and encountered a few Bob-like characters. Their strategy seems to be to launch into a long story that only at the end cycles about how they some money.

I guess the idea is that after you talked to them for five minutes it would be harder to just dismiss them, so the first strategy is to not let them tell you the sales pitch. It's harder to do if you are standing around waiting as you're obviously not busy, but perhaps you could say that you need to make a phone call or look for your friend.

If you did hear the pitch there might not really be any way to deny them that won't disappoint since they spent the time with their long-ish story so the best you can do is basically what you did, decline and mention your own money troubles (real or otherwise)

Overall if the person is after money, any encounter that doesn't yield money is a waste of time for them and a disappointment, so try to not get sucked in, and if you can't don't worry too much about disappointing them as that seems pretty inevitable anyway

P.S.
Other answers suggested saying that you don't carry cash. I would advise against it, because while it can work sometimes, it can also backfire if the person simply asks you to buy something: food for their child from a nearby convenience store (if that's the "story" they went with), train tickets etc. Saying you'd like to help but can't because of [REASONS] invites them to try and solve that problem, saying you're broke is more final

  • I've quoted bits of your answer in mine so I give you credit ;) – peufeu Sep 26 '17 at 18:40
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    In stead of saying that you need to make a phone call, you could just not lie and say that you are not interested. – Hans Janssen Sep 27 '17 at 9:09
8

Bob gave you a long speech, which he most likely gave to many different people that day. This is a sales speech. A con artist is simply a salesman who went to the dark side. Instead of selling a product, he sells good feelings: if Bob is a good con artist, after he milks you for cash, you'll feel like a saint for helping him feed his twelve children! Look, he even has pictures!

Bob doesn't look like a random bum. In that case you'd give him a buck or just a smile to acknowledge he's still a person even though he smells a bit funny, and that's it.

So I'd cast Bob as a businessman. Bob aims to be efficient, and collect the maximum amount of money in the minimum amount of time. This means he has honed his target selection skills: it is in Bob's interest to select the right target and not lose time with people who won't pay.

Thus the best way to get rid of Bob is to signal that you're a tough target. There's no need to be rude or anything:

Bob: Can you help me?

You: Girlfriend's waiting, well I guess I can be a minute late.

This gives Bob an extra problem: he will have to convince you to stay long enough so he can deliver his sales speech, while knowing your GF is waiting. Bob will reassess his chances. This also gives Bob a way out: you have a minute to spare. Thus, Bob asks where to find the pet store, and leaves you alone.

In this scenario, you don't know Bob is a con artist. He might just have been a random guy looking for the pet store and you helped. Good for you ;)

Bob: Now followed a (somewhat) longer monologue about helping people. Sounded to me like a crowdfunding-related marketing text.

The longer you spend listening, the more Bob will view you as a gullible sucker. So when you guessed he was gonna ask for money, or maybe pull some marketing trick, or ask for a poll or to sign a petition... You should have interrupted immediately at this point with "Thank you, but my girlfriend's waiting, I don't have the time. Have a nice day." Then leave.

Don't say you're broke, don't talk about money, don't weasel out, don't whine, you don't need to explain any more than that. It's really simple. Tone is important, you should cut him off with a raised hand, be assertive, maybe frown a bit.

Using excuses ("I don't have any money...") signals weakness, and a con artist loves that, it makes you a better target. They can debunk your excuses.

Let's be honest, you don't care about this guy's feelings, you're simply looking for a way to get out without making him angry, and this is a good one.

Now, I will add some street smarts to the other answers here:

Cucumber: Stranger: Well, there is an ATM right around the corner/in that gas station.

Bob looks over your shoulder as you enter your PIN code. Then he produces a surprisingly large knife and begins to act unfriendly. You surrender your credit card, he has the PIN, and while you're at it your phone and your wallet. In the next five minutes, Bob busts your CC's cash withdrawal limit, then empties the rest of your account by purchasing bitcoins online using your phone.

You can keep the knife that's planted in your gut ;) it's on the house.

Stranger wants to walk you to an ATM = RED FLAG!

If I genuinely don't have any cash, I take my wallet out and open it up and show it to them.

He grabs it and runs. Your credit card is inside. He doesn't have the PIN, but he can still purchase bitcoins online.

Maxim: Other answers suggested saying that you don't carry cash. I would advise against it, because while it can work sometimes, it can also backfire if the person simply asks you to buy something.

OK, he takes you to the tacos truck and buy him some. You got no cash, so you pull out your credit card. That's when you realize he wanted tacos because running away from a taco truck is a lot easier than from the inside of a shop. Oh, yeah, he also memorized your PIN when you typed it to buy the tacos.

Location-dependent: CC insurance does not cover you when the thief has the PIN, unless you can make a good enough case that you didn't just surrender the PIN freely (a knife sticking out of your gut would certainly strengthen your case though).

If you want to give him some cash, put your hand in your pocket and pull out a few coins. Exhibiting your wallet in front of someone you suspect to be a potential thief would not be a very good move.

Do not pull out your shiny new iPhone to look at the time when you say you're late to meet your girlfriend either.

If you are a girl and wear a "Very Small And Easy To Steal Purse" the same applies.

  • 2
    I like the idea of giving yourself an out pre-emptively, although now days I don't start listening to the "sales pitch", but that's because as I said I encountered a bunch of 'em so as soon as hear something like "I came here from Calgary, but then ..." or "Look I'm not asking for money, it's just that ...", I'm like "Nope, heard it all before, ain't got patience for this" – Maxim Sep 26 '17 at 18:57
  • 1
    Bob aims to be efficient, and collect the maximum amount of money in the minimum amount of time. This means he has honed his target selection skills: it is in Bob's interest to select the right target and not lose time with people who won't pay. Would seem to be at odds with Using excuses ("I don't have any money...") signals weakness, and a con artist loves that, it makes you a better target. Someone who says they don't have money is a poor target. They're both obviously reluctant, and possibly actually broke. – apaul Sep 26 '17 at 19:58
  • Bob doesn't have to believe you when you say you're broke. Maybe he saw you with a $1000 iphone an hour ago. Consider salesman tactics: you can't really afford that granite countertop... So he'll talk financing options and convince you to get a credit so you can buy it! (and he gets his bonus on the credit too) – peufeu Sep 26 '17 at 20:09
  • 1
    @apaul34208 My point is, if you say "I can't afford this" instead of just "Nope" you create an attack vector for the salesman/con-artist: now his job is to convince you that you can afford it. He does this everyday, this is his job, he won't be put off by it. Thus, the "involve third party" ruse: "Thank you for your very detailed explanations. But you understand I must talk about the granite countertop with my wife, she insisted about choosing the color. We'll make sure to keep in touch with you." Note the wife is very conspicuously NOT THERE during the negociation, because I'm not married.. – peufeu Sep 26 '17 at 20:19
  • And... in a past job, the salesmen managed to sell our software to PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T OWN COMPUTERS. Yes this is true. They bragged about it loud enough, repeatedly and at length. After this we changed our bonus policy, to make sure the salesmen only got their bonus when the customer doesn't sue us after purchase, which magically cut down on the amount of insanity we had to deal with. – peufeu Sep 26 '17 at 20:23
5

"Sorry. I can't help."

That's really all you need to say. There is no onus on you to be polite, because asking a stranger for money is not a polite thing to do.

If they persist and don't leave you alone then repeat more sternly: "Sorry. I can't help." If they still persist then they are harassing you and you have every right to get irritated and tell them to leave you alone.

You don't need to lie or continue engaging with them. You also don't need to assume that they are homeless and down on their luck. They could just be a sponge or a chancer/scam-artist.

I see that you're a female because females tend to be more agreeable than males so be aware of that. Also, some people are saying you should give them advice or refer to them agencies or services that can help them; you do not need to do any of this! I live in a major city and encounter dozens of beggars every day; do you think I have the time to give counselling sessions to every beggar?! If you feel strongly about helping then donate to a local church/homeless shelter.

  • 1
    "I can't help" is always true even if the reason is that it goes against your personal rule to only give to properly vetted charitable institutions. – stannius Sep 27 '17 at 19:33
3

I always use this one simple sentence that holds true for half the population of this world in these days:

I am sorry man, I don't have any cash on me. I wish I could help but I never carry cash anymore.

People usually take this well, but there are some people who tend to pry harder to get something out of you. Here are a few scenarios I have been in:

Stranger: Well, there is an ATM right around the corner/in that gas station.
Me: Yeah, but it is not my bank ATM and it charges me a huge surcharge which I am not trying to spend.

[Even though very uncommon, I've had this response]
Stranger: It's alright, we accepts all major debit and credit cards.
Me: Well there is a reason why I don't carry cash anymore because I don't have any in my bank to take out of! I am a very broke student, sorry

Stranger: Oh come on man, I know you're lying. Everyone has a little bit of cash.
Me: [If I genuinely don't have any cash, I take my wallet out and open it up and show it to them. Be careful if the stranger looks sketchy/healthy enough to be able to grab it and run!]/[If I actually have cash...] There is no need for me to lie to you, look at me! Do I look like I have money? [laugh]

The best way to sound nice and polite when declining to give someone your money is to talk to them like they're just as human as you. Talk to them like you respect them, irrespective of the fact that he asked you for money. But don't do it too formally. That makes you sound dishonest.

Use words like "man", "bro", "dude".. Something on the friendlier, informal side of addressing people. If it is a lady, "ma'm" will work just fine, but you usually don't need to use any such words with a woman. In my experience, women tend to not pry too much. They leave much quicker than men do.

If you're genuinely concerned about not hurting the stranger's feelings or them not hurting yours, being nice and friendly with a smile on your face goes a long way! There is no need to give them the third degree (not saying you gave them the third degree, just a figure of speech). If the guy's story sounds like something that deserved an honest reaction from you, like so:

My car broke down and my baby is in the car, I need some money for gas

My wife and daughter are sick and I need to buy medicines for them

I am collecting money for the blind homeless people

Or something that deserves recognition and appreciation IF TRUE, tell them you don't have money and ALWAYS add a sentence that makes them realize that you believe their story and just cannot help them out. It doesn't matter if you don't believe their story but, being nice and acting like you do doesn't cost you anything. Like so:

[no money blah blah] But I hope you get back home somehow, I am really sorry you're stuck like this

[no money blah blah] That is horrible, I am sorry for you and I hope you get the medicines for your family.

[no money blah blah] That is very nice of you, very few people want to do good for others anymore, it is amazing that you are trying to.

I know you wanted to have a shorter conversation, but these are just additional sentences you can add to your story that makes them react less badly to your refusal. You can choose to not say anything past "[no money blah blah]", but saying something after that makes them feel less disheartened with themselves.

  • I don't think fake excuses are usually needed (or the best way). In some cases, fear of violence or embarrassment/feeling awkward are concerns (these shouldn't be minimised if they apply to you), but usually not - and if not, don't bother going there. All a fake excuse is, is something for another person to argue around. "Sorry, no" and keeping walking, eventually it will feel awkward for them to keep going at you. You've said the answer, the rest is their problem. – Stilez Sep 28 '17 at 8:08
3

When these kinds of situations come up, it's better to be prepared, than to fumble over your words and allow any further manipulation of the conversation. For that reason, I recommend having something very generic but clear to say, regardless of what form the question comes in.

Something like:

Sorry, I can't help you.

If the question was about money, I might follow up with:

I don't have any money to spare.

This is terse, clear, and is not lying in any form, given that your money should already be going somewhere through a designated avenue (savings, food, bills, charity, etc). You can have a clear conscience, and have an answer ready for when you are inevitably surprised.

  • "I can't help you" is my go-to. There's no reasoning for them to argue with / try to solve. And there's no lying. Sure, if I literally have no cash, I can say that, but how often is that true? – stannius Sep 27 '17 at 15:42
3

My usual reply in such situations is:

I only give food, not money. If you need food, I will be happy to give you an apple/orange/tomato [or anything else that I happen to carry with me] or buy you some food at the nearest kiosk.

If the person is in urgent need of food, my offer will help him. But if the person insists on getting money, I conclude that he is not in urgent need, so I can just ignore him and walk on.

  • This reminds me of the movie "Falling Down" with Michael Douglas. - You will most likely get a tomato in the back of the head for your trouble ;) – n00dles Sep 29 '17 at 12:29
3

When it comes to strangers, I really don't believe in making excuses (for example, "I don't carry cash"; "I'm snowed under debt", etc...). And, unlike few other suggestions, I'd personally strongly advise against showing your wallet to them. Not only are you not liable to help someone unless you feel moved to do so, you're also not bound to prove why you don't want to (or can't) help. If anything, you'd be doing them a favor. So, a short, polite but firm reply could be:

"Look mate, please, I have my own set of problems to deal with too. I appreciate you sharing your story / idea with me, however, I'm really sorry, I'm not in a position to offer any monetary help at the moment."

You also ask:

But I wonder, and that's also why I ask that question, how to react in case they go on trying.

It really depends on how long you're willing to hold your spot and engage with the said person (if they don't leave). Also, these should work better when you've already declined at least once:

  • For the least engagement, turn your head away and stop paying attention to them. Stop listening, stop responding, stop acknowledging. Do not utter any words and when their monologue / question comes to money, simply nod your head as if you're saying NO, while still looking away.

  • If they proceed to touch you to draw your attention, you have the opportunity to express your displeasure and disapproval and ask them to leave with a gentle reminder that you've already said NO a few times.

  • If you're willing to engage with them, or want to burst their bubble, you could ask them counter questions:

  • How many people have you spoken to about this one?

  • How much capital have you already raised?

  • Where's the paperwork and a record of patrons?

  • Who are the beneficiaries and what's their financial background?

  • What else have you tried aside from asking random strangers like myself?

  • How will I get the assurance that the money I donate — if at all I decide to do so — will only be used for the purpose you ask it for?

Hopefully, if they aren't prepared to face such questions, the scrutinisation should at least throw them off-guard and they would perhaps want to seek a closure themselves.

There's a lot that can be reasonably guessed about someone who's not shy of asking for financial assistance from the strangers, especially without:

  • Genuinely looking troubled, or
  • Having a consolidated paperwork

However, for the time being, it might suffice to safely assume that, in the absence of the signs above that would establish their genuineness, these people are — more often than not — deceitful at best and scamsters at worst. So, in my humble opinion, you don't necessary have to carry the baggage of being polite with them at all possible costs.

  • 1
    I find it distasteful to lie unnecessarily. If I lie to a beggar (sorry I don't have any money) then the logical implication is that had I some money I would be obligated to give but I am hiding that money ... the beggar is more powerful than I am. Instead, the beggar is powerless to even force a response. – emory Sep 28 '17 at 10:33
2

Where are you guys from?! I get asked this every time I go into the city centre. There are certain spots where they wait. I'm a sucker for this, but only if they are genuine with me. I have been very close to this side of life in my past, so I often throw them a pound or so.

But the answer is to say with empathy and sincerity

"Sorry mate, I haven't"

They won't bite. If they ravel off a spiel, reinforce;

"I really wish I could, but I can't sorry."

Then say something to end the exchange and walk on, like:

"Look after yourself"

(i.e. keep it friendly and they will respond)

Note: Tap your pockets, but only if you are sure there is no change in them! Or you'll look like an arse!

  • "Look after yourself" - sounds a bit like a threat. Do you menace the homeless n00dles? ;-) – a20 Sep 29 '17 at 10:54
  • @a20 Oh, right. I'm glad you said that. I got a downvote and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's that. It must be a local gesture of good will then, "Look after yourself" is like saying um... "Take it easy" or um.. "Have a nice day" but a bit nicer or kinder. In my city it's a nice, thoughtful thing to say. – n00dles Sep 29 '17 at 12:13
  • ...I'm thinking of it from your point of view now and it's quite funny! :`D Shouting "LOOK AFTER YOURSELF, you BUM!" Then just walking off... – n00dles Sep 29 '17 at 12:26
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The best strategy if you value your time and are very selective of the people you allow into even minutes of your life is

  1. Ignore them. Don't make eye content with them. Don't answer them or in any way acknowledge them.

If you are soft about the above, then

  1. just say you don't speak English, 'no comprende'.

If you are soft about the above, then

  1. Help him out with some spare change. Nothing more than a dollar. While it is morally correct to help those in need, you don't know if this is really the case. By giving him very little money you can make this activity not worth his time. Let's say he collects 0.50 for every 5 minutes of begging. That amounts to 6 dollars an hour, less than minimum wage so hardly worth his time. If he gets 1 dollar or more every 5 minutes, then we are talking 12 dollars per hour which is more than minimum wage, even better since taxes and fica are not deducted. So, it is very important to give very little money. That way you are not offending him since beggars can't be choosers.
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Do you consider a stranger asking you for money to exhibit polite behaviour? If not, why are you so insistent on responding in such a manner?

The likelihood of such a person being one with criminal intent is high, especially if we're talking about big cities and busy places. I'm sorry for having to point this out, but this person is not your problem but could become your problem anyway.

Say you show your wallet. Now the stranger knows where you keep it. Say you pick out a dollar, but the stranger sees the rest of the content. Now he knows you're worth robbing.

Just, get out. You're not responsible for this person and there are far more constructive ways to help people in need if you feel so inclined.

  • While I agree with the overall suggestion of getting yourself out of the situation, I have to say that responding politely (even if you're refusing) can at least prevent an uncomfortable situation from escalating further. Though I imagine this may vary widely from city to city. – BiscuitBaker Sep 27 '17 at 10:47
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Well, try hard not to listen for long. It is okay to promptly ask “What do you need?”

If it is money, the best results I have had is to tell him/her “Sorry, I support many charities but I don’t have at this moment money to spare.”

If it is food, offer to buy him/her a hot dog or whatever and offer to accompany them to the shop and eat with the person; most of the times they will say thank you, but I don’t want to bother you and walk away to look for an easier prey.

If you have time to spare (the most precious thing in the world), talk with them and waste their time, think as I you’re saving a victim from this person.

1

You ask how to "dismiss" a stranger asking for money. The answer is simple: dismiss them. Say "no". They may ask why not, and the answer is again simple: "It doesn't matter; my answer is no"

We are challenged to be polite in these situations. I mean, who wants to be deliberately rude? Much like telemarketers and salesmen, people asking for money rely on that politeness. They ask why so they can challenge your reasoning. And eventually wear you down into giving. that's why the answer is just "no" and offers no explanation.

I'd add a suggestion here. If you want to help someone who really needs help, there are a couple things I try to leave in my glove compartment of my car. A bus pass (if they really need a bus ride, they'll be very happy with that). A Target gift card (Target by me sells both groceries and has a deli and also sells pretty much anything to cover basic needs). Some McDonald's gift certificates (If they're hungry, that will be welcome).

You can't ever know if a person's story is true or if they just asking for money. It's hard to tell someone "no" who you really think needs help and they rely on that basic instinct that most of us have. I'd add one thought: sometimes (emphasis on sometimes) begging is quite lucrative. I'd refer you to this story of one person (again, emphasis on "one") found here

1

I don't believe that giving strangers money is generally positive so I say "No" or "I don't give money to strangers". If I'm in a good mood and they're not being a pain in the ass I usually wish them good luck.

Where I live they usually start with "Sorry, mind if I ask you something?" and then they tell their life story so you pay them just to get it over with, or that's what they aim for.

If I'm in a hurry and I feel reasonably sure that's what's coming and they approach me I just refuse to engage at all. ("No, I don't have time.")

I used to listen to the stories first and take them in good faith but I ended up realizing I'm just wasting both our times. If I let them talk they get all salty because they wasted their time trying to sell me on their bullshit story. I don't care to keep up the pretense that they're not begging me for money because they don't appreciate that either. I just cut to the chase. Same goes for people who try to sell me shit on the street, in public transport or door-to-door, they're all the same.

Addendum: I'm 22M and Dutch, our culture is very straight-forward and I'm generally not physically intimidated by the types that approach me. My approach may not fit you and your situation, e.g. when you're a small lady in Paris.

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