During my trip home recently, I was heckled by a few Canadian beggars and I couldn’t help but notice the differences between them and the ones here in Hong Kong.
On the other hand, Canadian beggars seem to be quite good at getting us to notice them and emptying our pockets. Wondering why this was the case, I came up with three things that Hong Kong beggars could learn from the Canadians to up their daily income:
1) Be friendly
So I was walking by a liquor store in downtown one night, and a beggar standing outside saw me shivering and asked, “Aww, are you cold?!” I didn’t dare answer him nor make eye contact since a) he was a stranger and b) it was late at night, but as I quickened my pace to get away from him, he shouted after me, “Oh well, Happy Monday!!”
Of course, I felt horrible for running away from such a “nice guy” and it’s not only him — it’s exactly the same when you come across squeegee boys at a stoplight and tell them that you don’t want your freakin’ windshields washed (by a dirty bum like you), only to be told, “Alright, no worries, have a nice day!” So even if you don’t end up giving them any money right then, you’re more likely to do so the next time you encounter a bum thanks to the cumulative guilt trip you’ve built up.
2) Be apologetic
While typical beggars hold up selfish signs like “Please Give” or “Help Me I’m Broke,” the ones I saw in Canada amused me with their honest and apologetic messages. Case in point — one beggar held up the following sign:
Genius, isn’t it?! By adding the “I am sorry,” the person passing by goes from thinking, ‘Go get a job, you selfish bum’ to ‘Oh well, since you’re sorry, I guess it’s not your fault, here’s some change, ya poor thing’.
3) Be honest, kind of, not really
Lastly, I came across another beggar in downtown who was just sitting on his a wad of newspaper outside of a 7-11. Next to him was a suitcase with a cane sticking out of it, and he was busy doing Soduku or crosswords (or whatever it was, he was completely enthralled with it.)
In front of him, a little tent card read, “Facing eviction. If you CHOOSE to give … thank you. NOT for drugs or alcohol.” That was enough to get me to give him a toonie ($2), since it’s the least I could do to help keep a fellow Canadian off the streets.
OK, so whether he was telling the truth or not isn’t really the point. The point is that his sign worked, so maybe the real lesson here is — Hong Kong beggars should use signs…and instead of begging for money using the shock factor, they should just write down what they want from us, like:
- “1 Big Mac, Not for pimp”
- “Need bowl of ramen, I am sorry”
- “I want BBQ pork, Have a nice day”
With signs like these, how could anyone (with a heart) say no?