How much do panhandlers really make? Can you possibly make a living at this? How much of a difference does a funny sign make? Will people give to a guy in a banana suit? Does every sign have to say "God Bless?" Important questions. I aim to find the answers. Give me a dollar. God Bless.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Mummy's Curse

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Panhandling is like every other crappy job I've ever had. You don't get the most money by being the most creative. By showing a little spark, a littel ingenuity. People are dull, and you get the most money by catering to the lowest common denominator.
Can you tell I'm bitter. The mummy costume was great (thanks Mark Miller for loaning it to me.) The sign was written in hieroglyphics, REAL heirolglyphics. It says, "Please help. God Bls" (sic) written top to bottom, in freakin' hieroglyphics. And what do I get for my troubles? A lousy $8.20! (Thanks Bryna for doing the hieroglyphics and thanks Rob for suggesting hieroglyphics to begin with.)
I know. I don't have much room to complain. I'd make less working at McDonalds for an hour, and I'd suffer greater humiliation. It's a strange world.
The advertising folks, they're the ones who should send me a buck on general principal. They should send each of us a buck. Everytime you see some really lame commercial, or you hear some incredibly stupid slogan, remember that some moron got paid good money, more money than I'll ever make, to come up with that. And usually more than one person, an agency, a committee, to come up with, "Coke Is It", or "The Real Thing." A mummy panhandling with a sign written in hieroglyphics is worth way more than "Coke Is It!" Hey Coke, send me a dollar, send Rob a dollar, let us come up with your next stupid slogan.
I switched signs after a bit, and tried "Give $ or suffer mummy's curse! God Bless." Both signs got some great laughs. I got one "Get a job" and one guy flipped me off. I smiled and waved at him, as he road in the back of a big white van. Then he asked me if I drove a Lexus. I answered "Yes. I drive a Lexus." He got all excited and said, "I knew it. You're full of shit man. No reall homeless guy would dress like that." I congratulated him. "Yep. You got me. You figured out that the guy in the mummy suit isn't really homeless." what a genius.
But plenty of people really loved it. In fact I was out there 15 seconds when a guy drove by laughing and cheering and handling me a dollar. he circled back around and got a photo.

After a while I noticed a real homeless couple watching me from across the street so I quit early and gave them the $8 and their corner back. They gave us a quick interview and it really got me ticked. The cops are ticketing panhandlers left and right. The female half of this couple, Gina, cardboard signs it because the cops only get her with soliciting or being on an offramp. If the guy is up there the cops come out sooner and he get's hit with the more expensive "Aggressive Panhandling" even if he's just standing there. Gina is bright and changed her sign to read "Homeless. God bless." That way she's not asking for anything and they can't get her for soliciting.

We also interviewed a young, clean cut guy named Jim who lived in his truck until it got towed. Now he's trying to get it out, but they charge you SO much for everyday that it's in, it's pretty useless. He'd be more likely to succeed at just getting a new truck.
The tow companies have quite a racket. It seems wrong for private enterprise to profit off of someone's vehicle being parked illegally. Do the tow priveledges go to the company that offers the lowest tow and storage fees? I doubt it.
All the folks I chatted with today are at this point short timers. I wish them the best at getting off the streets. For now though, my bleeding heart has me giving them all my damn dough, so mouse on over to them donate buttons and help a brother out would ya? I'm out of gas, and I got a pet cockatiel to feed, and my DSL bill is due and... God bless.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

many states have regulations on how much tow companies are allowed to charge, but people don't know the regs, so the companies charge them anyway. you should check out your state and local regs.

8:54 PM

Blogger thepanhandler said...

I'll have to look into that. I've been screwed on this one before.

7:58 AM

Anonymous oogabooga said...

hmm, maybe it's not so much about CREATIVITY as much as, say APPROPRIATENESS. (is that a word???)
I mean, maybe a more subtle tactic would have had a better effect than something so obviously farfetched (though clever) as a panhandling mummy.
In advertising, the point is to take the fundamental elements of the thing in question (IE, panhandling, in this case) and exploit all the symbols, concepts, emotional & psychological responses a focus group might have to that specific thing, so as to create a desired response. (IE the "god Bless" is a great advertising technique in the panhandler's repertoire; it appeals to the viewer's guilt).
So the failure of the mummy getup is its inability to make the viewer connect that image with the response you want from them (IE give you money).
sorry for the dissertation... I'm really bored @ my job...God Bless..

2:25 PM


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