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Money for Nothing

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Rob Rothwell
You’ve undoubtedly encountered them. Every large city has them.

They establish themselves curbside at major intersections where they coax – or often intimidate – money from captive motorists. Sure, they want you to believe that they’re homeless and down on their luck as they walk alongside your vehicle holding a cup for money. Perhaps they’re more industrious, opting to squeegee your windshield – whether you want them to or not.

Whatever their modus operandi, lifting money from your wallet is their goal. I was in line at a traffic light recently and watched a young waif with studs, rainbow hair and torn clothes squeegee two windshields in a single light phase. Each driver responded to the unsolicited work by handing the kid paper money. Assuming it was Canadian currency – and I don’t mean Canadian Tire cash – she netted a minimum of $10 tax-free in 60 or less seconds.

It would be fascinating to know how much she could stuff in her tattered jeans over the course of a typical squeegee day. I suspect it would far exceed what most hardworking, taxpaying citizens take home at the end of a shift. I’d be willing to bet that she and her loathsome boyfriend standing guard are also collecting provincial assistance.

I can only speculate where all the money goes – drug use/abuse being high on my pick list. I strongly support harm reduction and treatment programs but I don’t support handing money out at traffic lights to intimidating looking characters that harbor an expectation of money for nothing. It doesn’t work that way in my world.

I’ve seen far too much fraud perpetrated on the generosity of caring people – whether they are in a car or on the street – by the “money for nothing” element. Here’s a sampling:

This 50-something male would sit in a wheelchair and offer to read a person’s future with tarot cards. People feeling sorry for him should have stuck around until his evening of fleecing the public was over; they’d see him stand up and push his wheelchair as he quite ably sauntered off with a fist full of ill-gotten dollars.

Then there was the guy that worked a normal job all day, but in the evening donned worn-out clothing, mussed his hair and worked the door at a downtown ATM kiosk. People again assumed he was penniless and one meal from certain death as they rewarded him with more than a “thank you” for opening the door.

Probably the most despicable of all such scammers was the creep that made his wife and toddlers stand on the centre curb with him late at night as he held up a cardboard sign declaring that they were broke and homeless. The sight literally brought tears to the eyes of compassionate citizens handing over bills, food and offers of work. The entire setup was a hoax. They weren’t homeless, and given how lucrative their ploy, I doubt they were broke.

Have you been ripped off by shysters or worse yet, held captive in traffic and intimidated into shelling over money for nothing to some miscreant that resembles a junior Charles Manson? My advice is to resist doing so; don’t hand out money for nothing. Instead, donate it to legitimate charities that are properly resourced to help those truly in need.

Rob Rothwell
Rob Rothwell
Automotive expert