Begging schemes: the Price of Admission?
It seems that I’m inclined to fall prey to begging schemes if I’ve been off the road for a while. I’m not talking about street begging – it is a serious and separate issue. I’m talking about the scams.
My most recent experience was with students in Santiago, Chile. Their shtick is to approach you with a poem in English and Spanish. They are giving you this poem for a small donation for their studies. Then they find out where you’re from. They educate you on their education system – how expensive it is. They make suggestions for you as a tourist. They help you out. And then they go in for the close. “Can you help me with some money for school?” At this point, they’re not looking for a small donation, they’re looking for more.
This is a begging scheme. Once they have been kind to you and you’ve exchanged a few laughs, it’s hard to walk away without giving something.
The young woman had given me valuable tourist advice in a city where I was having difficulty finding the tourist office! I gave 2500 pesos – $5. She requested more. I refused. At that point I knew it was a scheme but I figured that it was my price of admission on this particular trip. The cost of getting oriented. However, I only pay to enter once. I met a number of other students in the same situation during my time there. I politely dismissed them.
More challenging situations.
Dismissing healthy people begging is easy but walking past people who are obviously in need is difficult. However, in most cases, I do walk by. I don’t want to support a system that locks people into poverty and encourages people to go as far as mutilating a child to be more successful at the family business of begging.
From Paris to Mumbai, people beg for a profession and children are recruited to support the process. As travelers, we need to think about what they are doing and what we are doing.
My intention here is not to suggest how you should think about this issue but to raise the topic and direct you to two recent articles on the subject. I point you to the discussion comments even more than the posts themselves.
As for me, I don’t give to beggars often but when I do it is based on the particular person and situation.
I once gave to a woman who was bad at begging. She was clumsy at it. It was clearly new to her and she was uncomfortable. I gave her $5 and she sprang into my arms and hugged me with tears in her eyes. I knew that I had done the right thing at that moment.