Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Successful Begging in America: Gaining the Skill Set for the Next Decade and

Getting Ready for The Next Great Opportunity

[Editor’s Note:  The public policy debate in Washington between Democrats and Republicans has been whether or not to reduce the federal deficit by massive cuts in social programs that help the disadvantaged (the Democratic position) or to eviscerate them to the point of total annihilation (the Republican position). 

Since both of these positions result in the impoverishment of the lower and middle income families that rely on some type of government assistance, The Dismal Political Economist, as a public service, describes how those persons can take on an exciting and rewarding new career as a beggar.]

Your new career may be to become a beggar.  As the economy stagnates, and federal and state programs that assist the jobless, the disabled, the poor, the elderly and the young start to vanish, a career in begging may be your only choice. Job losses even in the recovery have been severe in the 35-55 year old age group, a loss of over 900,000 in the last 18 months.

 Begging is not something you just do, however.  Like everything else, skills need to be nurtured and doing it correctly will yield higher contributions, less stress and place your begging skills at the top of the begging  pyramid.  The following are just a few of the things you need to know.

  1. Dress:  A good idea is to wear a business suit, white or blue dress shirt and no socks.  This dress will show that you were once employed in a good job, and that you are not just a life long beggar.

To prepare the suit, use an abrasive sandpaper to scuff the sleeve ends and the pant leg bottom.  The suit should be slightly soiled, indicating that you like to keep it clean, but cannot afford the dry cleaning bill.  The shirt should also be frayed, and a few strategically placed stains will complete the ensemble.  If you did not work in a job that required a suit, a good selection is available at a thrift store, and they come with that thrift store odor at no extra charge.

A hole in one shoe is a good touch.  Make a quarter-sized opening and put in a little newspaper so it shows up well.  Make sure you have the shoe turned to the audience.

  1. Sell Something:  Having items like ball point pens, or plastic flowers or little post-it type pads (generic of course) can make it look like you are not just asking for money but are trying to have a business.  A hand lettered sign is a nice touch.

    The Beggar's Perfect Companion
  1. The Dog:  There is no greater accessory than a dog.  You will need a mixed breed, not too big and certainly not aggressive at all.  People will want to pet the dog.  A 30-50 pound tan dog is ideal.  Before starting each day, splash a little mud on the dog, but not too much.  A little mud says you just do not have the money to bathe the dog. 

If someone asks about the dog tell them you don’t really want to ask for money, and you don’t mind going hungry but you hate not to have enough food for the dog. If people offer to bring you dog food, take it and try to get a receipt from the store they bought it from. Say something like “I don’t know if she (yes the dog is a she regardless of gender) can eat this, so I may need to exchange it”.   You will be amazed at how easy it is to turn unopened dog food into cash with a nicely timed refund request.

Do not try to use a cat.  The cat will just run away, or refuse to be petted or hiss at little children.  Cats are not good beggars, they are too haughty.  No one likes a cat that begs.

  1. Body Odor and Dirt:  Body odor is a no-no. You want to look disheveled and slightly dirty, but a strong body odor will repel donors.  Your hands can be dirty and fingernails should be clipped roughly with a modicum of dirt under the nails.  A three day growth of beard is good, any more and it looks like you are trying to grow a real beard and become hippie-like.  Avoid hippie-like, donors will think you like being poor and will not give.

  1. The Story:  Some potential givers will want to hear your personal story before donating.  Be sure to memorize your script.  Compose it based on what you think your customer base will respond to. The ” lost your job from downsizing when some operations were moved to China” is always a winning spiel.  Also, try to act ashamed and embarrassed, and throw in a line about how “the family doesn’t know I am doing this”. 

  1. Location:  A good spot is a park or wooded area near executive offices that employ a lot of middle managers.  Senior management will usually not donate, if they cared they wouldn’t have fired you in the first place.  Middle management has secret guilt feelings, guilt that they have a job and you do not.  They are likely to donate to assuage that guilt.  If the chance comes to have a conversation, ask them what they do, and whatever it is reply “I used to do that also”.  That line alone will often double a contribution.

  1. Food and Drink:  Save up some food containers from some really cheap food, and have a few lying around.  You don’t have to eat the stuff, you can put your favorite snack or sandwich in them, no one will look that closely.  For drink take a juice bottle, one with the label still on it and fill it with water.  This will show that you are too poor to even buy stuff to drink.  Offer to share occasionally, say things like “I don’t have much, but I know other people are worse off than I am”.  It a great line.

  1. Reading Material:  A newspaper, one or two days old is a good choice.  Leave the want ads section lying about with a couple of job openings circled.  This will imply you want to work, always a good image to project.  If you want to read some fiction or something interesting, buy a “self help” book at a used book store and cut out the front and back covers and paste them onto your book.  This way you can read a good thriller and give the impression you are trying to upgrade your personal skills.

  1. Declaring Income for Tax Purposes:  You’re kidding, right?

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