I never give money to beggars anymore. If I want to enrich the makers of Special Brew, I’ll buy some myself.
But today I did.
A slightly-younger-than-me black man stopped me in the street as I was popping out for a sandwich. He apologised for bothering me.
He was a floating resident at a seamen’s mission around the corner, he explained. I knew the place.
He said he was ex-forces, down on his luck. Lance-Corporal something-or-other. Before three o’clock, he needed to find four people to give him two quid each, so that he could continue to stay there.
That was the pitch.
Five seconds later, he only needed three more people.
It was as concise a shakedown as I’ve ever heard – and beautifully delivered:
- He let me know he needed shelter.
- He showed me he already had a solution – one that I knew and approved of (unlike Special Brew).
- He advertised his army credentials: placing himself in a society I respect.
- He instilled a sense of urgency by introducing a limited timeframe.
- He communicated that I would be one of several helping him (classic behavioural economics)
- He gave me a specific and easy way to help – clearly well within my means.
Textbook (perhaps written by the British Army).