Thursday, May 24, 2007

To give or not to give

The neighborhood I live in is a prime target for door-to-door people. Magazines, coupon books, discount cards, candy, newspapers, PIRG, environmentally correct guys with ponytails - you name it. I've always been a easy hit that way. Yes, I'll help you go to college, raise money for your school trip, etc. I used to do it myself - not for money, but for community organizing pruposes when I was a VISTA volunteer way back when. I definitely had a soft spot for the PIRG people.

I (tried to) sell newspapers over the phone in college. I was a hilarious failure. They'd tell me why they don't get the paper and I'd say 'yeah, you're right! You don't need to subscribe. Bye!'

But in recent years, I'd order the stupid magazine and then it wouldn't come. Sometimes it would come, maybe 6 months later. I got really pissed at one kid who told me he just moved in down the street and wanted me to buy a magazine. I told him I didn't need a magazine, sorry. He wouldn't give up. I stuck to my 'no' and watched him angrily walk down the street and get into the big ol' van full of teenagers. "Hey, good luck in your new house!'

I realized it was time for me to become one of those people who put a "no soliciting" sign on their door. I just couldn't spare the emotions for this crap. I'm supposed to be able to tell who's honest, and who's not? I don't want to have to. I give money in other ways and don't have to put up with magazines for it.

I didn't want one of those authoritative, nasty red signs in capital letters. So I made my own. "Please, no soliciting. Thank you! :-)". It was good. I taped it to the screen door. It lasted for the summer and by January was peeling off and completely faded. I removed it a few months ago. However, I didn't get around to replacing it.

At the same time, I do want to help the honest kid who is trying to raise money for college. I worked in student financial aid for many years and raising money for educational purposes is near and dear to my heart.

Tonight's kid was selling newspapers at 8:30 pm. I gave him my usual speech about how I don't want to give money for things I don't want. I read the New York Times online and that's it for me as far as newspapers. He was persistent in a very sweet way. He was 14. My heart wanted nothing more than for him to be legit. In the end, I didn't order a paper subscription, but gave him a donation. He had an ID card, under the name of 'Denver Newspaper Agency". Endorsed by Colorado State and University of Colorado. Who the hell knows. He told me he would be the first kid in his family to go to college (this was after I gave him the check.) I gave him my little spiel on the financial aid program at CU-Boulder - great for first gen students. He seemed to genuinely appreciate the information.

So either I've donated a bit of money toward a kids college education, or I'm a sucker. Maybe it's worth the gamble sometimes.

1 comment:

Paul O'Brian said...

My policy is that I never, ever give money to people who come to my door, because I do not want to support that method of solicitation. Last night we had a visitor whose mission was to educate us about the local rape crisis center, and maybe raise some funds for it. Heaven knows this is something I support, but I am just not willing to reward the fundamental rudeness of knocking at my door to demand my time and money, no matter how good the cause. So I signed her contact list (which apparently helps them maintain their grant) and let her give me some brochures, but gave no money.