Anyone who works downtown has heard just about every appeal, read every hand-lettered cardboard sign, and suspected every possible scam from those who beg for

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Hey, Bigot, Spare Some Change?

From the annals of downtown panhandling.

Anyone who works downtown has heard just about every appeal, read every hand-lettered cardboard sign, and suspected every possible scam from those who beg for money on our city's sidewalks. It's pretty much impossible to distinguish between the truly needy and those who merely need another bottle of Thunderbird. Our liberal ears get calloused from the daily chorus. We pay our taxes, tip at Starbucks, maybe even volunteer at local soup kitchens, so where does our charity end?

So here's a novel strategy offered the other day at Third and Union, right in front of Wild Ginger, where pockets run plenty deep. After I walk past some guy,  he calls after me, "You don't like black people, huh? That's okay with us."

Interesting approach to marketing. It's the kind of dilemma that might prompt a letter to our own Uptight Seattleite. Does this fellow seriously expect that a) a passerby is going to rush right back, pull out a twenty, and apologize profusely, or b) cop to his or her unexamined racism and seek counseling immediately, like Mel Gibson, or c) return and declare, "Why, yes, I am a bigot, and that's why I neglected to reach for my wallet"?

I wonder how much money the guy netted out of that slogan, or if he varies it from day to day. (Does he keep a spreadsheet on his laptop to track his relative earnings?) Since I love advertising, I'd recommend tweaking the copy. Don't you think the average harried Seattleite would be more likely to turn back at, "You don't like gay people, huh?" Or, coming from a black guy, "You don't like Chinese?" Or, "You don't like post-op transsexuals?" Because otherwise it's just too on-the-nail. And I'd also recommend working on the follow-up, "That's okay with us." Okay for all black people? Like African Americans are perfectly fine with racism? And he's speaking on their behalf? Who elected him Barack Obama?

All of which makes me wonder what line he pitches at some buppie couple exiting Wild Ginger after dinner. Somehow I suspect calling them "Oreos" isn't going to fill his coffers any faster. But maybe that's something our readers have already experienced.

 
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