In Store PanHandlers

During a recent Walmart adventure, I had a woman with 2 children approach me with a card that said she didn't have a job and couldn't afford to pay for the formula she had in hand and needed money. At first, she refused to take the cash I handed her and had her older daughter translate that she wanted me to go up to the register with them. After insisting she just keep the change, I was able to go about my day. I just found the situation kind of odd and was wondering if anyone else has dealt with this recently. I've seen homeless people around Hackettstown but this is the first I've dealt with begging inside a store.

Bookworm Bookworm
Feb '23

Not homeless, just panhandling. This is a pretty common scam, folks come here from other towns, run the scam for a day or two and then move onto the next one. Don't give these scammers money. It might seem real but remember, these people have made their career out of being confidence men.

TerryM TerryM
Feb '23


That is...complex, weird, and worrisome, on a number of levels. I mean to break it down insofar as the many possibilities it presents is...or it could just be simple, which just blows the mind even more.

Firstly, was it a pre-printed card or handwritten, and on what type of paper? Could you recognize what language they spoke. I mean, it doesn't really matter that much, unless they were speaking a Romany language,
which most are unlikely to recognize anyway. If you did, you'd have called them on that fact, and they would have left you alone from the get-go.

It's curious that they wanted you to go to the register to pay. While it could have been just to make sure you saw they were honestly in need and only wanted the formula, it very well could have been to set you up for a later ambush by revealing you to an accomplice outside. It could also have been so they were closer to the exit, whether that was to allow someone to snatch something of yours to get away quickly or some other scenario, it's difficult to either say or guess, that is, unless something does happen. Or doesn't.

As I also said, it could actually just be someone in need who could use some help. There are a lot of people out there who are in much more desperate situations than we may realize. Some of them may be your neighbors. You never know until circumstances have put you in such a situation before, or close to it and you wonder how you got there and how do you "fix" it. It's easy to just say "get a job", but entering the job market years ago when I dropped out of college in the very early 80's, in the "rust belt", I found how incredibly difficult that was at times. Yes, everyone may be hiring and find it hard to find help, but in some cases there are employers that need to ask themselves why they can't find anyone to meet their "needs" either. There's a lot of toxicity to go around on both sides, and not every job is going to be "perfect," but sometimes you have to deal with the pain and jump in, at least temporarily to get your feet in the game.

Fortunately, I was able to do odd jobs and put myself out there on bulletin boards to do any type of labor-intensive or semi-skilled work and I found some temporary jobs, but I found some prospective employers to be quite "interesting." I was presented with a test when I applied at a local hardware and lumber store, being familiar with them as a kid from working on woodworking projects with my Dad. I was presented with a horizontally-based math test, which I apparently took a bit too long on. I was a bit OCD with it, because of doing so much column-figuring over the years, and not having it presented to me that way since early elementary school.

He judged me only due to the speed on that test, which could have been improved, and would have as I'd gotten used to the format again. My answers were ALL correct, by the way. But I was never even given the chance to prove myself. Oh yeah, by the way, I was a Science major with a minor in...Math. Later, as a store manager, I could add columns of figures with no calculator, then calculate the tax on that sum in my head, and never be off by more than a penny. Yes, competing in the job market right after the steel mills and railroad shops in the area were closing was "fun." But then again, that's how I ended up here.

Yes, I've gone on too long about some of my own experiences, but just to mention hopefully before it happens, that it's not always as easy as one thinks. Their own success over adversity doesn't equate to someone else's ability to do the same, or for the other person to be aware of resources that could be at their disposal to help attain that job, temporary assistance, etc. Sometimes it takes a lot of time to get where you need to be, and quite a bit of hunger. Both kinds.

Oh yeah, and I tried the military. Despite my blowing the recruiter's mind with my test scores, the physical killed me. You have no idea how humiliating it felt to be refused for flat feet by the Board Physician or whatever he was, weighing about 400 pounds, chain-smoking, coughing and wheezing, hardly able to lift his pen. At the time I was a rock climber and competitive powerlifter that could run right about 2 miles in 12 minutes. Flat feet weren't stopping me there... I guess I should have had more empathy for his situation, but I wasn't quite as old then. I don't think I'm old enough to sympathize with him even now, but that's my own "failing" to deal with...;-)

Phil D. Phil D.
Feb '23

Do you realize you turn every answer into your own long winded experiences that have nothing to do with the current question?

And did you just make a bigoted remark about Romany folks?

Feb '23

Wow Phil D

Bookworm, you should let the police and store management know what happened, not so they can arrest the woman or anything but just so that they are aware and can keep an eye on any similar situation, recognize if she’s a repeat scammer, etc.

I saw a similar situation over at the Walmart in Mount Olive, but the woman was at the far end of the parking lot, away from the store entrance.

She had a similar sign and a baby stroller.

Courtney1 Courtney1
Feb '23

Amazing that they don't show up at Target.

Steve Steve
Feb '23

It's very sad for sure. It's difficult to know who is truly struggling and who is scamming folks. I too am a bit surprised to hear of people right in a store but it does make it easier to get exactly what one may need as in the kind gesture Bookworm did.

We are in very difficult times for millions of Americans. It will only be getting worse as the year moves along.

A report from this past July:

"More Americans are struggling to pay their bills now more than any other time in 2022 — and possibly even since the pandemic began. For more than 91 million U.S. adults, affording typical household expenses is “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult,” according to data released this week by the Census Bureau.Jul 22, 2022".

Is there still a formula shortage? It's just a general question that popped in my head since there were shortages and not that the OP mentioned it.

Gypsies. Don't give them anything.

ck123 ck123
Feb '23

…. Two offensive Romani comments in one thread? Oh Hackettstownlife, how you spoil us.

Come on people.

Right!!? It appears "Gypsies" are somehow less deserving of help if they need it?? SMH...

Don't give these criminals a dime . The last time I opened my wallet for a beggar two of my credit cards got scanned and canceled . Luckily the card companies emailed me right away to say sorry your card was lost and a new one was on the way which was news to me . The two cards with the then new security chip were fine . A shame these thieves are using innocent children in their scam .

Feb '23

To go to the register to pay probably meant that they had a card reader so that they could steal your kind hearted money. Next time offer to call the police for assistance. Darn gypsies.

Robert Rowe Robert Rowe
Feb '23

That was my thought Robert. Either front of the store to scan your card or take a quick pic and zoom in later for details.

Feb '23

I’d rather give $10-$20 to a panhandler than those TV panhandlers at $19 per month, where the CEO is taking a multi million dollar salary and the actual donations mostly get eaten up by “administration fees” AKA CEO’s family. If the panhandler is scamming, I’d think they are still in a desperate situation. IMHO, financially secure people don’t need to panhandle or small time scam.
I’ve been watching YouTube videos on homelessness. It’s getting really bad. A lot of people already work but can’t live on $20.00 per hour. I’ve come close, myself, to getting into a desperate situation. Luckily, I got cut a few breaks in my life. It’s embarrassing and dangerous, for the panhandler to approach a stranger and ask for money. They have no idea how the “approachee” (sorry, I invent words) will respond. If I have some cash, I will share with someone who is in a desperate situation but still be aware of my surroundings. Just because I’m generous, doesn’t mean I’m not “packing”. I’d never pay for the items. Just give them the cash. Regarding panhandlers, all it takes is one really bad accident or illness to an employee and BOOM! Everything is gone. The entire world needs to listen to The Beatles song, “Imagine”, again. Sorry so long. I’m competing with Phil….just kidding.

Guilty-Remnant Guilty-Remnant
Feb '23

We're not a country that neglects it's poor citizens .When I went to the Rutgers Dental Center the people on Medicaid got everything done free and had nicer cell phones than mine . The reason your medical bills are outrageously high especially in hospitals is to pay for those with no insurance . The address given to the card companies in my case was a P.O. box in Maryland - scam in Jersey for a payout in Maryland . I bet that woman was a real chatterbox once the mark was out of hearing range .

Feb '23

Would you give the panhandler $50 to get to Rutgers and back, possibly a few days a month? Do they also do root canals and caps? How long a wait for emergency pain? Hardly any doctors, around here, take Medicaid AKA NJ family care. Maybe that’s what she was panhandling for. Whatever the situation, I don’t think it was for a trip to Disney.

Guilty-Remnant Guilty-Remnant
Feb '23

97XBAM: regarding free dental and cell phones: if you were there for free dental, I think I can say the same thing about you.

From force of urban habit, I tend to put on a NYC stare and keep moving. There's SNAP for the kids, even if illegal I think, IF they are born in the US which it sounds like this child was.

Babbit Babbit
Feb '23

No free dental for me it was pay as you go for each procedure - still much cheaper than a regular dentist but dental work at a snail's pace . I was lucky getting a 31 year old experienced dentist from Canada going for his U.S. certification . Two years later I went back for a loose crown and got a kid right out of high school more interested in giving me a cleaning to take it off his to-do list then fixing the crown . Got a dental discount plan went to West Morris Dental and never looked back . The little sweet middle aged woman said she was starving and needed money for food . She hung out in front of the parking garage to beg and she blended in so well I had never noticed her before, but I sure did after that .

Expensive cell phones aren't important to me as it is having a number no one else has had before which will give you piece and quiet from phone scammers (previous number had political donations texts come non-stop for a previous owner of that number). Give that number only to a few select trustworthy friends and never activate voice mail , then block any scam calls that may get through and you'll have peaceful cell phone heaven !

When you're a senior scammers are everywhere both legal and illegal . In the past few years I've had a doctor schedule an unnecessary test that had nothing to do with the issue . Another tell me I needed an operation that would not have helped anything and most recently a doctor who canceled a procedure at the last minute(their issue not mine) bill me for the operating room after they ripped off Medicare for the same . I'm turning them in for insurance fraud , but I'm sure all the laws are fixed in their favor . So you see why I have no use for these people and that's just the short list .

Feb '23

Might be that big red target symbol on your back :>)

Good luck avoiding all those scams. I just use Lifelock, Mastercard, and others to protect me while I put freezes, locks, etc. on anything I can. For walking around, I like the Ridge Wallet to protect against scanners.

Had a scammer hit my card the other day. A quick text to MasterCard and I have a provisional credit in a few hours, partial refunds in 24 and whole thing cleaned up in 72. Didn't even need to follow up.

Babbit Babbit
Feb '23

Several years ago, my husband and I stopped at a Burger King in Delaware. We sat in a booth towards the back and opposite a side door.
A young girl came in and stood against the opposite booth near that door. She said she lost her purse and asked us for money to get a bus to go home. I felt if she lost her purse, she should report it. So I suggested she go up front and ask the manager for help or to use the phone. But she remained in that one spot.
I felt she was watching my purse. I went to the rest room and took my purse with me. When I came back, I placed my purse closer to me. She stayed in that one spot.
A car pulled up by that door and she went out and got into it.

There are a lot of videos on YouTube about panhandlers and scammers. Some make a living off of it and I'm sure others are just desperate. I'm sure it's hard to tell most times. There are plenty of ways to get help, though, whether legal or illegal. Some live better than some people who work by taking off the government. But, it's hard to tell who's legit and not and when kids are used in the process of asking for money, you can't tell.

Feb '23

Just say "no" and keep on walking!

Feb '23

"Just say "no" and keep on walking!"

This ^

Calico696 Calico696
Feb '23

It was a handwritten note on the back of a Hallmark valentine's day card. I just thought it was incredibly weird for someone to ask for money and then try to turn down hard cash. The store was quite busy that day too so I'm also curious as to what made her pick me out of the crowd. She locked eyes with me like she knew me which is why I didn't immediately walk away. Her daughter looked about my nieces age, so I figured maybe she recognized me from a birthday party or something before I was ambushed with the note. I refused to go to the register and gave her the only $20 in cash that I had on me.

Bookworm Bookworm
Feb '23

Thanks for clearing that up. I was wondering what you meant by “card” in your OP. I thought it was like a benefits card and panhandler wasn’t explaining it correctly. IMHO, you did the right thing. I think it was very kind of you. Scammed or not, know that.

Guilty-Remnant Guilty-Remnant
Feb '23

Phil D you are fine :)

Mrs.Ward Mrs.Ward
Feb '23

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