A homeless woman told me that I smelt nice. Well at least I think she was homeless. She came up to me and asked me to sign a petition top help a homeless shelter. And donate some money. I looked down the form an I signed it. And gave her a bit of cash. So far so good.
But there was no registered charity number on the form.
I suddenly realised this as I was sitting on the bus a few minutes later. What a great scheme, I thought, get a few quid from traditional begging methods and then go to a web cafe and print up a few forms. In the five minutes she was standing by the bus stop she must have collected £20.
But what was it, I wondered that made us all think that it was okay to give her money whereas if she had just asked for it we would have all done the walk-fast-head-tilt?
And then I realised it, it was because it was a form. We all love filling in forms. Even people who don’t like filling out forms love signing things. For some people it’s their favourite thing in the world.
So she had played directly into our psyche and she had come up with a scam that worked perfectly. Why wasn’t I outranged by this? I should have been, I suppose, but actually, somehow, I just ended up admiring her ingenuity. She’d come up with a plan and it had worked.
She was a con artist who thought I smelt nice and much as I knew it was all part of the scam, getting a compliment from a stranger was worth it.