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New Ways To Hustle

Here’s another panhandling story.

We have Amazon Prime delivering for free these days, but I still trek to Whole Foods every now and then and make a special in-the-flesh guest appearance.

I was there two weeks ago and saw this heavyset Black woman hanging near the boxed veggies. She was positioned in a way that, at a glance, would have you believe that she was deciding on which kombucha drink to grab, but that was just the front.

As I pushed my cart past the woman, she turned to face me.

“Excuse me — can I ask you a question?”

She proceeded to ask me to buy something for her, because she was homeless and hungry.

I declined. Before I was out of earshot of her, I could hear her asking the same of the next contestant to walk past.

No word on his she fared that day, but I was back at the ‘Foods a few days ago where I saw the woman again. She had upped her game and was now heeding, in even beaver fashion, the first three rules of panhandling.

Location, location, location.

Now, the woman was working the checkout area, asking the same questions. This time she also had a specific product: what looked like a half-gallon frozen juice that cost $3. I know it was $3, because she included this price in her pitch, and she spoke in a loud, clear voice that communicated not a hint of shame.

Standing in line with my back to the woman, I could see the Whole Foods register workers noticing and alerting each other to the panhandler; nobody did anything about it.

As I left the store, I saw the woman walking, a neatly closed Whole Foods paper bag in hand.

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