(Photo by Kim Reinick • Source: ThinkStock)
(Photo by Kim Reinick • Source: ThinkStock)

Panhandling has become a way of life in America. It’s now commonplace to see someone at a big box store exit holding a cardboard sign displaying their U.S.P.

USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

USP stand for Unique Selling Proposition. Businesses spend billions each year trying to come up with a successful USP. They are looking for a marketing and advertising message that will entice you to part with your money and purchase their product or service.

This creative technique is not lost on those folks standing at the freeway off ramps. I have noticed a very creative movement to tug on the heartstrings of drivers who are temporarily trapped by the stop sign or red light.

Will Work For Food

“Will Work For Food.” This was the original marketing message of those who had fallen on hard times. “I don’t want a handout, I’m willing to work for it.” Isn’t that message what America is all about?

I’m sure there are those that take them up on that offer and they find themselves sweating in someone’s back yard doing clean up instead of working on their tan at the off ramp. Many drivers’ are more than willing to pony up some cash but don’t want them anywhere near their home or business.

Military Service

Some form of military service is always good to add to your sign. After all who could refuse giving a few coins to a veteran? It also seems that the type of veteran is important as well.

I see a lot of US Marine signs, but I have yet to see a “veteran of the coast guard” or “national guard weekend warrior” sign. The navy seems to be strangely missing also.

Desert Storm, and the Gulf War are often added. No astronauts or F-18 pilots though.

Panhandling Animals

Having a dog with you always sends a positive signal. Other than the dog usually being tied up and would probably rather be anywhere other than an off ramp. But many people see a dog lover and that loosens the purse strings a little faster.

Cats, hamsters, ferrets, or fowl don’t work quite as well.

“Help, I’m Stranded”

The “help I’m stranded. Need gas money,” is another good one. Just help me get off this corner so someone else can take it over. I saw a nice added touch the other day. A woman at the local Walmart had a sign that said, “Help, need gas money to get home to my kids.”

Who could possibly refuse a mother’s love for her children? Not sure why she’s away from them. Not sure why dad can’t wire money or how the kids are being fed while she’s on this corner, but I guess those questions don’t need to be answered in the grand scheme of things.

Some Final Thoughts

Begging for money is selling. Politicians do it all the time. They might as well have a “Will Legislate For Food or Graft,” sign.

I have seen  signs almost too wordy to read. I guess they feel that telling me a full-blown narrative will help me justify my donation experience.

We’ve come a long way since the depression call to action, “Brother can you spare a dime?”

America is a generous nation. No question about it. We dig deep and give to those less fortunate. But for some of these freeway entrepreneurs it’s a business. Where else but Congress can you make $50 an hour, or more, sitting on your fanny doing nothing? “Honey, where did I put that Magic Marker?”

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