I was at the Jewel-Osco in Fairhills Mall a few weeks ago when I was approached by a man looking for some gas money. I had just pulled up to do some grocery shopping one night when this person came over and told me he worked for a construction contractor and had left his wallet at Menard's which was now closed for the evening. He said he lived in Illiopolis and just needed a few dollars to get enough gas to get home. I wound up giving him $5.00 (figuring two plus gallons should get him to Illiopolis).
Now, before you assume I was an easy mark for a scammer, keep in mind I'm no panhandling virgin. I lived and worked in downtown Chicago for three years and was approached daily for handouts. I also saw a fair number of panhandling scams. One of the worst was similar to my experience at Jewel. This woman would pull her car over and tell passers-by that she had run out of gas and needed money to get her car going again. The disgusting part was she had kids in the car to make the need seem all the more urgent. How do I know she wasn't legit? She did it day after day at roughly the same spot.
My Jewel guy may have been pulling the same scam but there was just enough doubt that I gave in. For one thing, I frequent that Jewel and have never seen him there before or since. In fact, when I was done picking up my grocery items that night, he was not in the parking lot anymore. He also gave no outward appearance of being a druggie or drunk. I certainly was not intimidated by or in anyway afraid of the guy. But I think the single biggest factor for giving him the money was this is Springfield. I can count on one hand the number of times I've been panhandled here and never outside of downtown. Weighing all the information I decided this guy just might be legit and in need so I helped.
Anyway, you can decide if I was a chump. But here's my question. Actually, I have two. Has anyone else encountered this guy or his scam (if it is one) here in town? And, more generally, what other kinds panhandling have you encountered in Springfield?