| Does panhandling work better through the web? A Houston father and son team thinks so. They gave a homeless man named Timothy Dale Edwards a sign to hold while panhandling; it directed passersby to his website, PimpThisBum.com. In less than two months, the site has garnered $50,000 in pledges and donations. The project’s creators believe its success has to do with the sign’s humor and the faux-tactless domain name. We’d like to suggest another reason: appeals for money encouraging credit card use are far more effective than appeals calling for cash, according to a a recent study. Somebody please notify Gay Talese. [%comments]

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  1. JeremyN says:

    I think it also has to do with the fact that people would believe that the website was set up by someone else and their donations would probably go to help Timothy change their life, as opposed to using it for alcohol/drugs (as many people assume the homeless use their money for).

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  2. Nick Smallwood says:

    There was no charity here. The website even redirects to their promotional website instead of keeping it separate, so their own website benefits from the links pimpthisbum gets.

    There was nothing altruistic about this campaign at all. If you care to look hard enough you’ll find the truth on their motives online.

    Exploitative link bait of the highest order.

    The fact that some good might come of this is more by luck than judgement.

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  3. Ben says:

    I agree with Jeremy. The website lends a sense of legitimacy, in a backward kind of way, that probably gives the impression that the person on the street is sincere, rather than someone looking for a few bucks to get his fix (which many people assume is the case).

    Tangentially: How is it that so many of the panhandlers in Gay’s story had telephone numbers? Aren’t your priorities a bit out of whack if you have a phone plan but can’t afford food?

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  4. Tim says:

    The real economics question is how much money does it take to get a bum off the street. I live off of $35,000 a year and have a wife and kid. We live in a comfortable apartment and are not in debt. We even save money, about $350 a month.

    I think it is great what they are doing, but is it time for this guy to get a place, and then use the other money to get another bum off the street?

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  5. econobiker says:

    Best one ever was a panhandler sign just off of downtown Philadephia Pa.’s I-676(?) that read something like this:

    “Keep me from committing crimes like theft and burglary by giving money so that I can buy food and beer.”

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  6. John A. Kilpatrick says:

    A little off-topic, but part of the post goes to the heart of whether credit cards facilitate “over-purchasing”, which of course is part of the allure (to issuers) of affinity cards. Of course, there’s a down-side to this. One evening, over coffee, I asked a high-ranking “guy” at Starbucks why they didn’t have an affinity visa card. He said they’d considered it, but (at the time — about 10 years ago) they had determined that the average regular Starbucks customer spent $129 per month with them. They did NOT want that figure itemized on a monthly credit card statement, so they wanted to remain — to the extent possible — a cash-friendly store.

    If this recession does indeed result in a structural shift in the American (nay, world) economy, I think one of the more fascinating changes would be a shift in these “sudden” spending patterns brought about by a signficant shift in attitudes toward credit cards. I say “would be”, because I frankly doubt we’ll have a wholesale shift. But even a little change at the margin will be interesting to watch.

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  7. Steven says:

    They better watch out in this economy, pimpthisbum.com might turn into PimpMeOutSoICanPayMyMortgage.com

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  8. Jacquilynne says:

    I’m sure it’s a one time success, though.

    Remember SaveKaryn? She got her credit cards paid off and a book deal, too. But about a zillion other people followed Karen with their own ‘pay my bills’ sites, and none of them got much cash or their own book deals.

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