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How to be charitable with electronic payments

What do you do when a homeless person asks you for cash?

No-one is judging you. We are a broad church here across Finextra and acceptable answers may include giving a donation, doing absolutely nothing, or perhaps doing the “pat your pocket – got no change” dance.

But how do you respond when the appellant also presents a chip-and-PIN card reader?

Judging by British press articles yesterday (e.g. uknews/crime/11349189/Beggar-uses-card-reader-to-take-donations.html), the reaction seems to be somewhat hostile.

Commuting from a home in the north of England to his place of work in London – mainly around swanky clubs and restaurants – Mr Damien Preston-Booth persuades people to make payments in return for dubious propositions. He even posts photos of himself on Facebook, showing frequent holidays and his smart new home. But a real focus of vitriol on this modern Supertramp is that he has the cheek to use electronic payments.

The real outrage may be concerned with the legal aspects of begging, benefit claims, taxes, and blagging money away from genuinely needy, homeless people. But if you can ignore the ethics for a moment, there may be something worth tracking here.

This guy is obviously a pretty good entrepreneur. So he will have explored the various payment service options available. And he’s concluded that whilst cash is OK, he doesn’t mind paying the fees associated with plastic cards. Perhaps that is because it gives him the broadest possible acceptance from both domestic and international donors.

I’m surprised however that he’s not accepting Paypal. And he’s ignoring the benefits of the UK Paym account transfer system. He's probably not been bothered to look at alternative schemes available across Europe. But then again, not many restaurants in Mayfair have either. Perhaps payment processors in London need to up their game. 

An acceptable response, by the way, is to walk on by. But its not a trivial issue at this time of year, so the author has (added to his normal article fee and) made a donation to and Paypal worked fine.



Comments: (2)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 18 January, 2015, 04:40Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Lu Zurawski, what I found interesting from what you shared is that thanks to the way payments has evolved it is growing increasingly possible to do a business of some sort instead of being a tramp. Such Supertramps are better employed showing others how to take payments for small products and services and thus move away from handouts.

On the lines of the popular farmers market model,  policy makers could consider creating spaces for people to do a wide variety of very small business with a minimum of fuss and licensing. 

Lu Zurawski
Lu Zurawski - Lu Zurawski - London 19 January, 2015, 10:21Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thanks for your comment Charmaine. It's is a complex social problem - literally a "big isssue" - which the payments community is not going to solve alone. And I agree that our industry (and societies generaly) would benefit from a wider application of social/political sciences.