The Ever Evolving Walgreens Beggar. Or, is there some sort of meeting where they plan these things out...

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Summary: The beggars still haunt the Walgreens parking lot. Yet, strangely, they change their tactics in patterns. Does this mean they are a group working together? Or is this some sort of weird meme thing?

BLOT: (05 Sep 2012 - 10:36:20 PM)

The Ever Evolving Walgreens Beggar. Or, is there some sort of meeting where they plan these things out...

I have blogged about the Walgreens beggars before*, but it looks like it has been a bit. Something I'm not sure if I have brought up in the past is that they often come out in patterns. About once a month, you will get a rash of them for a week, and then there will be nothing. There are never more than one at a time, and they change up day/night patterns, but if you catch them you will see the same ones come back at inconstant intervals. Here's the odd thing, they share tactics much like a hive mind.

Around 2008, the common thing was to say that they were from Decatur, had come to Huntsville to visit a {grandmother | sister | female relative} and now needed both gas money and money to get a prescription. A bit confusing since a person in the hospital is going to have their prescription filled in-house, but I guess it fit the pharmacy motif and the gas/drugs combination gave the person being begged an extra wallop disguised as a choice. They could either help the poor lad/lass back home or help the poor lad/lass save a loved one.

Through 2009-ish, the tactic changed to "I've just been kicked out of my house, with my kids", and despite there being no kids around the person would often wave a bag of food around as to say "Look, I've got food, just give me gas money to get back home and I can feed the blighters!" Since these people would often wave the bag of food around for hours, and it would be invariably a big bag of fast food while this person is standing outside of a store that sells real food, I frankly found that off putting and would refuse. On through 2010-2011, the tactics became more straight-forward, excepting a brief moment where the incense sellers** showed up, and since I never carried cash at this time (and still don't, not really) I never had anything for them. Somewhere, there, they disappeared and things were good.

Earlier this year, the bicycle sorts showed up. They would pedal up, usually in a pair, and then beg for a few minutes before jumping on their bikes and going down University Drive in various dangerous ways. One guy was on his lonesome, but then he had really sad eyes, so maybe that made up for it. After one quite pushy pair took over Walgreens for a few days, they disappeared, and that was that. Until this latest group...

This group has never repeated a performance (i.e., I've never seen the same one twice) but what they do is they sit in their car, or they get out of their car and look down Jordan and University as though they are waiting for someone. Their hood is [usually] popped open, and it makes it look like they have called a friend and are waiting for them to show up. Then, when you get close, they hit you up for a combination of gas/food money. Note, anyone who knows they are out of gas would obviously not pop open a hood, so the gag there is, I assume, them trying to lure people in to ask if they need help. The "looking around for a friend" might actually be keeping an eye out for cops, as well as a slight nod to the "I've already tried to help myself!" notion. After about 10 minutes of setting up shop, and hitting maybe two people, they jump in their supposedly gasless car and disappear rapidly. I have been approached by three people in this manner (once today while I was walking to work) and have seen at least one more guy setting it up who then got in his car and drove off kind of quickly [maybe a cop showed up or a manager spotted him?]. They are rarely a nuisance, in that if you say "No," they just leave you alone. The incense sellers, by contrast, would kind of hound you over and over. Oh, wait, and there was the pencil seller, who I think was sort of like a failed incense seller. That man wouldn't let me get in my car, he was being so pushy.

At any rate, this tactic will probably disappear in a week or two more, and then there will be a down time, and then it will be something like "I have a surgery and need money to pay for some pre-surgery antibiotics!" or something. The same story, all these people. None of which seem to know each other, but the fact they say the same story and they show up at different times almost feels like they have to coordinate "attacks". Or maybe it is just some odd meme progression. I really don't know.

* For those confused about why I am calling them Walgreens Beggars, it has nothing really to do with the store except that it is 24/7, at a busy intersection and has lots of traffic, and is also a place that Sarah and I often stop at because it is near our apartment.

** The general gist is they try and sell you a stick or two of incense, occasionally claimed to be special incense but not always, for several dollars. You also see "daughter-and-mom" teams selling potpourri balls in a similar manner.



Written by Doug Bolden

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