Shoplifters are possibly the lowest form of life on the planet. It kills me to think that people take things from my store on a weekly basis.
And in the last few months, I’ve seen an increase in attempted shoplifting incidents in my store. I think shoplifters forget that I see every move they make when they attempt to take things that don’t belong to them. As creepy as it is, we’re always watching.
I just don’t understand the motive behind it. If you can’t afford it, wait until you can and then come back.
Seriously, if you can’t afford a ten-dollar t-shirt, you probably shouldn’t be out shopping in a mall in the first place.
Information gathered by Sherri Healy and Nawaar Farooq
His “shift” starts at 10:30 p.m. and ends at 2:30 a.m. The only tools he needs are his cardboard squares, a Sharpie, some Hawkeye vodka and a collecting bucket. And in those four hours, he makes an average of $100.00 each night. I’ve never seen a business model quite like it before. John, aka the Traveling Man, is a nocturnal homeless business man.
“I hate homeless people. They are all imbalanced,” John said. “They will steal, they will hurt you. I don’t want to get involved with bad stuff. Yeah, my signs are vulgar. At least I’m doing something legal.”
As a current Iowa City resident John, 52, panhandles the streets of downtown Iowa City as his only source of income.
“This is a business,” he said.
Panhandling as a business
John, the Traveling Man, and one of his signs. Photo by Nawaar Farooq.
As John sipped away at the vodka concealed in an Aquafina water bottle, he explained to me the strategies of panhandling. According to John, the best time to get money from people is between 12:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. in front of the Clinton Street Pancheros in downtown Iowa City because of the abundance of drunken students who are willing to donate.
One of the most unique aspects of John’s business model is his use of vulgar signs. Ranging from signs that say “Fuck you, I’m very sexy” to absolutely nothing at all, the public reaction to his signs brings in the majority of his revenue. “My favorite sign is ‘fuck you,’ because it works,” John explained.
The largest contribution he had ever received was a one hundred dollar bill. “The sign I got the hundred dollar bill from was a blank sign. I had a piece of card board that said absolutely nothing on it. And a guy walked by and said ‘What’s your fucking story?’ and he peels out a hundred dollar bill and he throws it in my cup and says ‘You know what? I don’t even want to you know your story, goodbye’ and I got that hundred dollar bill, that was crazy.”
Need for medical attention from one of the three Iowa City hospitals
Excellent social services
Attractive community with recreational opportunities
The University of Iowa
Although Iowa City is his current place of residence, the Traveling Man gets his name for a reason. John has panhandled in cities across the United States in Vermont, Iowa and Indiana.
“I went to fucking Ames. I hustled the fuck out of those people. Oh my god, I was making over a hundred dollars a night,” John said. “And I felt guilty, and I’m like, I don’t want to rape these people like this; this is crazy. Well I mean, I’m still doing it. And I’m going to continue to do it until they tell me to stop.”
The bigger issue
Averaging about $200.00 in earnings in one weekend, John puts a good portion of his donations back into the economy by buying cigarettes, food, drugs and alcohol.
“I’m gonna have some fun out here tonight. I’m pretty fucking stoned. I smoked some good weed. And I’m drinking some good vodka. I’m just having fun out here right now,” John said while holding his sign up.
This poses as a bigger issue to those actively involved with the homeless of Iowa City.
“The issue of pan handling creates discomfort; people don’t know how to respond often times,” Christina Canganelli, Executive Director of the Iowa City Shelter House said. “And it can become a rather charged situation because the bottom line is that people don’t want to be told that by giving a charitable gift to somebody, all they are doing is creating and feeding a problem. When I give that dollar or five dollars to that person more often than not I am feeding their addiction.”
Proposed Panhandling Solution
According to Connie Champion, Campaign chair for Opening Doors Capital Campaign Committee, old parking meters may be used to collect money for those in need to reduce panhandling. Although the plan is still in the discussion stage, the idea behind it would be to put old parking meters throughout the ped mall in Downtown Iowa City. Ideally, by doing this, people can donate their change to many individuals who would benefit from it, not just one person.
“A lot of them are not even homeless and a lot of them don’t even really need the money,” Champion added.
But according to John, if this is implemented, panhandling will still continue. “Oh they aren’t going to do that. Even if they do, it’s all bullshit anyway. Motherfuckers are going to still come out here and do the same god damn shit,” John said.
“People think that what I’m doing is like some screwed up shit,” John added. “Oh really? They’ve got bars and clubs all over this town that are just raping people. You know, ten dollar cover charge, five dollar a drink. You know, my god, they are going to spend a hundred dollars or more buying those drinks, so how am I fucking bad? I’m not, I’m not raping you. In fact, I’m giving you a chance here. I’m letting you read my sign and if you dig it and you want to give me some money, cool, if not you can walk on. You can’t do that in a bar. You go into a bar you’re hooked. I’m taking what money they are going to spend anyway in a fucking bar.”
I just don’t like screaming, whiny kids who are dragged along with their mothers while shopping for clothes.
Proof that I love children; my two wonderful nieces! Photo by Sherri Healy
For the most part, children are wide-eyed and smiling while out in public. But take their favorite Build a Bear away for five seconds or have them run out of animal crackers and the world ends. They kick, they scream, they cry for hours; not my forte.
One word sums up my experiences as a retail worker who has to deal with whiny little pukes on a daily basis: headache.
Mothers, leave your children at home with their father because chances are your kid doesn’t want to shop with you anymore than your husband does.
Gum is meant to be chewed. Not swallowed, eaten, put under a table and especially not meant to be smeared on a seat.
Sunday, some cool kids decided it would be a good idea to take their freshly chewed gum and smear it on the top of one of the waiting seats at work. Nasty.
A co-worker noticed it festering on the cushion and grabbed my attention. We scrubbed and scrubbed at the gum trying to remove it and it wouldn’t come off. The sticky residue would only smear more when trying to get it off. Eventually, after forks, screw drivers and Brillo pads were used to remove it, it disappeared.