Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
May 26, 2014 02:13 AM

After you've dined or filled your shopping bags... [moved from France board]

What do you give the begger?
On several occasions (eating in the parks, leaving a fine diner or pastry shop, carrying our groceries) we have been approached by people in apparently dire straights asking for money for food. One lady beds down regularly with an infant in a corner across from l' Comptoir we have seen men urinating in. Another fellow is as regular as a clock in front of Gerard Merlot. We feel particularly sympathetic after dining or shopping.
What is a reasonable response?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You give them or do not give them whatever you usually do in other cities, before or after you dine or fill your shopping bags.
    What an interesting trip: You seem to be a magnet of beggars and reservation screw-ups, when you are not watching men peeing on the street.

    1. Generally speaking, I do not give to beggars.

      Doesnt matter if the beggar is in France, my own country, or anywhere else.

      1. while there is genuine need in France, the social network is woven tightly enough that it's not quite as easy to fall through the net as it is in other countries.

        The prevalence of immigrant gangs, organized begging and pickpocketing rings, and scams in Paris means that I generally walk right on by.

        e.g., the woman sitting on the steps of the metro crying to passersby, with a leg that stopped at the knee wrapped in a filthy bandage. I'd just missed the prior train, so sat down (the only other person on the platform that day) to wait.She didn't realize that where I was sitting on the platform, waiting for the next metro, gave me a full-on view as she removed the bandage (it was a sleeve, stood up and shook out the numbness from the leg she'd been sitting on, and scampered up the steps to more fertile hunting grounds.

        18 Replies
        1. re: sunshine842

          In my own city (north west England) the council has been proactive in displaying signs urging people not to give to beggars but, instead, to donate to charities assisting the homeless or those with drug/alcohol problems. Supporting drop-in centres is much more beneficial to the homeless community than giving to individual beggars (who may, or may not be genuine, as sunshine points out).

          1. re: Harters

            Lastly, begging exists elsewhere. Scamming exists elsewhere. They also occur before and after one has dined or filled shopping bags.
            Give, don't give. That they occur in Paris after meal time should not paralyze one's intellect.

            1. re: Parigi

              Besides, I found the original question rather surprising. Sounding like: "Please tell me how to deal with beggars in Paris, they're different beggars from the ones back home."

              The mind boggles.

              1. re: Ptipois

                I sense very big differences and wonder what others think and what the local reaction is. We like to toss coins into the musicians' instrument cases if they play well, but rewarding someone for camping in front of a shop for the duration of shop hours is new to us.

                1. re: hychka

                  I think if you watch, you'll see that most Parisians tend to walk right on by.

                  Charity is something the state is supposed to do, although it's quite fashionable to support Restos de Coeur and and Emmaus, which provide aid to the needy.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    The older lady sitting begging in front of the Picard supermarket is, as often, on her cell phone right now.

                2. re: Ptipois

                  I sense that many visitors are from communities where there are no visible vagrants, hence the success of the clipboard girls and ring people.

                  1. re: mangeur

                    don't forget the string guys up at Montmartre!

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        no, the string guys up at Montmartre who, as soon as you approach the little square at the bottom of the funicular, give you a line of hokum about how they've prepared this bracelet for you to give you good luck, and please take it as a gift.....

                        ...they then shake you down for €5-10 for their "gift".

                        While I've heard some tales of them getting ridiculously aggressive, I've seen plenty of gendarmes hanging out in the square at the bottom of the funicular, and the ones who have approached me slink away after a deathstare and a firm Non.

                        1. re: John Talbott

                          A guy comes up to you and starts to grab something off the ground. It appears to be a heavy gold ring. He asks if it is yours. I said no, keep it as you found it. He said it doesn't fit and he has no girl friend. So, I was to take it. He exclaims that the marks on the inside means that it is real gold, no? So, I look at it and can't read the marks, but note that the weight is wrong and tell him that. Too light for gold; gold would be heavier. He insists I keep it. I insist, "Finders keepers" and send him off only to have another same scam within five the Arc de Triomphe...and I'm sure that there are more.

                          1. re: hychka

                            I stopped one right in his tracks when I asked him how it was I could possible have dropped a ring 5 metres IN FRONT of where I was walking.

                            1. re: hychka

                              Regarding your very own original post, so did you "feel particularly sympathetic" and give money each time ?

                              1. re: hychka

                                hychka, it's not really a good idea to stop for these scammers. Many are gypsys who while you are looking at what they are distracting you with will empty your pocketbook. Or take it, entirely. This is true in France, and elsewhere.

                          2. re: mangeur

                            That's one thing I'm still not sure I'm happy to have learned in my time in France -- you become very, very hard at the sight of "needy" people huddled on the street or in the metro, because you don't need to be there very long before you manage to have a glimpse behind the veil and see the scams being operated and read about the insanely pervasive rings (up to and including human trafficking and slavery) being run all over the country.

                            I think Americans in particular are rather sitting ducks -- it's considerably easier to fall through the social net in the US, and my guess, based on those observations, is that there is, proportionately, more genuine (desperate?) need amongst those on the street in the US than in Paris. I'm still trying to soften the hard shell that I had to grow....

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Having lived in two cities in the US that are known for having a very high density of homeless people there are a few things I've experienced that can make a person more cynical than I'd care to be.
                              I'll never forget a young woman, sitting outside a very high end department store, holding her infant. I felt immediate compassion and wanted to do whatever I could for her.
                              I asked the doorman what I should do. He told me the best thing to do would be to call the police, who in turn would know the best avenue to take as far as help for her.
                              The police arrived, knew of her circumstance well, and they told me she refused help. She like sitting on that corner receiving the attention she got. The baby was in good health (it was checked out by CPS and found to be clean and well fed) and there was virtually nothing anyone could do to help her, legally.

                      2. re: Harters

                        "Supporting drop-in centres is much more beneficial to the homeless community than giving to individual beggars (who may, or may not be genuine, as sunshine points out)."

                        Exactly the right thing to do, IMO. In my community, there are lots of people who panhandle all over the place. I have begun keeping business cards of our local in-take center for food and shelter charities. If they are truly needing and looking for help, they will find it there. I also know the locations of community suppers (we have one every day of the week) so I will let them know about those. And if I think the person is really hungry, especially if it is someone I recognize from serving at the shelter, I will buy a meal.

                      3. re: sunshine842

                        Among some others I asked this question to learn if there is as I guessed a band of these artists and also which charities people in a Paris back home in IN our friends support the women's shelter and Food Finders, Salvation Army and the Urban Ministries, all do splendid work on behave of the poor. I see here that the Red Cross actively requests donations in the parks.

                      4. Remember, in many parts of the world, begging is an acceptable Occupation, not a circumstance forced upon one by a destitute situation.
                        1) in the immediate encounter, offer food. Carry a few meal/ protein bars in your bag at all times. Be prepared to be verbally abused instead of thanked.
                        2) Give routinely to aid and charity organizations
                        3) Volunteer your time -- meet "these people" and serve them

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Kris in Beijing

                          but definitely not in Paris, which is where this thread started.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Even in Paris, the choice to beg May be seen as an acceptable occupation -> by those who choose to beg.

                        2. I don't give to beggers. Ever. In many countries, they are parts of gangs and earn more money than people earning an honest wage. In some countries, women will rent babies for the day because they'll earn more. And of course they won't feed or water the baby since the more pathetic the baby looks, the more money they earn.

                          I will not support bad behaviour.

                          I give to trusted organizations and charities where I know the money will help the genuinely in need.