On sob-story reporting

One of the constants of Universal Hub Twitter feed is that people regularly send me updates on the whereabouts of Sob Story Guy and Sob Story Girl (actually, should be plural, since there's more than than one of each).

People really, really hate being confined to a metal tube underground (or just sitting in a restaurant or theater) while an angry or seemingly distraught person demands money to see her kid in Portsmouth or his parole officer in Worcester - especially if story tellers are heading the wrong direction from the train station you'd take to get to those places or if they're repeating the same tear-laden spiels veteran Bostonians have heard for years.

But are these story tellers people with mental disabilities who shouldn't be pointed out and mocked in a public medium? Here's an exchange on Twitter yesterday:

I'm thinking there's really a difference between your average homeless panhandler on the Common and these people. One really has fallen on hard times and deserves help; the other is just a mean grifter preying on tourists and newcomers who don't know any better. Telling sob stories for them is not a symptom of mental illness for them - it's what they do for a living. And I'm thinking sharing sob-story sightings is not a way to mock the less fortunate, but a way to let off steam about some really annoying people (some of whom might be criminals).

But what do I know? Your thoughts?

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pointed out, mocked, discussed

It's easy to ignore the piss poor state of mental health and drug rehab procedures in the United States. These people are handled poorly by public services, if at all, and in that sense it's good that they get in people's faces and are subsequently discussed. I've had sob story guy in my face repeatedly- one time after telling some British tourists on the South Station platform not to give him money. He's a scumbag but he's also completely unable to get help even if it's in the form of an arrest. Let's not coddle these people. Let's get uncomfortable and fed up enough to do something about it. Also, I only need 6 more dollars to buy a ticket for the train to Maine..will someone pleeeeease help me?

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Yeah, not mutually exclusive

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I think you said it pretty well.

1) All people need respect and compassion in order to be healthy.

2) The way to change a behavior is to not reinforce it, and to reinforce the desired behavior.

If every single one of us responded to these people by either politely walking on by, or politely telling them that people don't want to listen to yelling and harassment and to quiet down or go elsewhere, they wouldn't keep doing it. They'd learn that socially inappropriate behavior does not result in money, and does result in people asking them to stop. Every time someone gets in an argument or throws an insult, this adds to the folks feeling that they're misunderstood and persecuted. This isn't the right message; the message to send is that all kinds of sane, rational, caring fellow human beings are politely asking them to stop yelling on corners and to make use of social services agencies for help.

I know, I know, utopian, but mocking them on the internet and getting in arguments with them isn't working, now is it?

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change one grain of sand at a time is slow

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I think the point of mocking them on the internet is not to change the behavior of the sobstory-ers, but to give outlet to the frustration we find when we're confronted with something we can't change.

eeka--It would be swell if the whole entire population of residents and tourists got the message and participated in the behavior change experiment you propose, but that's just not practical. So what do we do with the situation right now? Personally, I ignore them and occasionally let the targets know it's a scam when it is safe for me to do so.

I once confronted a street person in front of Back Bay T who was kicking at the milk crate of another (who I recognized as a regular for that spot who was genuinely homeless and I had occasionally helped out). I told him calmly and firmly to stop and actually used the words "that's not acceptable". I have no idea what possessed me to engage with someone who was clearly violent, but I did and he stopped. But then he followed me to Copley shouting and threatening and then dashing away. I did my best to ignore him (ha!). He finally followed me into the station where I shouted at the top of my lungs for him to leave me alone and stop threatening me.

I would do it again to protect someone vulnerable from violence but I'm not thrilled about doing it again to reform a con artist, no matter how much he/she deserves my compassion.

I agree to a point...

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I have had my share of homeless folks scream at me on buses and in train stations. And I have run into Mr. Sob Story from time to time. I have never been hurt and I do understand most are dealing with mental illnesses and/or addiction issues.

Personally, I just don't confront the people who are looking for money due to possibly unpredictable behavior. I understand and agree with much of eeka says, however, I do think asking them to stop and examine their behavior is, for the most part, an exercise in futility.

However, I don't agree with the idea of mocking anyone on the Internet as a way to vent your frustration. Thus, I always felt a bit uncomfortable when this blog would post sob story stories. All of us get frustrated in our lives but to mock others because we are frustrated is not cool, and in my opinion, is cruel behavior. No one should have free license to mock someone because they are having a bad day.

License to mock

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No one should have free license to mock someone because they are having a bad day.

I don't mock someone because he or she is having a bad day. I mock Nigerian 419 scammers. I mock scuzzy used car salesmen. I mock the Westboro Baptist Church. I mock arrogant bank executives who claim their criminal enterprises are "too big to be allowed to fail." And I mock Sob Story Guy. All of them, each in his or her own way, are knowingly and deliberately making the world a worse place.

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Oh come on.

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The senior management of Countrywide Finance sold overpriced mortgages to homeowners who could not afford them, and then packaged them into bonds and sold them to investors, while representing the bonds as higher quality than they actually were.

Did they do that because they didn't know it was wrong? Because they were suffering from mental illness? Because they were down and out and couldn't find more respectable work?

No, they did it because it was an easy way to make money if you are willing to suspend your moral sensibilities.

The *exact* same thing is true of Sob Story guy. He doesn't need to be told politely that what he's doing is unacceptable; he needs to be in a cage.

It's laughably impossible to shut off these guys' source of income, for the same reason it's laughably impossible to shut off e-mail scams. When you're using stolen resources to send out e-mail, it costs you absolutely nothing to send out a million or so messages at a time, so an infinitesimally small percentage hit rate will still make you a good living.

Idiots

The dolts who think that these people are truly unfortunate people who deserve compassion and empathy are the reason these scam artists have thrived for so many years. That, and naive tourists who don't know any better.

Keep retweeting, Adam. It helps us know which trains to avoid, since the MBTA doesn't seem to mind this scam going on.

makes you think...

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A few years back my mother visited the city and we went to dinner. While we waited for our whole party to exit the restaurant, a female sob story approached her about needing to get to--you guessed it--Worcester. She ended up with a $50 from my mother's purse. She's a nurse and not wealthy by any means, just not street smart never having lived in the city. She doesn't travel, so I woulnd't lump her in with tourists who should know better either. Just your average kind hearted mom from the exurbs. I normally just ignore the panhandlers and go about my business, but it made me realize that they aren't just begging for money. They are actively manipulating people who for whatever reason do not know their game. You can bet I gave her panhandler 101 after that debacle.

I used to be one who gave out money every so often too, until not too long ago a travelling panhandling family came through the city and was actually written up (in the globe I think) for the posh hotel lifestyle they manage to lead with their large family in tow as they go from place to place begging on the streets. So for starters we can stop pretending that a lot of these people aren't making a steady paycheck begging.

Should we allow them completely uninhibited and have a culture of begging flourish like in much of urban Europe where panhandlers are a dime a dozen and will actively pickpocket you and trick you without even a decent sob story? I once was deep in conversation with a friend while I ate dinner at an outdoor restaurant in Lisbon when out of nowhere a young woman comes up to my table and practically dumped her BABY in my lap. Then, she wouldn't take the baby back from me--demanding money from me for food. Finally a waiter came out and chased her away. Did i feel badly? Guess.

Where do we draw the line on begging for money and robbing people of their personal property?

No one is more sensitive to mental illness than me, (topic for another time) but to say these people are so mentally ill that we should not dare judge them, but not so mentally ill that they cant come up with a profitable scam is a farce that helps no one.

Don't try to Bullsh*t me

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I like to think of myself as a compassionate person. I donate money to charities when I can,donate to food banks,volunteer,etc. But when people like this try to bullshit me with their phony stories and predicaments that I see performed over and over,for weeks,months,and years,that pisses me off. And when the bullshit is coupled with violent and agitated actions on a packed rush hour train, I lose all compassion for them.

Plenty of mental health issues, drinking, poverty in my family

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Ain't nobody ever gone out and did shit like this.

People who play the "looking down on the poor" card have clearly lead charmed and wealthy and comfortable lives. What these guys do is more effort than getting a fucking job!

What's the line from Drugstore Cowboy? Something like "most working stiffs never worked as hard as we did just trying to stay high"?

We already have a "remedy" for violent people-

it's called jail. If the behavior doesn't rise to that level, I say take the headphones out of your ears and just say "No, I can't spare anything". Is that so hard? These sob stories about sob story people are actually pretty boring at this point.

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If he was that unfortunate,

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If he was that unfortunate, he would have stayed in Worcester the first time he got 5 bucks for the train.

Re: Sob story guys and gals

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Over the years, I've run into several of these characters. One woman frequented the Longwood Medical Area at night. Her sob story was she needed money to get to Worcester by train because her car had broken down. I saw her so many times, she dropped the story and we actually had real conversations with her asking how my family was among other pleasantries.

It was clear she had an addiction and she was doing other things to get money besides spinning tales. I understand the value of pointing out their appearances on the T as you would any other hazard, but there's a point at which it does become cruel.

I think most people know better than to give these folks money and half the time they undo themselves. One woman who frequents the Red Line cursed our resolve at not falling for her nonsense as she got off to work another car.

Savvy T riders know what the deal is with these folks. I just cringe at the idea of desensitizing ourselves and creating this hard outer shell impervious to all appeals to our empathy in public spaces.

For example, the man who was pushed onto the tracks and killed in New York City. There was some back and forth between the victim and the killer prior to the push. I'm sure it was loud and other commuters looked away, maybe even thinking it was a dispute between two homeless fellows. Nobody helped this guy and he died.

I'm not saying not to point out the sob story hazards, just let's not lose our humanity and forget to see them as people in the throes of addiction or outright scammers. In either case, they were victimized at some point in their journey to the platform. I can't imagine it's a good feeling to panhandle your way through life.

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A lot of people don't know these are scam artists

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"I think most people know better than to give these folks money and half the time they undo themselves. One woman who frequents the Red Line cursed our resolve at not falling for her nonsense as she got off to work another car."

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. I see the Sob Story guy with the scam about going to Worcester/Springfield on the T at least once a week and there has never been a time I haven't seen good intentioned people reaching for purse or wallet. If I feel brave enough to point out it's a scam, they seem surprised. I think it is mostly tourists or those unfamiliar with the city that these characters prey upon. The one that says he needs to go to Worcester says things like "I need to be there by 5 PM to get a bed", and meanwhile it's already 4:45 PM. Good luck getting to Worcester in 15 minutes. He also has a little disclaimer where he says "yes, I have substance abuse problems, and I've been doing this for a long time and I know people hate me". I'm sure this gets him a few extra bucks for sheer chutzpah.

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Don't hate the player, hate the game :p

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At least that's my philosophy. There will always be people out there in one form or another, willing to try to exploit the gullible. Why do you think the Nigerian prince scams are still around? 99% of people know that it's bs... but every once in a while... there's that one person who is dumb enough to shell out some money... and $1000's of dollars later.... well crud.

So honestly, if you are naive or enough to fall for one of these clearly overwrought stories... well... sure the scumbag artist is a scumbag for taking advantage of someone... but I think the person dumb enough to reach into their wallet should share some of the blame too.

That article

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That article is interesting and the solution to the Nigerian scam outlined in it gives me an idea on how to beat the sob-story scam problem.

Instead of ignoring the sob-story people, maybe we should be asking them for more details about their situation and try to take up as much of their time without giving them money as we can. If they are answering your questions they aren't yelling at everyone and they aren't getting any money at the same time.

But it probably wouldn't work.

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Doesn't work

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"Instead of ignoring the sob-story people, maybe we should be asking them for more details about their situation and try to take up as much of their time without giving them money as we can."

Unfortunately, this approach doesn't work. I've tried it. When you try to get specific, they ignore the questioning, mumble something and quickly move on to the next person.

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The real problem

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The real problem is that the con never evolves. America loves a good con man, but hearing the same con for years is just sad. Come on, sob-story people, you pull the sob-story routine when you're starting out, then you move on the the three card monty, and on and on until one day I open up the Boston Globe and read that a local con man has "sold" Steve Wynn the Zakim Bridge.

Then Boston will love you.

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Question

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I guess I have the question of: are people really avoiding trains because of this?

Like, so you have a favorite transportation method/route and you alter your commute just so you don't have to say no to these people?

I don't get this at all. If you hate these type of panhandlers and you don't think they deserve empathy/sympathy, then why is it uncomfortable to say no?

I guess I fail to see the trauma that hearing a story (even if it is a bad lie) multiple times.

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What you don't get here

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Ignoring them doesn't work.

"No" doesn't work.

"Please leave me alone" doesn't work.

Even "GET OUT OF MY FACE NOW!!!!" does NOT work with these people.

For sobstory trolls, all of the above mean "up the ante and make them pay to make me go away".

That means verbal and sometimes physical harassment. Pushing. Encroaching on personal space. Breathing on people. Blocking someone's path to prevent them from leaving a train to get away. Following someone attempting to leave while showering them with verbal abuse. Threatening verbal and physical behavior.

I can tell that you simply have no idea.

This

I couldn't have said it better myself. If you don't know the aggressive nature of these con artists, then you aren't able to understand why they are so universally hated by all who have come across them.

Agreed. I had a very

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Agreed. I had a very aggressive panhandler catch me off guard by offering his hand for me to shake which I reflexively did. When I firmly told him I had no money, he wouldn't let go. As a smallish female, it's unnerving. This a-hole crossed the line. I seem him nearly every damn day in my neighborhood. Some people commenting on this topic really are clueless. For those who feel compelled to help panhandlers, a more productive and positive action would be to donate money to homeless shelters or volunteer at a soup kitchen. Rewarding intimidating behavior with cash just makes it worse for others who live and work in the city, and mostly likely contributes to the panhandler's drug/alcohol addiction.

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Enabling isn't empathy though

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Even though the snarkers won't admit it, I think that what we actually hate about these people is that any of us could suddenly develop major mental illness, and we all know that our society isn't set up to do a very thorough job helping folks.

The empathic thing to do is not to give them money, because giving them money teaches them that antisocial behavior is effective in getting their needs met. The empathic thing is to calmly and politely tell them to go to the relevant agency where they can get food or travel assistance in a socially appropriate fashion. And if they're being aggressive or lying, to calmly let them know that people on the train don't need to be subjected to that.

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Nope. Thanks for the

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Nope. Thanks for the psychoanalysis, but what I hate is annoying people getting all up in my face crying about some made up story.

Oh, Eeka...

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I've seen that routine many times over the years and I'm sorry to say nine times out of ten when you tell someone looking to get high that they should go down to Pine Street or their local rehab, it usually ends up badly.

I'd hate to see something happen to you when "fuck off" delivered in a gruff and firm manner does wonders for both parties. It's not cruel. It lets them know that you are not to be trifled with and it keeps the encounter brief.

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What.

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Now you're using thinly veiled sexism to justify treating human beings disrespectfully?

Being polite, caring, direct, and firm never once has failed me when working with violent offenders, people under the influence or coming down off of it, people actively experiencing psychosis, or strangers asking me for money.

I don't plan to tell someone who obviously is having a harder times of things than I am to "fuck off," thanks.

Thanks for your concern, but it's misplaced

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People with mental illness are not generally violent and are much more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators of it. The people who are being discussed here are obviously people who've had the authorities called on them repeatedly and have been evaluated many times by professionals. You might not like their behavior, and I don't either, but it isn't like you have some magic insight that tells you they're dangerous when all the professionals who've been called to evaluate them have determined that they're obnoxious, but not dangerous.

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Eeka, my experience as a

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Eeka, my experience as a woman with being polite and giving a firm direct no has failed. It does not work every time. I've had men block my path, call me the c word, intimidate me and follow me across the street! Please, do not think that your experience is the norm for the rest of us. No person has the right to intimidate another person for any reason. Period. Think about what you are saying.

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Sob Story Assault

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A lot of the actions of the more violent Sobbies borders on assault. Some, like getting into someone’s face in a threatening manner or grabbing them and not letting go, is assault.

Really?

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How about someone who earns his living by going into convenience stores, pointing a gun at the cashier, demanding money, and shooting the cashier if he doesn't comply?

Now there's a good example of "socially unacceptable behavior," as you put it.

Do you seriously maintain that the appropriate approach to such a person is to be polite, caring, direct, and firm, and to calmly explain to them that what they're doing is not acceptable?

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Wow

You are so adorable in your naivete! Do you have unicorns and kittens flying over rainbows where you come from?

This conversation is not about dealing with panhandlers in general. It is not about societal discomfort with confronting homelessness and mental illness. This conversation is about a specific set of con artists who are aggressive, threatening, and stealing from otherwise well-meaning and wonderful people like you (just without all the judginess you seem to have).

I'm sorry

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but no, what I am afraid of is being screamed at and followed by someone if I try to politely ask them to leave me alone. Having that happen once was enough.

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I think that

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it is not so much folks think they will end up with mental illness. I think, for some, picking on or being cruel to those with issues such as these makes the "pickers" feel better about themselves.

And, as some have innocently posted, just venting man, just venting.

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It's not the saying no...

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It's the reaction to saying no. I've had one of these men, freak out, screaming, inches from my face, punching the door behind me when I told him that I would not support his habit. On another instance, this same man knocked down a person on an escalator in his effort to escape after being pointed out to an MBTA cop.

I get that addiction is a beast and one that I am fortunate enough to not battle personally. And I don't change my mode of transportation to avoid these folks but I do feel increasingly uncomfortable and unsafe when the panhandling escalates from a bogus sob story to physical harassment.

But not playing by the rules IS a sign of poor mental health

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Scamming people and lying to them isn't something most of us would do, because most of us have neurology where we have basic respect for others, care to an extent what they think of us, and have the self-control and executive functioning to be able to make and carry out decisions that result in others seeing us as competent and socially appropriate people. The scammers I've encountered all seem to have symptoms of mental illness, limited cognitive ability, substance abuse, or some combination of the above.

While most people with mental illness are not grossly socially inappropriate, there are certainly thought disorders where this is the case. Many times when someone is paranoid and their identity is to feel victimized, they can present as defensive and with complete disregard for social norms. I've had several clients with major mental illness who were bright people who could certainly learn social skills, but whose thinking was completely based on delusions that everyone is plotting against them, so it was pointless during such a state to try and get them to buy into how there are reasons that we follow rules and act in a socially appropriate fashion. These folks also may have a history of repeated failures where they feel that no matter what they do, they get kicked out of programs, locked up, disowned by family and friends, so they stop trying and play by their own rules.

tl;dr version: If someone had skills and connections and self-respect, they wouldn't feel comfortable going out and scamming people.

Sorry to say..

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If someone had skills and connections and self-respect, they wouldn't feel comfortable going out and scamming people.

Several of my clients only got to be the former by being the latter.

Nonsense

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If someone had skills and connections and self-respect, they wouldn't feel comfortable going out and scamming people.

Nonsense. If they had skills, connections, and self-respect they could still have the same desire to go out and scam people. They'd just work on Wall Street instead of Tremont Street.

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maybe I'm just too cynical

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But you seem to severely underestimate the population of sociopaths in our culture. A lack of empathy or moral conviction isn’t limited to the downtrodden or drugged out.

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Way to stigmatize mental illness

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I have been trying to ignore this post all day and not comment on it but I just can't.

It's posts like yours that reinforce the idea that mentally ill people are to be feared, distrusted and pitied.

I'll wager that I've got as bad or worse a diagnosis (excuse me, diagnoses) as a lot of your patients but I own my own place, have a master's degree, a pretty great career, great relationships with friends and family and a lot of other things going for me.

Your bleeding heart bullshit makes it sound like people with bad brain chemistry are a bunch of paranoid, delusional scary people who can't get better.

Stop it already and come join us in reality. You might find that there are fully functioning mentally ill people in the world. You just don't know they're ill because they manage it so well.

Nancy...

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It isn't two-way logic. People who act this way are not mentally healthy.

But not all or even most people with mental illness are bothering anyone. I even said that in one of my posts.

You can't just say that because your mental illness is nothing like Joe's, that that means he doesn't have a mental illness.

I think it's really great that you're putting yourself out there and trying to reduce stigma, but it isn't fair to do that by including only the socially acceptable people with psychiatric disabilities and throwing the others under the bus. We all need to advocate for treating ALL people with and without psychiatric disabilities like human beings. My whole point was that all people can recover, and insulting and mocking people because their particular symptoms are annoying to us does not help their recovery.

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You're overgeneralizing

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You're lumping together three populations who really ought to be treated differently.

There are people out on the street, acting socially inappropriately because of un- or under- treated mental illness. They should be treated with the same respect to which anyone else on the street is treated.

There are people out on the street who beg for a living, but do not scam, threaten, or bully. They, too, should be treated with the same respect to which anyone else on the street is treated.

There are people out on the street who lie, scam, threaten, bully, and 'act socially inappropriately' because these techniques are effective in increasing their income. They are criminals and should be removed from the presence of civilized people.

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Your misunderstanding of mental illness is astounding

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There is nothing to "recover" from. I have a chronic illness from which I will never recover. And, FFS, I do NOT have a disability. I have a brain disease whose symptoms I treat.

So, again, I beg you to stop. Unless you have experienced major mental illness yourself, stop being so patronizing and condescending.

If you want to treat the people you meet as victims who need to go into recovery to try to grapple with this great disability that holds them back, go ahead but I'm begging you to watch your language and how you classify a group of people with a wide range of illnesses and life experiences.

Drug Addicts

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And hate to say it, but you can’t help them until they decide they want the help. And while begging and even sob storying is better than theft, it’s not right that they’re preying on people’s good will to support their habit. Especially when there are legitimately down on your luck or mentally ill homeless people that are clean and hungry and miserable.

Several of these Sob story jerks have even been reported to have housing.

Anyways, my 2 cents. Making people aware of frauds and shucksters isn’t a bad thing.

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My Sob Story Guy

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Is the one at South Station who hasn't gotten a bed at Pine Street Inn for the night and needs $13 for the bus to Worcester to see his Grandmother.

He is clearly a scammer. He's dressed pretty well and his hygiene indicates that he has regular access to running water and soap.

I volunteer at shelters and the people there need help. I'm happy to give it to them. They are in a bad way whether it's due to mental illness or hard times. My heart breaks when I hear a woman telling me that she chose to be homeless instead of staying in an abusive relationship. I give those people all the compassion and help I can.

I also have mental illness. I have a pretty bad one. I have two coexisting ones. I work my ass off to keep them under control. I pay a fair amount of money every month for psychiatrist and therapists visits as well as prescriptions.

Because of my long term involvement with the mental health community, I do all I can to help advocate, volunteer and do what I can to help them. I'm lucky that I can have health insurance (which I'm going to lose in a week and a half when I lose my job and have no idea how I'm supposed to pay COBRA premiums on unemployment). On the other hand, I see a lot of free care and prescription availability in this city for those who need it.

One last point. I have an addict in my family. My family has seen him go to rehab several times. We've given him thousands and thousands of dollars over the years and he's still a f--k up. Maybe that affects me in a way that's different from other people. I have zero sympathy for addicts who aren't doing something about it.

To summarize this very long post: Sob Story guy at South Station is never getting money from me to go see his nonexistent grandmother in Worcester.

I saw a Sob Story Girl

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One summer, walking around the Fenway/Kenmore area in perfectly bleached white clothes that never got dirty, even though she was "homeless" for the summer.

Summer Semester ended, she disappeared. I guess pretending to be homeless gets you 4 credits for an Independent Study in Sociology, right?

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Fer sure some people are

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Fer sure some people are "taken in" by the sob story and feel somehow cheated when they see the same person with the same problem later. So sure, keep reporting that the story they are telling is false.

But these are still people who need help. Giving them $5 for them to "take the train" isn't so different from giving them $5 because they're spare changing, as long as you know the score. And most of us city people do, I think.

I really doubt the sob story people are living it up with the money they've "conned" off people. They're not going home to their swank pad and laughing at the proles on the T whilst sipping champagne and eating caviar. They might be laughing at the proles, but they're doing it in a shabby place and not living healthy, happy lives.

That said, they are completely annoying and I wish they wouldn't go on and on, and I wish the T would kick them off because they are a nuisance to people just trying to get someplace.

"Annoying" isn't a crime

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While I agree with most of what you've said, and I think you and I would probably agree with what sort of behavior is obnoxious and annoying, it quickly becomes a slippery slope. As long as someone isn't threatening someone or doing something otherwise unsafe/illegal, we can't just ask that the T remove anyone who's "annoying." That would end up being most of the passengers.

OF COURSE annoying people should be removed from the T

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Why not? A restaurant would kick you out for soliciting other patrons for money. So would a public library. So would Amtrak. The T is no different.

We have to have a viable public transportation system, and a public transportation system doesn't work if the price of using it is being harassed for money.

Are other people annoying? Yes, sometimes. People who are being intentionally disruptive ought to be kicked off too if they don't behave.

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Check your assumptions

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I really doubt the sob story people are living it up with the money they've "conned" off people. They're not going home to their swank pad and laughing at the proles on the T whilst sipping champagne and eating caviar. They might be laughing at the proles, but they're doing it in a shabby place and not living healthy, happy lives.

They can live pretty well. I know of one case (I'm not going to out him here; he's a well known, friendly, polite panhandler often working Boston Common.) He and three other guys share a Section 8 apartment, for which they don't pay much because they have very little traceable income. They can can make $200-300 per day apiece. Assuming that, like the rest of us, they take weekends and vacations, that's $40,000 to $60,000 per year apiece, or $160,000 to $240,000 for the four, with minimal housing expenses and, of course no taxes.

There IS a difference

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I walk by the same 5-6 panhandlers everyday while going to work and leaving work. While it is annoying to not be able to walk past, let alone into, a Walgreens or 7-11 in Boston without being asked for something, we live in a major city and that is just part of life. These people just move on to the next person if you keep going and generally don't really hurt anyone.

The sob story people, however, are a different story. Once you get to the point of getting in people's faces, holding train doors, making threats and otherwise disrupting people's lives, and doing so under false pretenses at that, I don't care what kind of issues you have, you deserve to be called out. Yes, reporting them to the MBTA is a must, but if people want to share their frustration and make other riders aware, they are not the ones doing anything wrong.

The tipping point for me was when I saw the guy on Boylston, who always needs a few bucks to hold him over until the food pantry opens in 2 days, buying scratch off after scratch off at Tedeschi's and slamming his fists on the counter/screaming every time one was a loser.

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Yes there's absolutely a

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Yes there's absolutely a difference between a legit pan handler and these jerk holes. I've got absolutely no problem with pan handling. But when you come in giving me some BS story about how you need to get to Worcester to see your kids I can't stand that.

Can we

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introduce sob story guy to a MAPIRG worker? I feel like it be something like this:

IMAGE(http://tcpm.mrlazyinc.com/files/images/lawls/2012_May/troll_film_made_after_toast_and_cat_flip_meme.gif)

To be fair

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I have tweeted a sob story comment before AND I have given money to a sob story gal before.

I know the whole spiel but honestly gave her the $ so she could stop the blatant nonsense babble she was going on about and so everyone else could stop pretending to not hear her on a fully silent Green line car.

Well it backfired on me, because then she just kept going saying that if she got 2 more dollars she could maybe grab a snack before hitting the commuter rail.