Oh, for simpler days, when sob-story people just asked for money to get to Worcester

Mother of my baby is dead, so give me money, please

The past few weeks have seen an explosion of the number of Tissue People on the T: People with allegedly horrible lives who seek donations in exchange for a small pack of tissues.

Annie Oakenfold, who has been collecting these notes for more than a month now, reports a woman passed the above note and a pack of tissues on the Orange Line tonight.

Also tonight:



    Free tagging: 


    and me too

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    I keep seeing these people on the Orange Line.. While they aren't disruptive, it's still annoying. I can deal with people at the stations or outside the stations doing this or begging for money.

    But when I'm inside a train car.. I have no where to go. You've held me captive. I think it's illegal ("captive audience" comes to mind). The problem is.. these people are so quick about it. They come and drop the tissue and note down, and within a few minutes.. come back and sweep it back up, and they get off at the next stop. Long before any T officials (or TPD) can do anything about it. (this is why I try to take photos of the person, so the T folks can look at security cameras at stations)

    Here's my recent tweets from Saturday about this...

    And their reply:

    I'm not a lawyer, but I don't

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    I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think this counts as holding us "captive" in any legal sense, or even the colloquial one of being a captive audience: the one I saw Friday night dropped the tissues next to me, I looked away with my best "this is the big city" blank/hostile expression, and they picked them up and left without either of us saying a word.

    The "showtime" guys are the ones treating riders as a captive audience. (I yelled at one on a train in New York, a few years ago, after he almost kicked me.) This is irritating, but not a threat.

    "held captive"

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    Lol dude. Maybe living in a city isn't for you if you can't just tell them no or ignore them.


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    Finally. Now will they actually start doing something about it?


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    It is not against the law to be annoying on the MBTA
    It is not against the law to stink while on the MBTA
    It is not against the law to sleep in the MBTA
    It is not against the law to ask for a handout on the MBTA
    It is not against the law to hand out pamphlets in the MBTA
    It is not against the law to be poor on the MBTA
    Sure its a scam but since the Transit Police ignore fare jumpers, smokers, perverts,school fights,drunks and druggies do you really expect them to respond and stop service to stop the latest T scam.

    Fare Jumpers

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    Giving T some props - I was in Back Bay Station a couple of weeks ago and T cop comes down the stairs following a couple of people. He is polite, but firm, in telling them he saw them jump the fare. He escorts them back up the stairs.



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    It is not against the law to be annoying on the MBTA

    Hell, it's practically mandatory.

    Read the comments

    Soliciting is illegal on the MBTA. Is it the most vital emergency? No, but your list is wrong on the facts.

    Constant adaptation

    In order for a scammer to be viable, they have to adapt or adjust their tactics when people get wise to their previous scams. In this case, they're now using a passive, under-the-radar method to wring money out of the unsuspecting and not to attract attention.

    That's why you rarely see Sob Story Person or Spare Change Guy anymore (although I have seen him on very rare occasions) - when people finally figured out their MOs they got wise to the scammers and ignored them.

    I have only seen one person give them money

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    I don't understand when they have time to collect money, how it makes it worth the time. They have barely set it down and I'm about to mention the scaminess of it to other riders when they pick it right up again.

    And to the tweet reply to Annie O, of course it's a scam and not panhandling if they are inventing a story as opposed to just asking for money with no made up story.

    I have read elsewhere, about the UK people maybe, that they are affiliated with human trafficking and organized crime, but... ? seems a very low level operation to really be connected to those? On the other hand they are clearly part of a group, I don't think people are just copy catting this method.

    Red Line Sunday

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    Two different people pulling this scam on the Red line yesterday. Hit up in bith directions from Central to Park.

    Red line

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    I see them almost every day on the red line now, particularly late morning.

    Red Line Woes

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    My Red line woes this morning were not fake tales of hardship, but rather some unspecified issue at 6:30 resulting in about 20 minutes for a train at Central.

    I always figured the tissue

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    I always figured the tissue thing was to get around some law about panhandling. It isn't panhandling if something is given in exchange for money or something.

    They give a whole package of tissues or just a single tissue from the pack?

    That would make it vending

    You aren't allowed to do that on T property or trains without permits.

    This is a scam. Look it up in the European press. Ongoing problem with groups just like the Fake Monk Mafia. These are not poor people trying to support their​ families ... They are scammers who may very well be supporting traffickers.

    I have seen many idiots give

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    I have seen many idiots give them money. It is those idiots who should be banned from the T. If you want to help needy people, give to charities, not to scammers. If the idiots did not give them money, they would not be bothering the rest of us.

    The epitome of naivete

    Taking organized scamming sob stories​ at face value. This is a lucrative scam, not charity.

    Want to help the poor? Want to help people struggling to support their kids? Volunteer or give to your local community food pantry.

    They may get tossed off

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    Last week, on my Orange Line ride home, the train stopped at Stony Brook (or maybe it was Jackson), the operator rushed out of her booth, some transit cops showed up, and they tossed a tissue-begger off the train. Good.

    These are obviously organized groups. They all follow the same M.O., they have similarly printed leaflets, and as we see in the pictures here, they all seem to call their tissue packs "a napkin." At least they respect the right of most of the riders to totally ignore them.

    My dog, they're here....

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    I have seen this every time I have ever been to Europe, on the trains and in the stations there. This is a classic Gypsy scam. Next you'll see them handing out roses then demanding payment, giving you a bracelet as a "gift" then letting you take 3 steps away before running you down and demanding money.
    How did these buggers get here? Too much competition from fresh batches of refugees have forced them out of Europe and onto our shores? What do we do now?

    No need to defend us

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    I come from a gypsy family (I am law abiding and a citizen, however) and the word gypsy is not offensive to us. Did a Romani person tell you it was a slur or has it arbitrarily been assigned that status by academics?

    Hi Mr. Ignorant

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    Many Romani people find the term offensive. You obviously don't know any, but somehow feel qualified to opine on the subject.

    Here's a good general rule for such things: minority persons and women don't have to ask a white man to agree with them in order for something to be offensive. We don't need your permission.

    Got it?

    Oh? When did that happen?

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    I must've missed the PC police memo on that. Maybe it was only released in America. My recent trip to Italy the wooden security windows were referred to as Gypsy Windows, and a recent Jimi Hendrix re-release record I purchased had NOT been changed to "Band of Romani" yet. The Django album I have hasn't updated it's track listing to "Roma Swing" yet either. Curious. How can we scrub the term from everyone's memory with these references still in existence?!?
    Anyways the term doesn't refer to a specific race as much as a generic term roaming vagabond beggar. Much like those of the Jewish faith are not all ethnic Jews. In reference to this scam I don't think the comment is inappropriate.

    the term doesn't refer to a

    the term doesn't refer to a specific race as much as a generic term roaming vagabond beggar.

    That's exactly the problem, because it conflates people of Romani heritage with "beggars", specifically "roaming vagabond" ones. That's harmful, especially to people who have faced centuries of discrimination. Those windows are called that because it's calling all Romani thieves - they lock to keep the Gypsies out.

    Ok, really?

    Look refer to your own heritage as you like, but thugs, vandals and gypsys were all ethnicities before the words became slurs for criminals.

    I am not going to touch that random word salad about Jewish people.

    Ok, really?

    Look refer to your own heritage as you like, but thugs, vandals and gypsys were all ethnicities before the words became slurs for criminals.

    I am not going to touch that random word salad about Jewish people.

    The idea has migrated, not the people

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    Yes, this is obviously imported from Europe - toilet paper is not regularly or reliably provided in public/cafe bathrooms (more so in Southern Europe, in my experience), so these tissue packets come in handy for that purpose. I doubt very much that the actual people perpetrating the scam/exploitation in Europe have come here; rather, the idea of it has migrated here. But the organizers don't (yet) seem to be aware that tissue packets don't have any value as a commodity in the US, where we expect, nay, demand, plushy TP to be provided by every establishment.

    Human Trafficking Debt?

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    Once upon a time in NYC, people sold trinkets on the subway because they were "deaf"--but the truth was they were recent immigrants who owed debt to human traffickers who brought them into this country. They "worked" off the debt by doing something similar to what these people are doing.

    Whatever the reason for this, they deserve some compassion, not scorn. They aren't hurting anyone.

    Boston, too

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    the 'deaf' beggars exist here,too

    Here's on idea on how to get rid of them

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    Take their tissues and their cards.

    The scam only works if they can use them over and over again.

    If they accuse you of taking them, play dumb.

    If the cards and napkins start disappearing, they'll have to figure out something else.

    (And, yes, the "napkin" word usage is weird; makes me think it is some kind of organized scam/cult.)

    Couldnt agree more.....they

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    Couldnt agree more.....they are abandoning the "napkins" on the seat. Just snatch them up and see what they do.

    Great plan

    Let's literally steal from beggars. That's certainly something I've always aspired to as an expression of moral superiority. Next we'll take candy from babies and kick people when they're down (oh, whoops, the cops already have that one covered).

    How is it stealing to take

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    How is it stealing to take something that has been left behind on MBTA property?

    Literally stealing from beggars would be taking change out of a panhandler's cup. Picking something up that was intentionally left on the seat that I paid a fare to sit in is not exactly the same thing.

    It's just stupid

    Do not create a conflict with a total stranger on the subway.

    I guarantee you that anyone begging on subway is armed, because it's a dangerous crappy job.

    And 2, what kind of pathetic anger are you carrying around that you need to fight/triumph over every annoying thing?

    Keep your distance and watch your stuff, like every other stranger on the t.

    Take one for the team

    You could look at it, appear to tear up, and then spend the rest of the ride "looking" for some money without finding any. (Or leave them $0.10.) They won't get anything from you but it would slow them down and prevent them for disturbing others.

    Not always possible

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    Especially when you move the little packet so you can sit down and they get in your grill about paying for it.

    ignore feature

    I have been on trains several times when someone drops one of these on the seat beside me. I don't lift my eyes from my book when they drop it off or pick it up and it works fine. They are no more or less annoying than other people who ride the T. I'd like to ban people who have never learned to blow their nose, but they have a right to ride the T too.


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    I've seen these people, young man in my case,, multiple times. I notice them coming towards me, I shake my head no, they bypass me. If they did drop it on a seat next me I'd just got gnore it. Problem solved. Some of you guys and girls have to much angst.

    I bet they're from out of town, probably NYC NJ area, travel around the northeast.

    Scam tourism

    In the EU, there is a fair bit of tourist visa abuse going on. Organized groups doing three month stints crashing in AirBnBs and moving city to city running the scam.


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    What happened to just ignoring scammers? All the people getting worked up over this or fantasizing about taking their crap is hilariously naive.

    Why napkins?

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    Why do they give napkins when they're free everywhere? Do they own a napkin factory?

    Combo of cheap and useful

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    You find tissues useful and you might be willing to part with...say $1...for someone to give you some.

    Fine, ok...$0.50? Well, joke's still on you, they cost about $0.15 each: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Bulk-Buys-Pocket-Tissue-Packs-Case-of-360/303...

    That's not even the lowest price out there, I'm sure. That's just the easiest, fastest, one I could find.

    So, spend $60. Get $1/pack...turn $60 into $360 if you sell 360 of them at $1/each. If you can do that in 8 hours, you're making $37.50/hr in profit.

    With the exception of McDonalds and D'Angelos

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    I can't think of a single take-out restaurant that allows people to take as many napkins as they want. Every place I get food from gives you a few napkins (usually two or three at best) with your order. And those napkins are generally of the cheapest and flimsiest quality available

    I've seen these people on the

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    I've seen these people on the Red Line a few times. I've also seen Spare Change Guy soliciting within the confines of a moving Red Line car. I took his pic and reported to MBTA at the time.

    Show me what law are they violating

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    The transit police have enough problems with the Aclu they should avoid these scam artists or face some additional lawsuits7

    As a rule, I just ignore

    As a rule, I just ignore these sorts of things but man oh man, during certain points of allergy or cold season, I would probably gladly fork over to avoid that dreaded snarf or desperate dig for a spare napkin. For myself and anyone sitting near me.