Monday, June 24, 2013

What Would You Do?

I have a recent situation to relate and wondered how many have experienced something like this.

Last week hubby and I drove to Walmart. When we exited and walked in the direction of our parked car, I glanced up and saw a woman eyeing us and heading in our direction. Since she was a stranger, I dropped my gaze and crossed to the other side.

In less than a minute she reached us.

"I'm out of gas and need help."

Now, I admit. When approached with the words 'I need help', I pause. I always think of myself possibly at some time being stranded in a 'what if...' situation.

Then again - yeah, I always hesitate with a 'what if this isn't on the up-and-up?'

A dozen things sped through my mind. Cameras atop the Walmart roof; six o'clock news; did she have a waiting partner nearby; where was her car; be the Good Samaritan; why did she choose us?

I shrugged. "What?" Meaning what kind of help was she asking for? (I was pretty certain I knew, but just in case...)

She said, "I'm out of gas and need help."

I said, "What kind of help?"

"I'm out of gas."

Okay, this had already been established. "Yeah," I said. "And...?"

"I need help."

Since she carried no package of any kind, she had no cell phone unless it was crammed in her shorts pocket. I tried something different.

"Go into the store to Customer Service and ask to use a phone. Call someone."

Her expression changed a hair. "I don't know anyone here."

"Why not?"

"I'm not from anyone here."

"Where are you from?"

She named a town only ten miles away. Ten miles away. Before I could laugh, she went on, "There's no one there. My mom died last month and..." Her voice trailed off and she turned her head, watching other customers.

"Then how do you want us to help?"

"I'm out of gas."

Time to confront her. I said, "So you want cash?"

"Well, I need help."

"But you want cash. Sorry. We aren't giving you cash."

"But I'm out of gas."

"Call someone you know to help. We aren't giving you cash."

During this little exchange, hubby said not a word. We turned and walked to our car. There, we watched her approach someone else. That niggling doubt in my mind asked, 'Did you do the right thing?'

I asked my hubby, "Do you think she told the truth?"

He said, "Why would someone drive to Walmart and spend all their money to where they didn't have enough to buy gas to get home?" He then added, "I was tempted to go to her car and check her fuel gauge."

So. I certainly don't want to be a Scrooge, and never want to think I wouldn't give a helping hand when needed. Still...there's always a still.

Tell me. Have you been in a situation like this? What did you do? What do you think is the right thing to do? I appreciate your comments.



Gail Pallotta said...

Hi Miss Mae,
Yes, I've been in similar situations, and I receive a lot of email warnings about those scamming people, or even looking to rob them. Where I live there are a couple places that keep charitable funds available for people who really need help, so I've been advised to send those asking for help to one of those places.
From what I've been told, sending her to customer service in the Walmart was exactly the right thing to do, very similar to sending someone to a place with funds to help.
In a couple instances, I pulled a dollar out of my purse and gave it to the person asking for help. I guess in those cases, I subconsciously sized up the situation and thought it was warranted or the right thing to do. It's a problem, but if in doubt at all, I'd send the person to a place with people in authority. If they really need the help, they'll go. said...

I worked in Manhattan for 16 years, so I can say this with confidence: It was a scam! First of all, pretty convenient to run out of gas in a Walmart parking lot. Even if that was true, no normal person would approach strangers and beg for gas money. She chose you because you looked kind, I'm sure.

The only situations that might give me pause would be if the person was a young teen driver, or elderly. Wouldn't necessarily give them money, but would take them back into the store to customer service and figure out something to do.

Roseanne Dowell said...

When hubby drove a truck, people approached him constantly with similar stories. I worked at a Christian school and every month a woman came in with her ten year old daughter (who sat and complained of being hungry) looking for money for a variety of reasons,mostly for food. We always referred her to the pastor, who then filled a bag with food for her. He always said he didn't have money to give her, but could provide her with food. I'm sure that wasn't what she was looking for. You did the right thing referring her to customer service. Your husband was right. What was she doing at the Walmart if she didn't have money for gas?

Miss Mae said...

Hi Gail,

Yes, it wasn't so much that I didn't want to help, but it was a lot of the way she handled it that set off alarms.

For instance, there was a gas station right there beside Walmart. If she had said something like, "I'm out of gas and wondered if you had a gas can and would buy a gallon for me at that station. I'm sorry I have no money to pay you, I spent it all inside the store. "

Well, spending $3 for a gallon of gas was something I could do. But that's not what she wanted.

And in this day and age, who carries a lot of cash? It's either checks or credit/debit card, and that's how it was with us that day. No cash on hand to give!

Thanks so much for coming over. You made me feel better. :)

Miss Mae said...

Hi AugieDoggy,

Yes, if an elderly person had approached, I'd probably have given my bags to my hubby to put away in the car and returned back in the store with her to Customer Service.

But...then again, some of them are released criminals too.

So yes, we thought it was a scam too.

Thanks for coming over. You help to ease my mind. :)

Miss Mae said...

Thanks, Roseanne. You know, she wasn't even carrying any keys. She might would have been more convincing if I'd seen them and could have thought, "she tried to start her car and then saw it was empty."

It was just a bizarre situation. And she seemed anxious/nervous too. It crossed my mind that she really needed a fix of some kind.

Your pastor was right in giving the woman and daughter a bag of food. What they do with it afterward, who knows, but he fed the hungry - or at least they said they were hungry.

But what really irks me is that people like this makes it so darned hard to trust others. You WANT to help, not be robbed!

Larry Hammersley said...

Miss Mae: Yes, that incident had all the earmarks of not being right. Only time I've had that story told to me was a totally different thing. On the naval base I rode my motorcycle to work and this guy I didn't know said he was out of gas in his small motorcycle. My tanks were full and I put together a syphon from our lab and gave him gas. He was truly out of gas. You did right by not forking over cash. When one of my uncles wanted money to buy groceries I took him to town and bought groceries for him. The sort of things he wanted were good for his dwelling which was a school bus body on the river with no facilities. He had a drinking problem so you know what the cash would go for. These situations are tough to handle.

Miss Mae said...

Hi Larry,

Yes, it's never good to give an alcoholic money. As you said, we know where the cash goes.

I'm glad in your situation that the guy told you the truth and he really DID need the gas! That makes you feel better to be able to help someone when they need it. :)

Thanks for coming over, Larry. Appreciate your support so much. :)

gail roughton branan said...

Hey darlin'! Sorry I'm late (as usual). Yes. You did exactly the right thing. You of all people with your generous and giving heart would never deny anyone in need. And had she been in need of GAS, she would have had (a) her purse; (b) her keys; (c) been asking for gas, as in, I feel like such a fool, I didn't realize I was out of gas, is there any way you could help me get a gallon from that station, etc. Anytime anyone approaches for money at a fast food, one of my dearest friends has Ro's pastor's approach, which I've adopted. "I won't give you money but I'll buy you a meal." Sometimes the offer's spurned, actually. And sometimes a smile lights up that face to rival heaven. Follow your instincts, sugar. You KNOW to do that. That's why you did it.

J.Q. Rose said...

Hey, I'm later than Gail. I agree with everyone here. It was a scam. Who knows? If you'd pulled out your billfold, she could've knocked you down and run off with everything!! You did the right thing. I wish there was some way to help her out of the situation she is in. Giving her cash will not change her life,,,,only a bandaid. Very sad story and knowing you were right doesn't help you feel any better about the woman.

Miss Mae said...

Hi Gail B and J.Q.,

Well, LOL, I don't know about the generous and giving heart, Gail, especially after something like this to where I turned away. It makes you feel so SELFISH. Like J.Q. said, though, giving her cash wouldn't change her life. Since we saw her going to others, I wonder if anyone else gave her cash?

Thanks to you both for coming over, even if you are late. :)

Laurean Brooks said...

Hubby and I were driving through Nashville, in a shady part of town and stopped for gas. I got out to use the restroom while hubby went inside to pay. (This was before you could slide in your debit card to pay outside.)

A shabbily dressed man walked toward me. "Ma'am, could you spare a few dollars?"

He looked like an alcoholic and I didn't want to be an accessory to his problem, so I said, "I don't have any money," then hurried to catch up to my husband.

The man was apprehending someone else when we came out.

I really like your hubby's idea. (checking her gas gauge.) I'd loved to have seen the look on her face if you caught her in a scheme. LOL.