I normally talk about graphic design topics or WordPress-related topics, but today I am going to talk about an encounter I had today in the supermarket parking lot. I had to buy a lot of food because I had not gone shopping for a week. I was loading my groceries into the car when a woman drove by and tried to get my attention. There was a teenage girl with her. She tells me a story that she has five children and can’t afford to buy them food, so could I go back into the store and buy some food for them? She would pay me back.
This woman was driving in a big SUV truck that looked newer and better than my beat-up 20+ year old car. She even had a pretty new looking cell phone that she pointed to as she offered to give me her phone number. (I was supposed to call her so I could get paid back.) I told her I couldn’t help her, but she would not give up right away. She kept asking something like, “You really can’t help us?” I just kept saying, “I’m sorry.” She finally drove away.
I realize that times are hard for a lot of people these days, but why do people feel free to dump their problems on everyone else? This woman is a complete stranger to me, yet I am supposed to go out of my way and go shopping for her and give her food for free (yeah right, she will pay me back). Why do some people expect that other people or even complete strangers should bail them out of their problems? What happened to personal responsibility and self-reliance?
I know I might seem uncharitable, but there is another story I have to tell you about why I don’t help strangers. There used to be this panhandler that I regularly saw on a main intersection close to where I live. He was probably in his thirties and had crutches and a knee brace. Day after day, he would limp by the roadside looking frail and pathetic in hopes of getting a handout. One day when I was throwing out the trash, I see this same panhandler walk by my house on the other side of the street. He had the knee brace on, but he was walking along with strong, confident strides and no limp. As he walked, he happily swung his crutches in the air. He was probably thinking about how much money he was going to make deceiving people that day.
Even in my attempts to find work, I have encountered many a cheapskate. One time I applied for a job to design a book cover for a writer. His ad said he would pay $100. I offered to do the work for $75 if he gave me a copy of his e-book. He sent me the e-book and a sketch of what he wanted on the cover, but then he tells me he won’t pay for my work unless he likes it. He also tells me that there are so many other talented artists working on this project. When I told him I would not do the work without a signed contract, he came up with excuses for not working with me on a contract basis. He looked at my online portfolio thoroughly and had no problem sending the work to me when he thought I would do it for free, but suddenly I did not have enough freehand work in my portfolio to make him confident I could do the job. However, if I wanted to prove I was a professional, I just had to send him a quick sketch and he might reconsider . . .
Right now I am working as a freelance copyeditor for an e-book publisher. I have broken my own rule of not working without a contract. All I have is an email agreement. I am receiving a lot of work from them. I would be happy to do more work because more work means receiving more money. However, I have no guarantee that I will be paid after I send the invoice. Last night, I did some research online and found a few anonymous reviews from people who claimed that they did work for this company but were not paid or not paid in full. Now I feel like a fool being suckered by another cheapskate.