Monday, May 12, 2008

Got the tar and feathers ready?

Just caught this on the CBC's website.

To sum up the article as I see it:

Some guy walks away with $1200 or so in Visions gift cards after signing up a bunch of poor people (at an inner-city Mission) for "free" cellphones.

A bunch of people on social assistance have brand new cellphones that they likely can't afford to keep past the four month trial period.

A cellphone company is likely gonna be out a tiny bit of money.

My initial reaction when I first read the article was to grab a length of pipe and beat the living shit out of this guy for taking advantage of people I described (before I edited this post) as "our city's most vulnerable".

Well, on the way home from work, I thought about it some more... nobody forced these people to sign up for the cellphones. Nobody held a gun to their heads.

So, do I still feel sorry for these people for being "taken in" by a scammer? Not really. I'm sure a few of them may have been led into the scam naively believing they were getting something for nothing, and still others were just going along with the crowd.

For most of the "victims" however, I believe it was the novelty of having something they never thought they'd have that led to their acquiescence in the scam. (How can you pay for a cellphone when you're eating your meals at a soup kitchen? Where do you charge the phone?)

As for the people at Visions... I think the manager hit the nail on the head with his comment "It's tricky for us. It would be wrong for us to just start judging people.", and he's right. You risk opening up a big ol' Can o' Worms when you start to discriminate... "I can't sell to you 'cause you're poor" wouldn't fly, the bleeding hearts would be all over it and next thing you know, you're embroiled in a human rights case.

(*** NOTE: I'm still trying to figure out what kind of responsibility (or culpability, or moral obligations) Visions has in the matter, whether credit checks should have been done, etc. Perhaps my readers or visiting New Winnipeggers can help out?)

As for the scammer... well, my feelings haven't changed. I'd still like to tar and feather the bastard.




EDIT 5/13/08
Upon further reflection, I'm of the opinion there were no "real" victims in this case. A few people took advantage of a company that would normally be taking advantage of them.

The only real sucker here was ME, for believing someone was preying on the downtrodden, which was what brought this post about in the first place.

That's what I get for caring.