She has finagled two puppies and two cats online for free, so why not ask for furniture? "Do you have a sad, lonely and unneeded couch...
She has finagled two puppies and two cats online for free, so why not ask for furniture?
“Do you have a sad, lonely and unneeded couch, loveseat or recliner chair?” Rana Jean, of Maple Heights, Ohio, began her post on www.craigslist.com.
If so, she’ll gladly give the piece a home, she wrote, but it can’t be abused by smoke or pee.
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“And to add to the begging, here’s a grovel,” she continued. “I can’t pick it up. I need you to bring it to me.”
Charity with demands? The nerve.
“I mean, the worst thing that happens is that nothing happens. I don’t end up with a couch,” said Jean, not a bit uncomfortable with the approach. “And the best thing is I end up with a free couch.”
Maybe even delivered.
With the Internet, all things are possible, even high-tech panhandling. It’s called “cyberbegging,” and many popular social-networking sites contain entries asking for free goods and services or trade offers posted by people who say they need help.
Why? Because asking is quick, easy, usually free and anonymous.
If you ain’t too proud to beg, a computer, Web access and catchy plea might be all that’s necessary to get what you want and what you need.
“Maybe your message resonates with one person. That’s all it takes,” said John Yost, a professor of social psychology at John Carroll University.
Cyberbeggars, banking on the viral power of the Web, post requests for help with everything from paying for college and their daughter’s wedding to breast implants. Some even arrange donations through PayPal, an Internet money-transfer service.
Actor-turned-sex-tape-star Dustin Diamond, who played the geeky Screech in the TV show “Saved by the Bell,” recently turned to cyberbegging to save his Wisconsin house from foreclosure.
“It’s another form of charity,” Yost said, “and it’s grass-roots charity.”
The downside, of course, is the potential for scam artists. Like e-mailed spam and phishing schemes, cyberbegging is tough to police. Even the Web site, www.cyberbeg.com, doesn’t guarantee that posted beggars are the real deal and makes no claim that they are.
So donors take their chances that a help-me plea such as one recently posted on Craigslist requesting a loan is legit.
“Hi, I have never done anything like this b4, but I am in desperate need of cash.” The poster identifies herself as a single mom who lost her job, whose car died and who is barely making ends meet because of Christmas and other bills.
Others have no problem identifying themselves and their needs.
The Kalliope Stage, a nonprofit professional music theater in Cleveland Heights, included a phone number with its posted plea for multiple donations: laptop computers for its box office and business office, a table saw and power tools to build sets and a working truck or van to haul building supplies. “Must pass e-check, have good tires, exhaust, breaks [sic] and good running motor and transmission,” the entry reads.
“Nonprofits need more than just money from the wealthy and foundations,” said Rex Snider, the theater’s business manager.
Cyberbegging has worked. One woman is donating a bunch of 1920s-era clothing, which will be perfect for costumes.
“She even has a fur coat she’s giving me that her grandmother had,” Snider said. “We’ll use it in a show, more than likely.”
In the ultimate cyberbeg, a 26-year-old blogger from Montreal spent a year trading up, one item at a time, until he wound up 14 trades later with a house. He started with a red paper clip, which he traded for a fish-shaped pen.
Expectant father Brad Ziss would love to be Red Paper Clip guy, the sequel. Except his mission is to become a stay-at-home dad by paying off $160,000 he and his wife owe on their Cape Cod-style house in suburban Columbus.
Ziss, a mapmaker, posts items for trade online and created a blog (www.stayathomebrad.com) that tracks his progress — 27 trades since October, including an Amish-made table and chairs for a diamond ring appraised at $3,500.
Ziss, a 1997 Revere High School graduate who grew up in Richfield, Ohio, has 11 lines of trades going. Along the way, he has traded a car for a computer and the computer for a condo vacation. He has made trades with people from West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
“I couldn’t do this without the Internet,” he said.
Rich Schmidt, a Los Angeles graphic designer transplanted from Boardman, insists he created his beggar’s site a few years ago for sport and to test the Internet’s reach. It’s called www.sendmeadollar.com. Give a buck, post a message. The recent running total was nearly $8,500, with donations from around the globe.
There’s no financial goal, said Schmidt, who sounded more cyberentrepreneur than cyberbeggar. “The sky’s the limit.”