the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Beggars and Choosers


Sociology experiment:

This Morning

Looking disheveled and unshaven, I stood outside my local Starbucks and panhandled for money.  I said I was an unemployed Desert Storm veteran.  I mentioned that my wife and child left me and that I hadn’t eaten in a week.


This Afternoon

After showering and putting on a Lacoste polo shirt, I returned to the exact same spot to panhandle for money.  This time, I asked my film school friend, Roland, to show up with his camera and videotape me.   When asking for money, I told passerbys that I was one of the participants on NBC’s "The Apprentice" and that our latest "task" was to use our marketing skills to obtain the most money by "begging," or risk being "fired" by "the Donald."  I told everyone how important winning this game was to me, because despite my trust fund, my Harvard education, and my success as a Wall Street attorney in my father’s firm, I thought it would be "cool" to become Donald Trump’s apprentice and try to get a television gig of my own.  After all, who doesn’t want to be on TV?

TOTAL AMOUNT COLLECTED:  467 dollars, including 2 dollars I took from a homeless Desert Storm veteran


  1. anne

    This is disturbing on so many levels.
    So. What did you buy?

  2. Miss Golondon

    you have illustrated one (of the many) concerns that I have for Amercian society currently. so i chose to live in a country that has just as many, but they are different and have an accent so at least they are glamorous.

  3. t.o.b.

    I ought to try that here in Hong Kong, I might actually get enough to pay this months rent!

  4. The Girl

    Is it wrong that the first thing that sprang to my mind after reading this was ‘Neil should forward this blog post to the American media – this issue should get lots of coverage’?

    Though when I say media, I was thinking more in the vein of Morgan Spurlock/Michael Moore than I was with Fox News…

  5. The Retropolitan

    Man, my loans are gonna be paid off in NO TIME!

    *puts on “Harvard” t-shirt*

  6. Michele

    Neil, there are no words to describe how completely fucking awesome that is.

    I {heart} you more than ever. Have my children — Please?

  7. The Retropolitan

    Wait, Neil, did you have the robot hand when you were the Apprentice or the hobo?

  8. Bre

    More proof that reality TV will be the death of us!

  9. The Moviequill

    87 cents won’t even get you a biscotti at Starbucks, poor boy… actually will 87 cents get you anything there?

  10. M.A.

    Did you really do this?

  11. Kevin

    Hmmm… I suddenly have an idea or two or 467.

  12. Wendy

    So how many lattes does that buy? 3?

  13. Heather B.

    You seriously did this? And it worked? And can I borrow $20?

  14. Melissa

    People never fail to disappoint me…

  15. Dustin

    I believe it. Ever seen the movie Criminal? In it, John C. Reilly says something to the effect of “See how that worked? I asked for a dollar and because I was in a suit and tie, that guy gave it to me because anybody in a suit and tie who asks for a dollar must be really desperate…”

  16. cruisin-mom

    Neil, funny…I did that same experiment, only… I lifted my skirt.
    I made $1,214.01

  17. Sandra

    Try it as a cross-dresser — see how that goes.

  18. ACG

    My next vacation is to L.A. and I am bringing my best interview suits.

  19. Alison

    Disturbing. And yet, tempting. I might have to try Cruisin-Mom’s method.

  20. party girl

    I’ve actually thought about doing this. Just to see.
    I’ve heard about some people who did this as a “social experiment” and ended up with over $100,000 at the end of it.

    I’m all for finding out.

  21. Neil

    No, I didn’t actually do this. But it is something Sophia and I talked about after watching “The Amazing Race.” When a team comes in last and isn’t eliminated, they lose all their money and have to beg in places like New Dehli for enough money to continue on. And we’re always amazed that people actually give these idiots money because they’re on a “race” for a TV show. Sophia said that two homeless guys should work together — one using a fake video camera, saying they are on a reality show — and they would make enough money to live comfortably.

  22. ms. sizzle

    the sad fact is that even if this is made up, it would be true if you had really done it.

  23. amanda

    try that in NYC and you might get beaten up by a homeless desert storm vet, or a kick in nuts from one of the trio of doo-wop singers on the subway.

    (PS that’s the first time I have ever used the expression “kick in the nuts”)

  24. Dave

    That sucks that women can flash and get money and men will get put in jail. Shit, flashing for money … what a dream job.

  25. mysterygirl!

    I’ve heard that this is true– not the “I’m on a reality show” thing, but that people will give well-dressed people a LOT of money if they ask for it while they won’t give it to the people who really need it. I’d probably be guilty of that, too.

  26. Neil

    Mysterygirl — me, too. I hope I don’t sound holier-than-thou. I almost NEVER give money to homeless people, thinking they’re just going to blow it on alcohol or drugs.

  27. Elizabeth

    ha ha ha ha ha ha

    veddy good.

  28. Dagny

    Some cities have programs where you can buy meal and/or housing vouchers to give out to the homeless if you so desire. I don’t think this ploy would work well in those places.

    I have been trying to think of ways to pick up extra income though.

  29. BlogLaughs

    My friend and I did something like this but we ended up killing a drifter.

    Man, those were the days.

  30. better safe than sorry

    i wouldn’t have given you money either way.

  31. AMG

    I wish you hadn’t said you didn’t actually do it. You spoiled the magic for me.

  32. scott

    This may actually be what would happen (especially in LA). Even more sad, vis-a-vis the condition of society, would be the ensuing lawsuit by billionaire Donald Trump for making money off the name of the show “The Apprentice” without giving all of it to him.

    Hello, Neil.

  33. bookfraud

    if you had spoken with an english accent — even a low-class one — you could have doubled your take. we’re going to sizzler.

  34. Rabbit

    What you need to do is tell them that the greater the “donation” the better chance they have of being shown on TV handing over their hard-earned dollars.

  35. disillusive

    funny u mentioned that the people in amazing race got money from indians in new delhi.the fact that they have white skin makes them gods/goddesses. Haven’t u seen the people on the road just stop to stare at these people? They would do anything for white people. I think its something that the english branded in us indians.

  36. Jessica

    Live comment from NY, Neil…I’m so sorry to miss you – perhaps TC ’07!

  37. Fitèna

    My PC broke down. My cell phone isn’t working. Am blogging in a cramped cybercafé with weird internautes breathing down my neck wondering when I’ll be done because they’re waiting for the PC. Man, thanks for the great idea. I know what I now have got to do in order to have a brand new PC and a brand new cellphone.
    It’s disturbing though, isn’t it? I think we’ve come to understand that that’s why celebrities and VIPs are prayed to come and play along to collect money for one cause or another. People tend to be more generous when they’re around.


  38. grace

    linked here from pearl and i must say this is a pearl of a find- wonderful social experiment! what will you do with the earnings?

    Panhandling is on my ultimate to do list for those who claim “boredom” but, you’ve taken it to the level of performance artist and journalistic feild producer.

  39. Wenchy

    I wonder how well you (or the experiment) would do here in South Africa with somebody asking for money on every corner.

  40. kimananda

    It would be an interesting sociological experiment, to really carry this one out. Actually, I’m sure that it must have been done…hmmm, could be my next paper topic. Thanks! 🙂

  41. modigli

    well, 87cents will get you a refill on a starbucks regular coffee. Just fish out someone else’s paper cup from the garbage and head in there! You’ll even have 37cents towards your next refill!

    (that’s what the homeless folks did at the starbucks I worked at for 2 months!)

  42. anne arkham

    For real?

  43. panthergirl

    What a concept. I agree totally about seeing that on The Amazing Race and thinking that NO one else would be able to collect money from strangers the way someone being followed by a camera crew can.

    I’m sure that someone could actually CONDUCT this experiment and the results would be the same or worse.

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