A car dealership in Brighton, Michigan erected a large sign to discourage motorists from donating money to a panhandler.
The Honda dealer placed the sign on one of its cars, which was photographed and went viral on the internet, reports Michigan Live.
It started when local resident Morgan Holt snapped a photo of the sign to share with friends on social media. As Holt explained, she drives by the panhandler every day on her way to work, and has seen him outside of the dealership for the past two years.
After her photo was posted on Reddit, it quickly attracted 60,000 views and over 5,000 comments in just 7 hours, and subsequently appeared on dozens of other social media sites.
The controversial sign reads:
Please do not give anything to this panhandler. We offered him a full-time job at $10.00/HR. He said "I make more than any of you" and he did not want a job. Please donate to a more worthy cause.
Apart from the dealership's implied assumption that it is an unemployed person's obligation to accept any job that is offered, evidence indicates that the panhandler's decision may have been a smart financial move.
David Spears, a 33-year-old economic assistant in the Portland office of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, conducted an experiment to see how much money he could make as a panhandler, as reported in the journal of George Fox University, a Christian college in Oregon.
Spears, who double-majored in economics and political science, conducted his research at an Oregon City exit ramp the summer before his senior year, sporting a bushy beard, tattered clothes and a cardboard sign with the words, "Iraq Vet -- Anything Helps." (He is in fact a twice-decorated Iraq War veteran.)
After 12 days of begging for money, he averaged $11.10 an hour, which was more than Oregon’s minimum wage of $8.95 an hour -- and more than the Michigan Honda dealership offered the panhandler.
Spears published his findings in a book titled "Exit Ramp: A Short Case Study of the Profitability of Panhandling."
As the book reveals, his donations ranged from four cents to $100. He averaged $5.13 an hour on his worst day, and $24.63 an hour on his best day. One in every 59 people who drove by gave him money, with middle-aged people giving much more than older or younger people. Men and women gave about equally.
"I was surprised by how often people gave and how much they gave," said Spears. "A major theme of this study is not just the money one earns while panhandling, but also the surprising amount of generosity our culture still produces."