Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Better Beggar Signs

Improved, cheaper beggar signs.
  (+8, -3)
(+8, -3)
  [vote for,

An idea for tapping into a ubiquitous but utterly ignored group of consumers – BEGGARS.

Beggars scrawl their sad pleas on scrounged cardboard with black felt-tipped markers. Cardboard is plentiful and free. Markers, however, are not. It might cost a beggar $1 or more of their hard-begged money for a felt-tipped marker to make a "Will Work For Food" sign. Often, the signs are scrawled on soiled cardboard, or lettered so poorly as to be difficult to read. After an afternoon on a wet sidewalk in a spring rain, the sign is lost. Perhaps it should have said "Will Work For a Better Sign."

That's where "Better Beggar Boards" comes in. BBB will make and sell custom panhandling signs to panhandlers for less than the price of a marker. The signs will be boldly lettered on brightly-colored coroplast, making them highly visible, durable, and weather proof. They will feature traditional messages, such as "Will Work For Food," "Need Money For Gas," and "Anything Helps, God Bless." Newer messages, such as "Spare a Fiver for a Mocha" and "Ex-Wife Spent my 401K" will help bring yesterday's beggar into the modern era of panhandling.

For a basic cost of only 75¢, the signs will save beggars time, energy, and expense, and will improve the quality and visibility of their panhandling operations. Distribution and sale of the signs will take place via distributors hired from the homeless population itself, providing extra income for the more motivated beggars, as well as pairing distribution with consumer. And the general non-beggar populace, seeing a panhandler with a BBB sign, will know that money given to them will be wisely spent. The perception of beggars in general will improve in cities familiar to the BBB signs, and perhaps the stigma of begging will lighten.

As beggars begin to advance their panhandling careers with BBB signs, they will be able to afford nicer signs. Models are available with double-sided printing, flippable pages with various messages, metal spikes to hold the signs in the ground, and even signs with attached donation cups. In the midst of a hard day of begging, a panhandler can poke his sign plus cup into the ground, flip over the "Be Back in 30 Minutes" message, and head out for a quick bottle of MD20/20, while the sign continues to work for him!

Eventually, the business can be franchised to other cities, with the main corporation providing materials to drop points for distributors to spread throughout the beggar community. I believe that within five years, BBB will be a multi-hundred dollar business.

awesomest, Jun 01 2007

Advertising stunt, 2002 http://www.globalet...leid=05270210124653
[jutta, Jun 01 2007]

Ninjas http://www.citynoise.org/article/947
[zen_tom, Jun 01 2007]


       After another day of Quality Anthropology, found myself thinking about standing at the corner, in my suit and tie, holding a sign that says "FED UP WITH WORKING, PLEASE HELP".   

       Saw a beggar holding an illegible 3x5 card the other day.
normzone, Jun 01 2007

       I think if I were homeless*, the one thing I'd enjoy is making my own signs.   

       Plus, I don't think passers-by would be as generous to a homeless person who appeared to have been able to buy a sign for himself (even though as you point out, it would actually have cost him/her less)   

       *although how can I know?
phundug, Jun 01 2007

       We saw a very creative beggar who's sign read:

       You can yell at me for 25¢
xandram, Jun 01 2007

       This is a great idea. My slight worry is that your chosen market - panhandlers - may not be a customer group that is in the best position to make you rich. To flip it around, what about selling discreet signs that well-to-do passers-by can display to beggars, featuring slogans like "Sorry, no change", or "I just gave to your pal up the street", or "I already donate 10% of my income to registered charities", or (for hardnosed Wall St types) "Go screw yourself, you lousy bum"? These would be pocket-sized lanimated cards that the passerby whips out to flash at beggars while striding past on the way to/from work. Each card could have a pleasant message on one side and a grumpy one on the other, so the user could choose which one to show depending on how they feel or whether they like the look of a particular beggar.   

       Of course a further twist would be for beggars to make these signs and sell them to passers-by.
pk_munroe, Jun 01 2007

       My favorite beggar sign was "Throw change at my head".
PollyNo9, Jun 04 2007

       A beggar sign that reads "Needs new sign" perhaps?
skinflaps, Jun 04 2007

//what about selling discreet signs that well-to-do passers-by can display to beggars... These would be pocket-sized laminated cards that the passerby whips out to flash at beggars while striding past on the way to/from work.//

Or better, your competitor's business card, which you hand out with the words, "Drop by the office, we might have a job for you."
ldischler, Jun 04 2007

       "Will save World for food."
theleopard, Jun 07 2007

       My favorite sign was "I won't lie, I need a beer". So I gave him a beer.
Freefall, Jun 07 2007

       What you could do is employ the beggars in the sign production shop at minimum wage. But then again that would shrink your market.
RayfordSteele, Apr 27 2016


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