Spare a Quarter?

This is probably politically incorrect, but... .well... I don't really care so much, I still think its a good idea that solves a problem.

While biking around the city yesterday (I rode about 19 miles), I came up with an idea. Its become apparent to me that homeless people and street performers need to get in on this Mobil Speedpass-like technology. Imagine if you had a little keyfob with a button on it that was connected to your bank account. You see someone asking for money on the street, and all you have to do is press the little button, and 25 cents instantly drops into their account, or on a smart card, if they don't have an account. What happens sometimes is that people, rightly or wrongly, don't want to step out of a crowd to put money in a hat or jar or whatever they're collecting in. They feel embarrassed, or in the case of some of the more troubled looking homeless, simply don't want to get too close to them. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't have an issue with this myself, but I think I'm objectively observing the opinions of the average NYC passerby. I don't think that all of the people who walk on by are cold hearted and often times I feel like they probably want to give something, but something prevents them. Maybe they don't want to break out their wallet on a crowded city street. Maybe they honestly don't have any change.

Think about it. You could set the button to determine exactly how much you want to give, and set limits over a given time span... let's say a dollar a day or something. All you would need to do is point and click your little key fob at the person you want to give to, and its done... anonymously if you want.

From the perspective of the collector, its a huge improvement in efficiency. First off, it makes their money more secure. You could keep the money on a smart card with a pin number. Should they lose the card or get it stolen, only they would know the pin to get access, and they could have it replaced quickly. No more need to worry about getting ripped off by other homeless people.

Also, it increases the number of potential collection hours. When people are sleeping on the street late at night and someone walks by them, that's when the passerby often feels the worst for them. Yet, they never give, because... well... how are you going to give them anything? Are you going to put the spare change on the person when they're sleeping? Certainly you wouldn't wake them up to give them money. This is a prime collection opportunity that they are missing out on.

It also solves the problem of knowing where the money is going. You could set up the smart card so it is only able to purchase certain items, like food, clothes, or shelter. Items like alcohol would be prohibited.

Now, of course, the plan is not without its hitches. If there were other people carrying smart cards, you wouldn't want someone else stepping into your beam and stealing the quarter. Plus, there are people like my friend Grace who just think the idea is stupid. Surely, they will have to be further educated with a more convincing argument. I think the whole thing would work pretty well. Of course, making a business out of it, taking a small percentage of all of these tiny transactions, might prove someone difficult. Maybe you could just make it a non-profit endeaver and just get philanthropic money to pay for it.

Yes... these are the kind of things that go through my head when I ride my bike.