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Friday, May 19, 2006

BETWEEN A CURB AND A HARD PLACE

I don't enjoy getting calls from telemarketers. I signed up for the federal do-not-call list as soon as I could, but not-for-profit organizations are not bound by this list, so I still get calls.

My general rule of thumb is that I don't commit to giving money over the telephone. If an organization or cause sounds like something that my wife and I might contribute to, I ask the caller to send information. If he or she is persistent about extracting money from me during the telephone call, I say no and hang up. No matter the cause, I feel absolutely no guilt.

My wife and I donate regularly to a variety of not-for-profits, but we like to have a clear idea of what we're donating to and to be comfortable with the organization's goals and practices. And we don't like feeling strong-armed into making a donation.

Joe Read, an aptly named reader from southern California, isn't troubled by pesky telephone calls. Instead he has people showing up at his house seeking a $10 donation in recognition of a newly painted curb address in front of his house.

Read knew it was coming. He had received a notice from the city announcing that a certain not-for-profit organization had received permission to repaint all curb addresses on public streets. Once the job was completed, Read and other residents were advised, a representative of the not-for-profit would stop by to give everyone an opportunity to make a tax-deductible donation. The notice made clear that residents would be under no obligation to contribute.

"The estimated value of this service is $10," the notice added."However, all donations are greatly appreciated, and every $10 received will feed a family for one week."

Read is sympathetic to people needing food, he writes, but he's also skeptical that all of that fee will go directly to those in need.

"Giving where I know my money directly provides help makes me feel good," he writes. "Giving where I can visualize that I'm lining the pockets of an entrepreneur who is leveraging `free meals to the needy' doesn't make me feel good."

He's also not crazy about the fact that the city is apparently not paying for the curb painting "and those curbs belong to them, not me."

Because he considers the maneuver to be a moral squeeze play by the city to escape paying for what it should, he's not going to make a donation. But, he writes, he's "trying to keep from feeling like a bastard for not doing so."

Read should have no guilt whatsoever if he declines to contribute. However, there's also no reason for the town administrators to have second thoughts about an innovative solution to getting the street numbers repainted, which will presumably assist mail carriers, police, ambulance drivers and private citizens in finding the right houses, especially at night. In these tight times, getting the job done without spending taxpayer money is itself a laudable accomplishment.

If Read's real hang-up is worry that his $10 might not go directly to help feed the poor, he should research this particular not-for-profit to see what percentage of its donations goes directly to the cause and what percentage to administrative costs.

The right thing for Read to do is to decide whether this not-for-profit is one whose work he wants to support, regardless of the freshness of the curb number in front of his house. If the group meets his standards, he can donate as much as he likes. If it doesn't, he can politely decline the solicitation.

In either case, his situation is similar to that of someone receiving the free return-address labels that some charities send out in the hope that recipients will make a contribution in exchange. Because he didn't request the service, he has no ethical obligation to pay for it -- especially since, unlike the return-address labels, this service is one that he considers a favor to the city, not to him.

If he decides not to make a contribution to this group, there are plenty of other organizations to which he can give his money and feel good about it.

22 comments:

yawningdog said...

I tell all phone requests for donations that I only donate locally. Some of them try to tell me that they do work in my area, but I know that is just not true. Other just thank me and move on. It is an easy and quilt free response to requests from national groups. Local groups hit me up for sponsorships and gift certificate donations and those I say yes to as often as I can.

It is me who is doing the sponsorship request dance this Spring. We are raising money for a new pool. This is a tough job, no one wants to say 'no' and I try to let everyone off without the quilt when I ask.

Anonymous said...

Some folks get "ethically" challenged over some of the dangest points! Mr Read says, "he considers the maneuver to be a moral squeeze play by the city to escape paying for what it should, he's not going to make a donation. But, he writes, he's "trying to keep from feeling like a bastard for not doing so."
Does Mr. Read feel like all the tax money he pays should already have encompassed this new requirement or does he understand that a new "law/oridance" would require expenditures not already budgeted. It appears he has a couple of choices:
1. paint it himself (spary paint $5.99, Stencil $8.00, tape $3.99, rubber gloves .050, clean up $1.00)
2. pay the $10(as Visa would say Pricelss) and don't feel like a bastard (slang, one that held to be mean or disagreeable)
3. next time his tax bill goes up understand that services cost
4. get a life that worrys about something that merits community involvement and betterment
Two final points: understand that the required numbering system could benefit his life when 911 dispatches emergency vehicles. Lastly unfunded legislative "mandates" from all levels of government are a mode of operation in America.
Hopefully Mr. Read has not spent sleepless nights concerned about the $10.
RAK

Shmuel said...

"paint it himself (spary paint $5.99, Stencil $8.00, tape $3.99, rubber gloves .050, clean up $1.00)"

Putting aside the cleanup number you seem to have plucked from the air, this assumes he doesn't have these items around already and will have no further use for them. The actual amount for painting the one set of numbers is far less than a dollar. Supposing a generous three minutes to spray paint one set of numbers and an optimistic $12 per hour, I figure labor adds another 60 cents, with the total being under one buck. And I think even that result is more than the actual costs.

My point of view is that this is the city's responsibility. Let 'em pass the real cost along to the taxpayers, not give an outside group the opportunity to cash in. This sort of economy-of-scale thing is exactly what government is supposed to be for.

Anonymous said...

The decision to contribute is yours. Normally, the groups doing it are worthy charities however. As a former police officer, I can assure you that good readable address numbers on your curb are well worth $10 when the police or fire departments are looking for your address.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the curb address painting, I wonder how many people got those notices and thought, "Hey, I could probably make a few bucks by going around claiming to be from this organization and collecting $10 at each house!" This has definitely been done before as a scam, but in this case, it would probably be more successful than usual because the residents are expecting someone to legitimately come soliciting donations....

Anonymous said...

Hi- I wonder if Mr. Read of your article did his homework on the curb
painting.
Recently, we had same situation...men showing up at the door w/the story of
donation for charity, etc..when we asked for some ID/verification they fled.
When we checked w/the City of Orange - guess what...they were not legit.
Next day got a phone call...wanting donations for an Orange Police
Rodeo...
when asked where, etc...they gave a date, Orange County Fair Grounds, etc...
I forwarded that info w/phone # & curb info to city of Orange...all bogus.
I'd say telephone calls for money should always be suspect. Same
w/door to door ...individuals are capable of selecting their own charities...w/o
prompting.

Anonymous said...

It was very strange reading your column today. I live in Southern California and read your column in The Orange County Register. I don't know where in Southern California Joe Read is, but I am guessing it is not near me.
While you are technically correct in your answer about giving money voluntarily to charitable causes, what you didn't realize is there is a whole other facet to his query.
In the city of Garden Grove, Orange County, we too were left a flier telling us that on the following week a crew would be coming by to paint the curb numbers and that cash or checks in the amount of ten dollars would be appreciated but not mandatory.
Here is the interesting part. Not too long ago, maybe three or four weeks past, I read an article in the 'Local' section of the Register about two men who had pleaded guilty to scamming people this way. It was a very short article, but it said that they had asked people to write the checks out to CAS (it was supposed to be an acronym for some charitable organization). When they got the checks, they added an H and cashed them.
While I had not been a victim of this scam, I was thinking about it when I was reading your column today. Joe Read thought he was being bothered by a charitable organization, but in fact it is very possible he was being bothered by scam artists.

Keep up the good work, and love your column.
Veronica Ross
Garden Grove, CA

Anonymous said...

I laughed out loud when I read your non-profit and donation story.

How cities benefit from "Domestic Violence" (Anger Management, and Counseling programs), which haven't been proved effective, is cited at www.FamilyLawCourts.com/domestic.html

I tracked a few of the grants in San Diego, via their franchised "Family Justice Center." Money that is supposed to go to women, winds up buying vests for Border Patrol agents.

It gets better. San Diego police "community partnered" with one woman who should have been arrested for Fraud. The State of California fined her $2,400.00 for practicing therapy without a license, and the County is currently making her pay restitution for not being able to account for grants, but he kicker is judges don't care. She's helps the sytem turn, so judges repeatedly refer people to her facility; and the cops won't touch her.

In response to your item about prisoner treatment prior to conviction, they are treated differently, at least at the County level, in that they aren't required to do "work" details in their "dorms."

However, frequently they volunteer to "fit in." You know. When in Rome...


Most sincerely,

Bonnie Russell

Anonymous said...

When the curb painting extortionists leave their note, I tape my own on the curb telling them not to paint it.

One would-be curb painter got hostile so I called the LAPD who hauled him away in shiny braclets on an unrelated charge.

I will choose my own charities and challenge the extortionists.

Anonymous said...

Well it's not hard to see some like curb painting and some don't. the plain truth is most people are painting curbs trying to earn a living not rip people off. for 10.00 you are getting your emergency address painted on the curb, what is the rip off? he painted what that person wanted , and earned his 10.00.
as long as they are not doing anything misleading or illegal while they are EARNING AN HONEST living. let them be.

SassySassy1 said...

12/12/07 Just received a notice on my door from "Curb Addressing Service" announcing they will be painting curb numbers this week and asking for $13.00 to $23.00 for the service. Be advised, all curb painting services have to have permits from the City of L. A. I have encountered these people before and just ask them for their permit from the City. They usually leave quickly and never return. However, I also report them to the city. Some services in the past have literally tried to intimidate people into paying these fees. Those too have been turned into the city and the police dept.

Jeremy Berger said...

All businesses should be legit and if you should need your address painted on the curb it should be your option as to whom you would like that service to go to. Curb Painting Business

Alex said...

We had someone come by our house in culver city wanting money for curb painting. We weren't interested. It turned out they had painted the number anyway. Later, someone scratched out one of the numbers. I guess they were irked.

Anonymous said...

I live in Bellflower, CA and every two years without fail these curb painters show up and paint our curbs whether they need it or not and whether you want it done or not. Without asking you first, they boldly go out and paint all the curbs and when they are finished then they go door to door pracitically demanding donations. One year I paid them 5 dollars and two days later another man came back demanding a donation. I told him I already gave one and he refused to leave my door step. He looked around at my cars and said "Look, you have all these nice cars you can afford to donate again". Two years after that a man came to my door during the wonderful curb painting period and he too refused to leave my doorstep. I slammed the door in his face. A couple days later he came back after dark while I was inside with the lights turned out. He pounded on the door but I kept silent. I peeked outside my window and I could see him going around my house trying to peer through windows... Very unsettling. No, I will not give donations to this outfit that comes like clockwork every two years and paints over a perfectly good address that's already on the curb and then sends out intimidating collectors to harass me for money.

If some of you are thinking that perhaps one or two of these guys wasn't legit and was simply taking advantage of the curb painting frenzy going on at the time... Let's say you are right and that was the case. So how about NOT having this done by a private company from now on, thereby eliminating the opportunity completely for criminals to take advantage of us. I'm sick of it..

Anonymous said...

From the dates, this blog is fairly old, but touchy.

I am a fulltime student in college and I work as a curb painter. this is how I support myself. My flyer is in plain english, and I run a legitimate business that is licensed. I charge $15 and $13 for senior citizens, some i will do for free if they dont have any money, and the rest i say how much would you like to pay, I also offer a free american flag. look, I just want to make enough money to survive, and pay my tuition, until I start my career. some may say " the cost is too expensive " My response is I spend 4-5 hours a day walking communities. After the cost of the paint, stencils, and gas. on average I make about $1800-$2200 a month for about 46-50 hours a week including weekends all day. You know, some days I work and dont yield anything! trust me its not that easy.

I think in today's world you have to be extremely cautious as some people are on the take! But we all have to have common sense, to sniff out the bad guys. I rarely ever get anyone to ask if im licensed or question the validity of my flyer or content, and service.
Rather than assume the curb painter is up to no good, just check him out!
If the guy is a jerk call the police! he's in your community!

Anonymous said...

I have a real problem with these curb painting scamsters. They place a notice on your door and then ask that *you* go out of your way if you don't want your curb painted. "Sorry, I'm busy, and I don't have any duct tape to affix a note to my curb as you require to not do any work." In past years they've been very pushy, raising their voice to my wife saying "THE WORK HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE. A NOTICE WAS LEFT 2 WEEKS AGO". Well, the "No Soliciting" sign in the window has been there for years. Deal.
BTW, I just witnessed them painting the curb for the 2nd time tonight. The 1st time, it seemed pretty quick. So this time I timed them with a stopwatch. I'm serious--it took less that 2 minutes start to finish. @ $13 a pop, they're looking at a top end of nearly $400/hour.
The county has strict laws on this. Check them out. They need a permit, and the county won't issue more than 1 permit a year.

Zebo said...

"What is the rip off?" Simple. In my neighborhood, someone comes by about once a month to pressure me into paying them to paint the curb. Just how many times does it need to be repainted before it spells "rip-off"? Sure, it's different people, a lot of people have figured out it's lucrative. I'm sorry, my house number is in huge metal letters just above the garage door which is a car-length's distance from the street-- I'm sure the Fire department or whoever can find my address just fine. Plus, the last time it was painted (before I moved in), is still holding up fine-- they did too good of a job, because it still looks great.

Anonymous said...

I live in Torrance CA and came home from work and see TWO not ONE FLYERS taped to my door for CURB PAINTING one was canning for hunger asking for a donation of $12-20 USD for one address the other was American Curb painting asking for any Contribution. So I decided to google both! Ha to my surprise canning for hunger allegedly donates to needy homeless etc etc but never gives real information who they actualy donate to upon my search I also noticed a box of love BS on it they ask for food and another check made out to canning for hunger if I donate food why are they still asking for a check for their gas!!! Really??? I belive canning for hunger is a Scam and the American curb painting I only found NO permit was issued for them in my city and asking for a $5.00 USD Sugeested Contribution when work was Finished was on their flyer. So I printed a flyer of my own out on my computer taped it to my curb..I'll do it myself and keep my hard working dollar No thanks!!! It only takes about $4bucks to paint I found out! I would have let the American Curb painting do it but No permit No Painting my CURB!!

-HARD WORKER

Anonymous said...

Hello World! I have been a House address painter for the last 20yrs on the west coast. I have heard all the scams and it has hurt my LEGAL legitimate business. I charge $5.00 for spray paint on cement and $10.00 for traffic paint on asphalt, at the door. Higher prices for next day & appointments. Higher with costs possible in the future, who knows. Right now I can make a decent living at these prices for a single guy. Currently DO-IT yourself paint costs are: 6.00 for paint-one can white,one can black , $5.49 for stencils, tape 2.00, Gloves $1.00 and without a template I use custom made make me the pro in the final outcome of appearance. Many people say I am too cheap? It is the right price for every single dwelling in a city, rich and poor, per year. Most house addresses last when done right, 2-5yrs. minus tire marks.
In a fast paced world we now live in, Curb Address is needed! You never know when a emergency occurs and the emergency agency on GPS is within 4 houses and has to "spider out" to find the correct address. Timing Saves Lives! You would not believe how many houses do have numbers on their house, but in the INCORRECT COLOR to find at night. The other reason why I do My career is i am retired from transportation and disabled with discriminating attributes, yet striving to work and knock on every single door. Curb Addresses help everyone else in the transportation of products and services to customers homes. Many crews have new employees who need that address to find you. Pet Groomer, Pizza Man, Gas Man, Fed-EX, Florist,Taxi & Limo, Grocery errand man, home health nurse, house meetings & gatherings etc. You get my idea.Saves time for you and holding on to a job for someone else on a new route.
Last thing to point out in my small business on the West Coast regional. I have had a complete criminal background check by the DOJ/FBI to solicit door to door and have a city license enclosed in a see thru pouch on a necklace I wear that is presentable to every customer. I also have clothing with my company banner displayed with a phone number. All you need to check me out with the city. City Coucils of America need to back off a little on restrictive laws and taxes and let those at the bottom work for a better world!

Good Day World!

Anonymous said...

I moved into this house 4 1/2 years ago. The number was fine then. It has since been painted 3 times.


Today, I found the note from Curb Addressing Service. An hour later the guy came by to collect the money.

I was on the phone, I answered the door, I said NO, and I closed the door.

I went out to ask him the name of his company while he was waiting for the nice lady next door to write him a check. On the way, I noticed my number had been painted and someone had run over it making it unreadable.

He mentioned that he noticed that, and he'd be repainting those. WE'LL SEE!

If he does, I'd mail him a check... oh, no contact info on his flier... darn. Next year.

I also told him I spend a lot of time in poor neighborhoods, and those numbers haven't been painted in YEARS should he decide to skip our street next year.

I asked him for a permit number, but I think he gave me a permit from 2004. I'll be calling the city to complain tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I had just painted my curb number myself as no one had come by for 2 years to offer the service. I checked with the city permit department and they said I could go ahead and do my own numbers if there weren't any.

Yesterday I got a flyer that Canning Hunger would be in our area and then today my husband told me that someone had re-done my paint job. I never got a chance to opt out and the flyer never said when they were coming by.

I looked up the IRS form 990 for this organization and noticed something that raised a red flag for me on page 9. They only list 6 employees total for the organization. The top 5 salaries must be listed. Out of the 5, 4 of the staff are related and all make over or near $100,000.

I've worked at non-profits my whole life and this seems very fish to me.

I'm not happy that I couldn't opt out.

https://bulk.resource.org/irs.gov/eo/2013_07_EO/33-0618886_990_201212.pdf

Clay Walker said...

www.houseaddressservice.com makes a more permanent long term product that goes on the curb and eliminates the curb painting all together. We are currently working on a 3 party solution that eliminates any cost to the homeowner. Think adopt a highway. Because it is a physical product commonly used by cities for storm drain markers or gas line markers, it is a long term product that goes on the curb that can't be painted over - quite literally eliminating a curb painting scammer from a fake charity (and they are all fake)and his ability to paint over it.