Monday, September 29, 2008

Ramadhan Begging update

Do you guys remember when I talked about the care package we have put together for the various beggars who appear at our door during the Holy month of Ramadhan?

Day before yesterday, a nice lady with a girl who was about four rang the doorbell and requested Floos. When asked, she said she was from palestine, but her skin looked darker than any Palestinian I have ever met. She only spoke arabic to me, and while I am far from an expert on reigonal accents she sounded Khaleeji to me. Whomever she was, the little girl, named Manal, was really cute, and maybe a year older than my youngest daughter.

I asked her to wait, blazed inside, grabbed the prepackaged box of goodies, threw the frozen chicken in on top, and zoomed back out. The lady gratefully took the food, and thanked me profusely.

I have no idea what hapened after that, but I was able to close the gate with a clean conceince. Money can't buy a clean conceince.

Last night, I had an entirely different experience. I'll tell you what hapened, and then can you guys please comment, and say something nice because I'm feeling really sad about it at the moment.

Last night, I am in the front yard reading the papers and smoking like a chimmney. Ding dong, dorbell, then the front gate opens, and a guy walks through and heads toward the door of the house. The gate does not lock and swings open to the slightest touch, and the car gate is wide open so I'm not anoyed that he's let himself into the yard.

I step out of the shadows, and say Salam Alaykum and the guy introduces himself as Jamal (Jassim? Juma?) a neighbour from a few houses down the street. J is handsome, about 45 years old, slightly heavy set, and six feet tall. He is dressed in the dishdasha style of someone from Musandam, and has a neatly trimmed short beard with flecks of grey through it. J speaks almost perfect english, is clearly well educated, and has the accent of an Omani who studied in a good school. There is nothing about him that would make me think he is Indian, Egyptian, or Northern Arab. The entire conversation, after the initial greetings was in english.

He says he's sorry he never introduced himself before, but as everyone in this neighbourhood lives behind ten foot walls and locked gates it's no suprise. He says his dad is having pains in his arm and chest and he wants to take him to the clinic to check him but he hasn't got his bank card and can we loan him 50 rials. My scam radar is beeping wildly, but if I were in his situation I cannot fathom that someone would turn me down in my hour of need. I am always leaving the house with nothing in my wallet so I can see how this could happen to anyone.

No problem, I say and give him everything in my wallett. It's thirty one rials, and a few baiza. He thanks me, says he got twenty from the other neighbour and that should be enough, and promises to come back tonight to repay me. I honestly don't think I will ever see him ever again.

I couldn't care less about the money, but my faith in Humanity is so weak at the moment that it will be really hard for me to come to terms with his dishonesty if he doesn't come back tonight. I don't think he is a Neighbour, because with the exception of Hassan, Abdullah, Yahia, Mohamed, and one ROP Colonel, all my neighbours are total assholes, and few of them are educated enough to speak such perfect english.

Have you guys met this guy before? Did I get scammed? Did I do the right thing? Is he going to show up tonight and help to keep my faith in Humanity alive?

And on another note, what the fuck is wrong with me that I let little things like this tear me up inside so much?

More tomorrow, because I finally got my new car. Stay off the sidewalks.


Deveniya said...

I feel bad that nobody had time to comment on this...I am not a blogger but I read your blog everyday (if you post one everyday). Similar incidents happened to me but as you mentioned suspision overcame the humanity and I never emtptied my pocket but limited my humanity to an amounts arround RO 5/- for an incident just becuase this does not occur evryday like in my country where I come from. Further, other Oman, when you give just give, the person may need that money to get high but he still need it and you had the money to spare so you did it with good intentions..which will help you much than taking the incident with you for rest of your life....hope this comment will help you to forget about it...Eid Mubarak...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but you just got scammed hard. A woman passed by our house last year in similar circumstances, except she introduced herself as being new in the neighbourhood. My mother even let her in and offered her tea.

After the smalltalk was over, my mum started feeling suspicious so she just told her "please get to the point", and the woman made up a bogus story about not being able to make rent, please help, etc. I won't bore you with the details, but a couple of bits of her story didn't jive with reality, so my mum just opened the door for her and asked to please leave. She obliged and we never saw her again.

I realise that you always want to help people (I'm like that too), but you really need to keep your wits about. This method of scamming is very popular in Muscat. While it might sound hard, I'd even advise you to just turn everyone away; none of them will be genuine anyway.

-Omani in US

Anonymous said...

Whoops, couple of typos.

'asked to please leave' -> 'asked her to please leave'

'While it might sound hard' -> 'While it might sound harsh.

It's too early in the morning here.

-Omani in US

Fareeha said...

His story doesn't make sense to me. Mainly cuz if he had to take his dad and he was your neighbor, that would mean his house was close by and he could have grabbed his wallet or bank card. Also, his dad could have had money or bank card.

The guy could have been legit but as sad as it is, the most pity scams are done within Ramadan cuz people feel more generous/sensitive.

I guess one way to find out in this situation would have been to offer to drive his father and him to the "clinic" and see his reaction.

When I went to Pakistan, there was a huge scam going on there where an old man with a little kid with him would "faint" on the street and a good citizen would help by taking them to hospital. They then were informed by the 15 year old that they did not have money cuz they just went out on a "walk" and the victim ended up paying money to the kid for the old mans medical bills and medicine.

I know u feel cheated but dont give up on humanity!

Leo Americanus said...

It speaks well of you that you seem to have street smarts and can be quite cynical and pissed off, but at the same time you are willing to go out of your way to help people. The way I look at things like this is, sometimes you have to err on the side of caution and build up your good karma. Yeah, the guy probably was scamming you, but if you have the money, it is a better feeling to know you were the good person and someone else took advantage of you (to a certain degree, maybe 30 riyals but not 300 riyals?) rather than going back inside and wondering if you turned down someone truly in need.

If the guy was a scammer, then the asshole will get what he has coming. He'll screw with the wrong person and get jailed, cut, beat, whatever. Or he'll die a miserable, alone, and fearing the hot coals and pokers on the other side. As for your money, I look at it like this: even if that guy didn't need the money, he'll spend it somewhere and just imagine that your money is doing someone some good on down the line. God knows there are plenty of people in Oman who need it (and plenty who don't.)

Abid said...

Make an update also, to tell us if he ever came back.

Loyal Lurker said...

I'm afraid I've heard a very similar story from at least two other people locally, right down to the details of the guy.

On the other hand, I admire you a lot for coming through for the man, even if he was a scammer; I still feel guilty from brushing off one of the "stranded family" cons I ran into last spring, even though I know they were almost certainly not legit.

Look at it this way: you get the good karma, no matter what he does with the money, and I do believe that eventually the bad that he's building up will swing 'round and slap him.

Barbs said...

Sorry, but I think you were definitely scammed. Hospital treatement is free for all Omanis in Oman, so no need for money at all.

By and large I think all those who knock at your door are not genuine, but are there as expats especially, are often a soft touch.

The really needy I suspect are too proud to ask and perhaps go to more established line of support for the poor such as the mosques. The state offers support as well I am sure.

Always a tough one to deal with beggars - personally I feel bad if I give as you know I've been scammed - furthermore you perpetuate the problem by giving - and bad if I refuse. If I do give I wouldn't collect any good karma I'm sure as I resent the giving - just can't help it.

I try to remedy by giving willingly to organised charities regulary. Even then I do not contribute as much as I could, but it is at least something and there is a reasonable chance of at least part of the money reaching the needy.

I certainly don't give to street beggars in europe as I suspect much of the gains go to drugs. I contribute to Shelter instead.

L_Oman said...

SUBURBAN! A close friend of mine got scammed big time major last year like this and when she told the lady to leave, about 5 minutes later she came back - SHOVED HER DOWN as she opened up the door and she had two other people with her (a man and a woman). Had it not been for a neighbor hearing her scream, I hate to think what could have happened. She was alone.

I hate to say it, but he scammed you my dear.

It's up to you if you wanna give, but for goodness sakes be careful, hon!

yuseff said...

We have a rule in the house: never give someone who asks for money. Instead, give money to people who need it but don't ask for it. Those sorts are everywhere - Those who clean cars, clean garbages, those who sell simple stuff on the roadsides, children who have lost their fathers and WE know they don't have any money etc. People with pride never ask for money, they work hard enough for it. If this guy was real, he'd never stoop so low to ask for money. After all he's well educated and all, he knows better than to ask for money regardless of the situation.

Shil said...

For one, Suburban, never let anyone inside your gates, cos' you never know. Secondly that sure sounds weird.

Yesterday evening, a lady came asking for money. With limited Arabic and lots of gestures, I asked her if she wants some food instead. 'No'. So I went in, got RO5 and came out. She says its not enough. I was feeling so guilty about spending so much on food and clothes the day before (we had lots of guests for Eid), that I got another RO5. Went to the kitchen, packed some food and gave her that as well.

Then there were a couple of young girls who wanted money as well. After they left with a couple of rials, my nanny said she noticed chips and Dew in their hands. What do you make of that?!

Sobia said...

What comes around goes around. Don't worry. ;)

Bashair. said...

Recently I've been going through all your blog posts starting from the most recent. I just have to tell you that I love your sarcastic writing style. LOVE it!

Anonymous said...

yikes, sorry but i believe he was a scammer as the almost EXACT scenario happened to one of my friends a few weeks ago. Don't feel bad that you gave him the money as your "intention" is what counts (you go up - he goes down LOL). Furthermore some of these people come back to the house and force their way in so you may have avoided an unwanted situation. Love your blog!

Anonymous said...

Oh my word, same guy- same story. I nearly fell for it, I got my keys out to offer him a lift to the hospital but then he told me that he needed cash! His story didn't ring true and I had major doubts so I sent him on his way.

He was good though, gave me the house no. that he was from, very smart, well spoken he even smelt nice!!

I got stung last year by a woman, I emptied out my purse because I was scared she might come back. I had just had a baby and my DH ws away. Half the time I don't open the door any more because I am scared.

Kay said...

you got punked subs and it wasnt on camera.

Jupiter said...

Oh yes, we all go thru this atleast once...the best way i found out was to identify ourselves with orgn which does gud work...and contribute the amount i wish to that orgn...apart from that i flatly refuse any kind of charity, to avoid these kind of bad experience...

Anonymous said...

OMG Suburban! That exact same thing happened to me - on a 'secure' compound! Same guy, same story. He even gave me a house number and guess what - he said his name was Jamal!

I felt the same way - I strongly suspected I was being scammed but felt that if I wasn't how bad would I feel if it were true. Didn't think about the fact that all Omanis get free medical treatment! Doh!

He cadged 20 RO from me. What a low life!

Issoulana said...


+1 !
I'm staying with friends in Bawshar, and unfortunately, the money (70 OMR...) had already been given to "Jamal / Jumaa" for 10 minutes when I got to understand what was going on. I then displayed your post (I had read several weeks ago) on the computer for them to read...
Identical details, except he added name of a doctor my friends personally knew and gave a GSM number.
They will, I think, report to ROP. Could be good that other people report as well...

Great blog, thanks a lot.