One of the men came geared with a cardboard sign. The cameras captured him using hand gestures, directing drivers into angled street parking, then directing them to the electronic kiosk used to pay for parking.KOMO's question is already answered in the title: "Don't fall for Seattle panhandlers' slick parking hustle."
Unsuspecting drivers followed him as he took control, showing them how to operate the meter, punching in the parking time and even retrieving the drivers' credit cards from the machine before they could react.
In some cases, the panhandler even took the parking ticket from the machine, accompanied the driver back to the car and placed the ticket on the inside of the driver's car windows.
Then he asked for money.
Public service? Or slick hustle?
Over a month and a half, we watched as the two men targeted car after car, steering them away from pricey parking lots that charge $10 to $12 for two hours, to cheaper street parking spots that only cost $3 for two hours.
"I do this at lots all around the city," said one panhandler who identified himself as Hans Morris Reuben.
Seattle's ground-market venture capitalists are well behind the curve, however. When I visited Cape Town several years ago, panhandling was an entire secondary service economy. There was a guy dispensing paper towel in every public bathroom for a "tip." Or someone in every parking lot directing you to an open space--or on the street, pointing out free parking. (Apparently South Africans are easily befuddled.) Folks over there just went along, dropping 10 or 25 or 50 cents each time, whether out of charitable feelings, confrontation avoidance, or customer satisfaction.