Opinion

Brandt: Should students trust Main Campus solicitors?

Think twice before giving your cash to “charity.”

Joe Brandt“Lawrence,” the solicitor who roamed Main Campus claiming to be from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia, has now been confirmed to not have any affiliation with the group; a representative from BGCP said the organization does not solicit on Main Campus, and they advised Temple students to “be wary” of him. This wariness toward possibly shady characters roaming campus ought to be the rule, instead of the exception.

Temple offers some help as to verifying who is trustworthy through its agreements with businesses on campus. All of the businesses that accept Diamond Dollars, such as Subway, Mecca Unisex Salon and the Fresh Grocer, have been verified by Temple as legitimate, or at least not a scam. Businesses on Main Campus can apply to be a vendor in the Student Center, where they must fill out a form that requires a name, business address and a vendor license number.

Vendors applying for space in the Student Center must use tables provided by Temple and must stay at their tables. None of the various sites for potential vendors list anything about soliciting on foot. Therefore, the chances are high that a solicitor on foot has not received university approval and thus is worthy of skepticism.

In addition to Temple’s contribution to verifying options for student consumers, the Better Business Bureau helps in promoting ethical businesses and denouncing scammers. “BBB helps people find and recommend businesses, brands and charities they can trust,” according to the website for the greater Mid-Atlantic regional chapter of the BBB.

A helpful article on the website of the organization’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter describes what makes scammers tick. “Being a successful con man often depends on your ability to persuade people to ignore common sense and their own best interests,” it says. Further along in the article is a crucial piece of advice: “There’s no excuse for moving ahead when the only person satisfied with the situation is the person who stands the most to gain from you writing a check.”

Besides “Lawrence,” there have been other unverified campus solicitors, such as an unidentified bearded white male in his late 20s who sells magazine subscriptions. He typically wears a large top hat.

Shelby Guercio, a freshman geology major, said the man approached her last semester, and after a brief introduction immediately asked for her credit card information to subscribe to Image Magazine, a fashion magazine based out of North Jersey. Though he did have a copy of the magazine, he would not take “no” for an answer when Guercio raised the possibility that she would just sign up online instead. A representative from Image said the magazine ceased production in 2011 and has not associated with solicitors.

If you are stopped on your way around Main Campus and asked for a donation to a charity that doesn’t exist or to subscribe to a magazine you’ve never heard of, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Always do your research first. Consider the fact that these people are out for your money, regardless of whether they provide you with a product or service. If you want to feel charitable, Philabundance and the Red Cross are viable, legitimate options, and Paley Library has plenty of magazines for your viewing pleasure.

Joe Brandt can be reached at joseph.brandt@temple.edu or on Twitter @jbrandt7. 

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