[Hpn] Measuring Manchester's Nice Factor?
William Charles Tinker
Tue, 12 Jul 2005 20:02:21 -0400
This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
Cover Story — Finding Kindness
Measuring Manchester’s “nice” factor
By Rebecca Fishow, Abby Ashey, Dan Goodhue, Jason Singer and Will Stewart
Is the Queen City unkind?
Our reputation took a hit this year when the National Coalition for the
Homeless named Manchester the 20th “meanest” city in the United States.
Then, last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Manchester Airport
is fourth in the country when it comes to leveling fines on customers who
accidentally bring knives and other banned items onto planes.
Last year, 699 of the 1.9 million passengers who went through Manchester
Airport security received fines. By contrast, at the number-one airport on
the list, Los Angeles International, 924 of the 24.2 million people who
passed through security were fined.
Twenty million more passengers flew out of LA than departed from here last
year, yet LAX handed out only 300 more fines.
Is Manchester really that much less likely to cut someone a break? And, c’mon
... maybe some of the city’s ordinances and policies aren’t overly friendly
toward the homeless but can they really be called “mean”?
When the Yankees Double-A club, the Trenton Thunder, came to town last week,
Fisher Cats employees went out of their way to crack down on offensive
T-shirts, abusive comments and rude chants at the new stadium.
“When people wear the ‘Yankees Bleep’ shirts, we don’t tolerate that,”
Fisher Cats President Shawn Smith told the Boston Globe. “We ask them to
turn those T-shirts inside out. If people don’t comply, we’ll give them
their money back and tell them they’re welcome to leave.”
So which is it? Are ManchVegans caring people, sensitive to the needs of
other human beings, or a bunch of jerks? This week, utilizing its crack team
of interns and reporters, the Hippo makes a stab at finding out.
If a complete stranger asked you for a quarter, what would you do?
The Hippo sent its interns out to answer this question last month. The
interns were advised to dress in clean jeans and T-shirts, go to a busy part
of town and ask 10 strangers for a quarter. The interns were told not to
make up a sob story or come up with a fake reason for wanting the quarter.
If pressed for a response, they were advised to admit they were working on a
story for the Hippo.
The milk of human kindness
By Rebeca Fishow
As an intern, I’m supposed to be shameless. When I’m asked to do grunt work,
I am expected to like it and, for the most part, I do. But I must admit,
when the Hippo asked me to become a panhandler as part of an experiment to
discover the true nature of ManchVegans, I was a little reluctant.
My assignment: go somewhere in the city, ask strangers for quarters and
document their responses as a measure of how friendly our city is.
After avoiding the assignment for days, I dragged myself to the Mall of New
Hampshire to hassle a bunch of unsuspecting shoppers. I walked a couple laps
before getting up the courage to ask someone.
I made my first target an easy one. The cashier at the Gap seemed
approachable. After I put some clothes on hold I asked, “Would you happen to
have a quarter I could borrow?”
She responded in the friendliest way possible that she didn’t have any
change on her. My first attempt, and my first rejection. She couldn’t give
me a quarter but at least she was nice about it. But was she only nice about
it because I was a customer and she was on the clock?
I got a little braver and walked up to a group of three teenage boys hanging
out at a bench near Pacific Sunwear. Although he didn’t say much, just an
expressionless “yeah,” a boy wearing a light pink shirt reached into his
pocket then handed me a quarter. I thanked him and moved on. So far, so
The more people I asked, the more confident I grew in my ability to approach
strangers. I decided to step up my game a notch and find someone who I would
not normally talk to. I spotted an older man, probably in his late 70s
sitting on a bench near Filenes.
Making sure to come off sweet and friendly, I popped the question, “Sorry to
bother you, but do you have a quarter I could have?” After he searched his
pockets and came up quarterless, I thanked him and began to walk away.
“Miss!” he called to me, before I had gotten 30 feet away, “I found one.”
This man definitely surprised me. Not only was he willing to search for a
quarter, he also went out of his way to stop me even though he could have
easily shrugged me off and let me walk away.
As it turned out, the first rejection I got was my last. An older couple
standing by the carousel, a lady outside smoking a cigarette (she didn’t
have a quarter but gave me two dimes and a nickel), the tattoo-clad guy
working the Spider Bite booth, a woman a little older than me and even a
couple of teenage girls all coughed up the quarters. At this rate, my lunch
could have been paid for by other people in less than 20 minutes.
Total: 10 people yields $2.25
Conclusion: I began to realize how easy it it would be for a well-spoken,
“respectably” dressed (according to our society’s standards) person to get
parking, morning coffee or the daily paper paid for by complete strangers.
What does this say about the people of our city? Manchester, believe it or
not, is friendly. If nothing else, perhaps our experiment shows our (or at
least my) tendency to misconceive the kindness of strangers.
The fact that I was scared to even approach strangers says something about
the Manchester community’s understanding of each other: we like to be left
alone, and we like to leave others alone. But it turns out, Manchvegians
seem to be happily willing to help a stranger in need. In the future, I will
have the confidence to a perfect stranger for assistance if I’m in a rut.
Or… perhaps the experiment just tells us a quarter is worth so little that
nobody cares about losing one. Next time I think I’ll ask for dollar bills
— Rebecca Fishow
Working the downtown
Getting money from people in Manchester is nothing like taking candy from a
I took to the streets on Friday, June 24 to ask 10 random citizens for a
quarter as part of a Hippo social experiment.
The conditions of the experiment were that I wear my normal attire and
simply ask for the quarter; no sob stories. So I put on my jeans and a
t-shirt and headed for downtown Manchester.
Once I got there, I kind of wanted to turn around and go home. But then I
thought about it and remembered that I have been asking Mom for money for
years, and she hardly ever denies me access to necessary funds. So I took
the approach I usually take when asking Mom about a ‘loan’ — I used my
girlish looks and charm and was immediately shot down.
The first lady I asked either wanted me to think that she didn’t understand
me or she really didn’t because she just shook her head and quickly walked
I turned around and saw a friendly looking man. I approached them, asked for
he coin and received one. I continued on my way and saw two more gentlemen.
I addressed them as such and received a quarter from one of them, but not
from the other.
Then I crossed the street to find two teenage boys jamming to the beats they
were bumping. I asked them if they could spare a quarter and I got one from
the owner of the car. Where there’s a car, there’s change.
Finally, I hit the jackpot. A very nice lady gave me TWO quarters! I asked
her if she could spare a quarter and she assumed they were for the parking
meter and gave me two. Thank you. (Subtotal: seven people yields $1.25.)
I was starting to fell bad about taking people’s quarters; I know I cherish
mine. So I decided to give back what was given to me. Walking down Elm
Street , I spotted a man standing up against a building. He asked if I had
any money and I told him I did and asked how much he needed. He didn’t reply
so I gave him a dollar.
Later that day I was told that some people dress up like bums and panhandle
for a living, That source said it’s not safe to give people money, because
they may mug you when you take your wallet out. After confronting this
situation I kind of laughed at myself, then got sad because I wondered if
that’s how people saw me when I asked for a quarter.
I found it really hard to go on, but I needed to find three more test
subjects. I trudged on and walked around the block.
I ran into two ladies who were taking a walk on their lunch break. I didn’t
notice this until later, otherwise I wouldn’t have asked them. I mean, who
takes their purse with them when they are working out? Two test subjects,
two negative responses.
Finally, I asked the nice gentleman from the suit shop on the corner of
Hanover and something if he would spare a quarter. He invited me into his
shop, gave me a quarter and asked why I needed to ask for a quarter. I told
him that I really didn’t need it and that it was just research I was doing
for the Hippo, but he insisted that I take it. I did and used it for the
toll on the way home. Thank you.
Total: 10 people yields $1.75
Conclusion:If you’re looking to get a quarter while in Manchester you’re in
luck. You have about a one in two chance of finding the right person. My
best advice: smile and be charming.
— Abby Ashey
When my editor advised me of my next assignment — to ask 10 random people
for quarters around the city of Manchester — I got extremely excited. I had
the opportunity to earn $2.50 if I received one quarter from each person,
approximately $2.50 more than I earn per week as an intern.
Yet when I told my friends of the assignment, their reactions didn’t exactly
mirror my enthusiasm.
My friend Tony cheerfully confessed, “If you asked me, I’d tell you to stick
the quarter in ...”
I can’t repeat the rest of his quote, but you get the idea.
So last week, a bit crestfallen about friends’ forlorn forecasts, I timidly
set off on my quest, unsure of what to expect from the Queen City’s
citizens. However, my very first subject set the tone.
I spotted a mother and her children departing from Blake’s Ice Cream stand.
Knowing she likely just receieved change, I chose her as my first target.
“Excuse me,” I blurted, jogging up from behind her. She turned an eyed me
suspiciously. “Do you have a quarter I could have?”
Adorned in my authentic bright red Manny Ramirez jersey, probably the same
color as my ever-reddening cheeks, she continued to eye me meticulously.
“Sure,” she said. “What do you need a quarter for?”
I looked from her to her two young kids, who peered up at me just as
inquisitively as their mother.
“I just need a quarter,” I responded, and forced a smile.
“Are you all right?” she inquired.
A little flummoxed by her candidness, I hesitated, but quickly declared “I’m
fine,” and chuckled. Her concern, though unexpected and unnecessary, touched
me. She was quite sweet.
Having accomplished my mission and wanting to quash any anxiety that I was
in trouble I ended our meeting. “You know what? I don’t actually the need
the quarter, miss, but thank you so much.”
I smiled once more at her and her curiously-gazing children, she
half-heartedly chuckled “OK,” and I turned and abruptly walked off.
About 15 seconds elapsed before I heard “Excuse me! Excuse me!” rapidly
approaching me and I turned to see the lady running up to me.
“Are you sure you don’t need anything?” she asked.
“I’m fine, miss, I assure you,” and laughed.
She seemed befuddled by my sanguine demeanor now.
“I’m a reporter for the Hippo Press, and we’re doing a survey on the
kindness of Manchester citizens; you passed with flying colors,” I added.
“Oh,” she skeptically murmured. “Because if you need a quarter, or a dollar,
or need to make a call or anything, you can.”
I beamed even brighter, hugged her — she hugged me back warily, clearly
still a bit perplexed by the whole ordeal — and told her kids how lucky they
were to have such a sweet mom. Then I bid them a good day.
The mother’s benevolence, though not as prominent in my other subjects,
clearly permeates the rest of the city. Following our encounter, I felt
foolish for assuming my acerbically sardonic friends might represent the
Eight out of 10 people proceeded to offer me a quarter. The only two who
didn’t — both college students like myself whose financial impotence I could
empathize with — acknowledged my presence but sadly confessed they lacked
The Queen City’s munificence proved to be as regal as its name, and I, for
one, am thankful. On occasion I chose to keep the quarter, made $1.50,
bought myself a Coke with my earnings, and happily toasted this city’s
citizens — “To Manchester, where even a wealthy, white boy can beg for money
and receive it.”
— Jason Singer
The Big Picture
Charitable giving is increasing in Manchester
New Englanders have a reputation for being frugal. So it might come as no
surprise that, compared to other states, New Hampshire doesn’t exactly dig
deep when it comes to charitable giving.
“We are usually at the bottom of the heap when compared to other states and
what they donate per capita. And while Manchester is a very generous city,
compared to other places, we could be a lot more generous when looking at
our income,” said Ellie Cochran, the senior foundation officer, Manchester
region, for the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.
In 2002, the most recent year for which data are available, New Hampshire
households claiming an itemized charitable deduction reported an average
donation of $2,132, according to the IRS. The U.S. average is $3,461.
Ranking the states according to their charitable giving, the Granite State
is ranked 48th, just after Vermont (47th) and ahead of Rhode Island (49th)
and Maine (50th).
Manchester residents gave more than $28 million in itemized charitable
deductions during 2002, according to IRS figures. [It is estimated
nationally that itemized charitable deductions capture about 80 percent of
total giving.] This figure represents a 46 percent increase in city-wide
giving from 1997, said Deborah Schachter, director of Giving New Hampshire,
an arm of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.
“Along with Nashua, Manchester provided the largest combined giving total
among all New Hampshire municipalities — about 6 percent of New Hampshire’s
total reported giving that year [$462.8 million],” she said.
Cochran said the top recipients of the state’s giving are religious
organizations, followed by organizations advocating educational,
environmental and children’s issues. In Manchester, she said, donations to
social service organization are particularly popular given the city’s status
as a refugee relocation area.
Schachter said people are increasingly interested in impact and
accountability when they decide where to direct their gifts. As a result,
Cochran said, donor advised funds have become a popular complement to giving
to specific organizations like the United Way.
Donor advised funds allow donors to create funds without naming specific
charitable organizations or causes as recipients. These funds allow donors
to retain the right to recommend grants to charitable agencies of their
choice over time, the group’s website reads.
According to Schachter, there are about 5,400 charitable entities in the
state, so locating an organization to give to shouldn’t be too difficult.
But before making any donation, she said donors should be sure that the
organization asking for support is a legitimate non-profit which is
registered with the government.
“Before making any significant gift, wise donors will want to understand the
organization’s mission and how the organization plans to use its
fund-raising dollars to address important community needs,” she said.
— Will Stewart
2005 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH
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