UX Magazine

Defining and Informing the Complex Field of User Experience (UX)
Article No. 132 March 2, 2007

The Panhandler User Experience

Panhandlers. Beggars. People who spend their days asking the age old question “Brother, can you spare a dime.” Every big (and some small) city has them and their approach is always the same… “Excuse the interruption. I lost my job, have no place to live, have no food, have 8 kids and need any money you can spare.”

They work the corners and ATM machines. On the subway, they move from the front car all the way to the back telling the same story over and over. They follow the exact same formula day in and day out with the same result. It has become so commonplace that people don’t look up or even blink at some of the saddest stories you can imagine.

Recently on a seemingly usual ride on the F train in New York City a man stood up and announced:

“The next stop is the 23rd street station. Connections can be made to the X,Y,Z trains. Up on the street you will find Barnes & Noble, Staples, Starbucks and The Container Store. Please be sure to pick up any newspapers you have left behind to help keep our subway system clean. Thank you and have a nice day.”

Every (now smiling) passenger was totally focused on him. He delivered a message that was concise, valuable and totally relevant to the people listening to it. He did it with energy and a friendly smile.

His delighted audience paid him generously for it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

User Profile

Howard Mann is the founder of Brickyard Partners, a business strategy agency based in Portland, OR. Prior to founding Brickyard Partners in 2001, Mann owned a premier international logistics company with over 140 Million in revenue, six U.S. offices and a global network of over 40 agents worldwide.

As that business came under severe pressure from the previous economic downturn and industry consolidation, Howard lead the company out from those treacherous times by returning to the basics that make every business great and completing 6 acquisitions that re-imagined the business so it was highly attractive to buyers. Finding that “secret sauce” did not come easily but has fueled his purpose to help other business leaders to never have to go through what he endured. 

Through real world experience and those hard times in the “trenches” of business he has learned that it is not following the latest fad, copying competitors or adding complexity that makes a business truly great. His pragmatic approach and knowing what it feels like to sit in the CEO/Owner chair is what makes his work so different and effective.

In addition to his strategy, marketing and communications work, Mann coaches a select group of entrepreneurs, CEO's and business owners. His highly focused workshops and keynotes help executive teams take aggressive action to unlock the true potential of their organizations and build remarkable businesses that endure. In good times and bad. Online and off.

Howard is a sought after speaker both in the U.S. and around the world. He writes frequently on his blog about the importance of the basics and reconnecting to the passion that too often gets lost as businesses mature.

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Comments

19
20

What a unique and original idea. I think sometimes people underestimate the power of ingenuity.

10
17

To me it all comes back to effort. Some people shake a can without even lifting thier heads, other hold doors and (as this story tells) some have a story which they recite.

If I have spare change and you are not even making an effort, I’m not giving you a dime.

Related: I usually bring two granola bars with me on the way to work, I usually end up giving one away.

17
17

Gee, isn’t it nice that the homeless or desperate now have to impress us in some way in order to receive help. Thanks so much for sharing with us this delightful story…

18
21

He didn’t say it was good or bad, just stating his observation of an event he found interesting.

I think it’s interesting that even among the homeless, there are market forces at work…

21
25

Kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out.

20
18

I love it. What a way to make it for yourself.

16
18

This is a great example of how you shouldn’t settle and conduct business the way your competitors do. Take a chance and provide a unique, memorable experience that people will talk about.

18
18

Ali Reid: Although out of subject, you were spot on. There was some sort of issue with the .ico file. It Should work properly now. Please check again and let us know.

Thanks for the tip.

14
27

Nice. He’s providing a valuable service for others and (probably) giving himself a sense of dignity.

20
20

yes great! it was bugging me for a while there. i’d started to identify UX with a small white page icon with the corner folded.

Many thanks!

24
16

Reminds me of a tube (subway) ride in London, UK, 10 years ago, on a LONG section between stops. As the doors closed and the train departed the station a guys holding a guitar stands up and says: “Ladies and gentlemen, for your listening pleasure.” And then he proceeds to cover a Radiohead song, timed to finish 10 seconds before arriving in the next station. He made some good coin for that. For some reason this sort of behaviour is not allowed on the public transit in Toronto. Anywhere else?

20
15

Rahul, yeah I saw that guy too. In fact I saw him so often I found it more than a touch irritating every single day I went to work and back for years ;)

It would be the same with this story. Great, good on the guy but essentially he’s targeting tourists and his business model works. But for the other, probably larger market riding the trains (the commuters and regular travellers) he’s providing no service at all – perhaps he’s hoping people will pay him not to do anything.

If he really wants to ‘earn’ his money, perhaps a service to help everyone would be his best way of making some decent cash.

17
13

Rahul, in Toronto we have subway performers who are licensed and can only play in designated areas (hallways usually) and not on the trains. I like the doo-wop style singers in the NY subway system! They throw in little details about the area into their songs sometimes.

18
15

Rahul, in Toronto we have subway performers who are licensed and can only play in designated areas (hallways usually) and not on the trains. I like the doo-wop style singers in the NY subway system! They throw in little details about the area into their songs sometimes.

17
12

Rahul, yeah I saw that guy too. In fact I saw him so often I found it more than a touch irritating every single day I went to work and back for years ;)

It would be the same with this story. Great, good on the guy but essentially he’s targeting tourists and his business model works. But for the other, probably larger market riding the trains (the commuters and regular travellers) he’s providing no service at all – perhaps he’s hoping people will pay him not to do anything.

If he really wants to ‘earn’ his money, perhaps a service to help everyone would be his best way of making some decent cash.

17
22

Reminds me of a tube (subway) ride in London, UK, 10 years ago, on a LONG section between stops. As the doors closed and the train departed the station a guys holding a guitar stands up and says: “Ladies and gentlemen, for your listening pleasure.” And then he proceeds to cover a Radiohead song, timed to finish 10 seconds before arriving in the next station. He made some good coin for that. For some reason this sort of behaviour is not allowed on the public transit in Toronto. Anywhere else?

16
16

yes great! it was bugging me for a while there. i’d started to identify UX with a small white page icon with the corner folded.

Many thanks!

18
18

Nice. He’s providing a valuable service for others and (probably) giving himself a sense of dignity.

21
21

Ali Reid: Although out of subject, you were spot on. There was some sort of issue with the .ico file. It Should work properly now. Please check again and let us know.

Thanks for the tip.

22
17

I love the way User Experience Magazine lacks a Favicon for my Firefox Bookmarks Toolbar.

Not clever.

20
16

This is a great example of how you shouldn’t settle and conduct business the way your competitors do. Take a chance and provide a unique, memorable experience that people will talk about.

16
24

I love it. What a way to make it for yourself.

15
18

Kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out.

16
17

He didn’t say it was good or bad, just stating his observation of an event he found interesting.

I think it’s interesting that even among the homeless, there are market forces at work…

13
30

Gee, isn’t it nice that the homeless or desperate now have to impress us in some way in order to receive help. Thanks so much for sharing with us this delightful story…

18
18

To me it all comes back to effort. Some people shake a can without even lifting thier heads, other hold doors and (as this story tells) some have a story which they recite.

If I have spare change and you are not even making an effort, I’m not giving you a dime.

Related: I usually bring two granola bars with me on the way to work, I usually end up giving one away.

17
25

What a unique and original idea. I think sometimes people underestimate the power of ingenuity.