Accepting the Kindness of Strangers

I’m often puzzled when, in an effort to help someone else save money, I’m looked at like some sort of criminal or crazy person. Here’s an example. This week I had a coupon for $5 off at TGI Friday’s. The coupon explicitly stated that it could be used multiple times or given away to friends. So I printed one off and went for dinner. After we had eaten and paid, the waitress gave the coupon back to me and said, “You get to keep this. Come back tomorrow or give it to a friend.” Well, the coupon expired the next day and I knew I wouldn’t be back.

Rather than throw it away, I decided to be nice. On our way out the door I spotted a young family with three kids just coming in the door. I offered the coupon to the mother, explaining that we wouldn’t be able to use it again and that they could have it if they wanted. She gave me a look like I was insane, then started coming up with all kinds of excuses why she couldn’t take it and didn’t want it. I said, “Okay,” and went to put it away. As I was putting it back in my purse, the husband comes over and drags the woman away, muttering about “solicitors” and “people looking for handouts.” I was shocked. All I’d done was offer the woman a coupon.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done something like this and been treated like a lunatic. Sometimes if I’m in the grocery store and I see someone with an item in their cart that I have a coupon for, but know I’m not going to use before it expires, I’ll ask if they would like to use it. When we’ve gone on trips, I’ve sometimes ended up with attraction tickets that have one extra day left on them that I know I can’t use. I’ve been known to offer them to people who are just arriving. I’ve seen people drop change (dollars included) at the register and, when they don’t realize it, I’ll pick it up or point it out and say, “You dropped that.” Sometimes people are grateful for these acts of kindness. But more often than you would think, people look at me like I’m insane, get rude with me, or insist that they have no use for the item or that they didn’t drop it. Some clearly don’t trust what I’m offering and back away as if I’m offering illegal drugs.

If you genuinely don’t want or can’t use whatever someone is offering, a simple, “No thank, you,” is sufficient. You don’t need to get hostile or treat the person as if they are offering you something dirty or illegal. Just say no thanks and walk away. I know that it’s a scary world we live in sometimes and that not everyone has your best interests at heart. But someone offering you a simple coupon or your dropped change shouldn’t generally be cause for alarm, unless that person seems sincerely crazy or you’re in an isolated area where you could be distracted and then mugged or something.

Someone offering you a coupon in a crowded store or restaurant should be cause for thanks, not fear. What’s the worst that can happen? You accept the offering and it turns out to be expired or invalid. The restaurant or store says you can’t use it and then you pay full price. You’re no worse off than you were before. Chances are, however, that what you’re being offered is legitimate and you will save some money.

If you’re serious about saving money, sometimes you have to accept the kindness of strangers. Not everyone is out to harm you or put you in an awkward position. Sometimes they just want to help you by offering something that might save you a little money. Sometimes they just want to share a little of their bounty with others. If you’re so wealthy that you don’t need to save, then good for you. Feel free to decline all offers from people who are trying to be kind. But if you are like most people and you need to save money, be grateful when someone offers you something that you can use and then try to pay it forward if you have the chance.

Oh, and I did find someone to use that coupon. After the husband practically pushed me off the sidewalk, an elderly couple that was coming in just behind them stopped me and the woman said, “I hope you don’t think this is too forward, but I heard what happened just now. If you don’t mind, and if you’re still offering, could we have the coupon? We could really use it.” I didn’t mind at all.

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15 Responses to Accepting the Kindness of Strangers

  1. Annie Jones says:

    I’m glad your coupon went to someone who appreciated it.

    A year or so ago we went to a theme park with my sister and BIL. My husband and I were able to get in as guests on my sis’s season passes. We were going to have to pay for our granddaughter’s admission, which was $40, which IMO is outrageously expensive for a child’s pass. We had just decided that yes, we’d go ahead an pay for it when a stranger came up to us with the unused portion of her 2-day pass and offered it to us for free. That really helped us out monetarily, but more than that, just the idea that a stranger would do that for us made our day. It was greatly appreciated.

  2. Monkey Mama says:

    To be fair, the only time strangers tend to come up to me like that is if they want to convert me to their religion, ask for money, or sell something. So, I wouldn’t take it personally. You might miss the one sane person because you are on the defense after 20 insane people – know what I mean?

    This post is a good reminder that while on your guard, you should at least keep your eyes and ears open. We have certainly been handed coupons by strangers before. I am not aware of ever saying no!

  3. rosemary_sanders says:

    I will offer coupons to people at the grocery store and usually get a thank you in return. In this economy, every little bit helps. Keep up the good work, there will be some who will appreciate it.

  4. My English Castle says:

    Yeah, I suspect they think you’re trying to distract them and steal their bag or something. I’m still grateful to the woman (anonymous) at the Mall of America who gave my daughter a full-day ride bracelet they weren’t using. I think it saved us $20 at least.

    A few weeks ago I was at the grocery store and saw a promotion that if you bought a $5 bottle of wine, you got a rotisserie chicken free. It was such a great deal, I took a bunch of them and tried giving them to folks buying rotisserie chickens. A couple of them gave me strange looks, but most people went for it!

  5. Jaime says:

    A few weeks ago, I received a coupon in the mail but didn’t get to the store to see if there was anything I wanted to use it on until the last day. Once I’d bought my items, I asked the cashier to hold on to it to let other people use it who might not have it or forgot it. I don’t know if she did that (I hope she did), but I was in a hurry and didn’t want to go to the trouble of trying to find a fellow shopper who didn’t already have one just like it and also wanted mine.

    I know that sometimes when I go through a line, the cashier already has a coupon I can use. I don’t know if the store just keeps on handy or if someone did what I did. 🙂

    I’d have no problem accepting a coupon from someone if they offered and I could use it, but I can see how people would be a little leery of being approached by a stranger. But you’re right, that doesn’t mean they need to be hostile about it.

  6. Breton Wench says:

    Yeah. I do this with parking allowance vouchers for our main town if there is an hour or so left on them when i am leaving. I go up to someone who has just parked and say ‘Hey, us this, it’s good for another hour’. It can take two or three goes to get rid of it !!!!

  7. Jessica says:

    I often do random acts of kindness and have had 3 lives saved through quick thinking in the passed. Last time i went to a theme park i made a point of taking all the buy one get one free passes i had and at

  8. I’m surprised by the family’s reaction. I give coupons away for items that I don’t use all of the time and I’ve never had anyone say anything but thank you. Don’t let this one family stop you from being kind.

  9. Joan.of.the.Arch says:

    I’m curious about what the “all kinds of excuses” to say no were. One excuse would’ve been more than necessary, I should think. Perhaps she really already had such a coupon. That’s what I was thinking about the person who rejected Jessica’s ticket at the theme park. I don’t think anyone goes to Six Flags here without one of those serious discount vouchers.

    I notice sometimes in the grocery store people leave their extra coupons right on top of the product they apply to. That seems like a cool and non-threatening way to handle giving coupons to strangers.

  10. My English Castle says:

    Yeah, I like that idea too, Joan. But I’ve heard folks say that the store stockers go through and throw them out. I have NO evidence of this, so it’s purely anecdotal.

  11. Diane says:

    I save 20% off coupons for Bed, Bath & Beyond & bring extras when I shop. If I see someone in line with a large purchase, I offer them a coupon. I’ve never been turned down, unless the person already had a coupon.

    Last time, a lady saw me using coupons & asked if I had an extra, because there was something else she wanted to buy. I gladly gave her one & she went back to get the other item. She was thrilled and I was happy to help.

    I live in New Orleans, and people tend to be very friendly here, talking to one another in line & while waiting at restaurants, but I’ve been told that’s not the case everywhere…

  12. happymom4 says:

    We must live in a more friendly area, because I’ve never yet had any one turn down a coupon I offered if they could use it.

    I also gratefully use coupons I find beside products in the store and do my best to leave coupons for others as well.

  13. Jolly Ol' Ollie says:

    You can thank all of the scammers out there the next time -and I assure you that there will be a next time!- people respond thusly.
    There have been scammers since the biblical age and there will always be scammers trying to cheat someone out of something.
    You’d be wise to keep that in mind the next time you approach someone with your offers.
    And remember, not too close as no one likes their personal space invaded.

  14. JM says:

    People get mean without even thinking.

  15. Shelby says:

    You are a great person. No need to care about those cold-blooded, mean people. I hope I can have a neighbor like you in my area so that I can always have coupons from you!!! I love to collect coupons and save money~

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