Curious M, 27, needs question answered. PLEASE HELP
September 5, 2006 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Do begging classifieds in magazines like Private Eye work?

The British satirical publication Private Eye has for donkeys' years been running a classified section called Eye Need, in which individuals with money woes come cap in hand to readers.

The ads are either genuine-sounding ("Any help appreciated. Young woman abandoned by partner, working three jobs to pay off £30k debt, please help") or frivolous ("Need £31 to recoup losses on this advert"). And they're almost always anonymous, usually only accompanied with a bank account number.

Me, I've always wondered if people receive any donations from these adverts. Does anyone know or have any experiences to share?

(I don't know if Private Eye's alone in running anonymous charity classifieds as I tend not to read dead tree media, but I'd obviously also be interested in anyone's experiences with similar ads in other publications.)
posted by randomination to Work & Money (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I remember a feature in the weekend magazine of one of the broadsheets (the Independent?) quite a few years ago followed what happened to all the people who put ads in the Eye Need section. None of them got any cash at all. Most were philosphical or had only done it for a laugh but some were really gutted.
posted by patricio at 10:30 AM on September 5, 2006

long ago, a couple i knew put a begging ad in private eye. all they got out of it, believe it or not, was an invitation to an orgy.
posted by londongeezer at 10:52 AM on September 5, 2006 - this chick started off online begging wanting to clear her $20K credit card balance. Now she has a book and a movie deal.

There was an anti-Karyn website,, which I remember back then was a great parody, and has now gone belly up. Read about that online begging phenomenon here.
There was a nice link at the end of that article:

Not sure if this is the answer you were looking at, but it's related so I thought of throwing it in FWIW.
posted by forwebsites at 11:03 AM on September 5, 2006

Ooops, in my rush to share my profound useless knowledge of internets with you, I somehow manage to miss the "anonymous" part in your query.
posted by forwebsites at 11:05 AM on September 5, 2006

Consider that some of these may be scams to acquire contacts for future scams. "Hey, you really helped me out a little while ago with that $5. You're such a generous person. Unfortunately, I've run into more trouble. There's this guy, see..."

This is essentially how those Nigerian email scams work, too. They don't really need your bank account number or any of that crap (although it would be nice). What they're really trying to do is find gullible people to talk to that might be hooked by a second, third and fourth scam. "I need help moving my money ... but first I need to bribe this one official. Oh, now he's saying he can't do what he said he would, and now I need to buy Item X..."
posted by frogan at 4:34 PM on September 5, 2006

from the current issue:

"Need £31 to recoup losses on this advert. s/c 600423 a/c 23909323"

"Do these ads really work? S\c 404779 A\c 02039397"

This is always something I've wondered about too.

I suspect that a few decades ago this may have yielded more results, remember that you do need to fork out £20 and up to get in there. Also, there is no way of receiving gratitude or acknowledgement as banks won't disclose the identity of recpient of donor. If I am to understand human nature, giving anonymously to beggars out of the back of a magazine is not a rewarding activity.

Some theories as to why people put these ads in are:

A cover for dodgy, unaccountable lodgements of cash.

A genuine, desparate attempt to raise funds.

A way to demonstrate serious poverty to a partner or spouse.

A joke on an incredibly wealthy friend, such as Lord Daftwager.

An attempt to take advantage of someone who "needs to lose a lot of money" for tax reasons, or who has just won the lottery.

I do remember reading that it was initially successful, and also that Ian Hislop (Editor of PE) never liked the column and wished it didn't exist.

More info here in a guardian article

* Need $5 to pay off Metafilter fee... donations to...
posted by snailer at 4:38 PM on September 5, 2006

Frogan: I can see how that might happen, but if the only transaction between the two parties was an anonymous bank deposit there's no way the recipient can get back in touch with the donor.

Thanks for the articles; I'll bookmark for later. Is PE the only magazine to run these kinds of ads?
posted by randomination at 2:06 AM on September 6, 2006

I can see how that might happen, but if the only transaction between the two parties was an anonymous bank deposit there's no way the recipient can get back in touch with the donor.

The donor can tag a message/identifier on to the deposit. I've done this a few times, for example, when paying deposits on rented property to let the landlord know where the money is coming from.
posted by biffa at 2:57 AM on September 6, 2006

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