How Hard Is It to Give Away Free Umbrellas in a Rainstorm?

The Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy is a non-profit organization in San Francisco that encourages people to do nice things for strangers in unusual and innovative ways. The society distributes $100 grants for this purpose. In The San Francisco Chronicle, Steve Rubenstein writes about some of these projects, and how people respond to these random acts of kindness:

"People thought there was something fishy about it," Ibnale said. "There wasn't. It was just free umbrellas."

Ibnale was one of a dozen people in San Francisco who had been given $100 by a startup charity that is trying to get strangers to start doing nice things for other strangers. It's a novel concept. Most folks, it turns out, aren't prepared for it. "What's the catch?" a man asked.

No catch, replied Ibnale. Take an umbrella. You're getting wet.

"No, thanks," the man answered, and kept walking through the rain. Ibnale began keeping count. He asked 27 wet people if they would like to have an umbrella. Seventeen of them said no.

Link via Marginal Revolution | Official Website | Photo: US Department of Commerce

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

That's just the evolution. The survival of the fittest. The most people probably think: if you want to survive, you don't give away things for free, that's weird.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Funny - I hate carrying an umbrella - and usually dont; yesterday I opted to carry one to SF, and forgot it on BART. Luckily I was at the last stop in Dublin, and when the train turned around a few min later, I got it back, and...I was kind of disappointed :) I thought "There, that'll teach me to carry an umbrella!" but I (ruefully) got it back. Funny thing, the train operator told me, "If you ever need an umbrella ask us (BART); we have, like, 300 of them downstairs!" Heh heh - just an anecdote - maybe it's also people feeling guilty for taking something they know they should/could carry/afford to buy?
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
No, no... This is a really bad example and no inferences should be drawn from it. I am from San Francisco. There is this "thing" or attitude there of being "too cool to need an umbrella". It's like, "It rains a lot. You get wet. Get over it".

For maybe 2 decades I did not own an umbrella or a rain coat. If a stranger offered me one, *I* would refuse it - but not because I thought there was a catch or would not take something for free, but becuase a true San Franciscan disdains the notion of an umbrella...
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"How Hard Is It to Give Away Free Umbrellas in a Rainstorm?"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More