I was Ripped Off by a Nun

I was ripped off by a nun lessons in charityI was ripped off by a nun.  It is an embarrassing story.  When I was in my early 20’s, I was minding my friends store while she ran some errands.  I was sitting behind the counter minding my own businesses, when suddenly a nun marched into the store.  She was an imposing figure with her long habit billowed around her like a cape, and she was a good foot taller than me.   She walked up the counter, slapped down a calendar and insisted I buy one to support their cause.  I do not remember much of the interaction but I do remember how I felt.  I was intimidated, confused, embarrassed and she was insistent. Before I knew it, I was removing money from my wallet and handing it to the nun to buy a glossy calendar.  It was money I could not afford to part with as I was a starving student and I was BROKE!  My Troubles were insignificant in comparison to the plight of whatever good cause the sister was supporting.

The nun did not look like this.

Later when my friend returned from her errands, she saw the calendar and laughed.  I asked her why she was laughing and she told me the nun and the calendar were a big charade.  I had just been ripped off by a woman posing as a nun.

Now I was not just embarrassed I was angry too.

Maybe that experience was a blessing in disguise Though?  (Blessed by an impostor Nun?) Oh the irony.  I am now wary of any request for money for any cause.  My default answer is “I already gave.”   Liar!  Do not get me wrong, I do give, but to charities only the ones I choose, understand and care most about.

Charities are Everywhere

Charities have become “big business” and there are so many of them clamoring for my money.  Not long ago, I went to the grocery store and as I drove into the lot, the fire department was there with their boots asking for money for the burn unit, a table was set up at the front of the store for a pet shelter asking for money to support the shelter, two military people were standing inside the doors asking for a donation and at the end of my shopping the clerk at the register asked me to donate a few dollars to their food bank program.  All great causes I am sure but golly I was just out to get some milk and bread.

Charities Can Take Advantage of People

I also remember my Grandmother giving a significant amount of money (significant for her) to a charity.  I cannot remember which one but I do know they sold her name to other charities and there was an onslaught of phone calls, mailing and appeals for money.  These people were relentless, rude, pushy and did their best to take advantage of an elderly woman.  She was incapable of saying no. In the end we would screen her calls and tell them that she had passed away so they would leave her alone.  My grandmother thought this was pretty funny and was relieved.

Charity Lessons

The lessons for me:

  • It is okay to say no.
  • I will give and give as much as I want but do it on your own terms.
  • I will watch out for my loved ones because people may take advantage of them.
  • I will remember that charity begins at home.

Thanks for visiting.
*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich and Shoeaholic No More*

57 Comments


  1. I generally don’t give money to random people. I have my structured giving (couple thousand a year) to reputable charities that I can support and also to my family. Beyond that, I don’t know where my money might be going and I won’t be guilted into giving it away.
    Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents recently posted…July 2015 Spending UpdateMy Profile

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    1. That sounds like a good approach. I am a bit of a sucker for a sob story – working on it though.

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  2. That is one really catchy headline you wrote!
    When it comes to charity, I’m very disciplined about supporting only one charity that I know very very well and have volunteered at in the past. I sure don’t give money to charities that hire people to go out and ask for money (I don’t want my donations paying for someone to shake down someone else).

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  3. What a lesson, huh? Wow, some people have no conscience. I, also, do not like being asked for a donation at the register. I read that the store gets a large percentage of the “take” and that the managers get compensated for it. If I want to give to whatever charity they are pushing, I’ll do it directly, thank you. Also, I don’t like that the cashier asks as loudly as possible. I saw one poor guy in front of me one time look obviously shamed into doing it. Who wants to be judged by the people behind them? Or the cashier? Well, I don’t mind. I just say “no”. I don’t give an explanation. I don’t say it mean-like. I just politely say “no” (I don’t even say “no thanks”, just “no”). And those firemen “boot” things. Don’t even get me started!

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    1. The register requests are so uncomfortable! I hate them. I understand that they are trying to do something good – but why don’t they just print on the back of their receipts how much the company donates and what causes they support vs. asking their customers for money. It is irritating and pains me when I see them asking seniors – who I imagine are on a fixed income and buying the bruised bananas because they don’t have enough money to buy the fresh ones. RANT!

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        1. The cashier charity drives are uncomfortable. Makes self check-out more appealing…

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  4. I turn my back on any giving opportunity that is relying on guilt (“Look at this picture of a sick puppy. Isn’t it sad? If you don’t give to our cause you’re letting him remain sick.”) or relies on stroking your ego (“If you give such and such an amount we will put your name on this plaque.”) Which, face it, it’s most everyone who asks. But there is something so fulfilling about giving to someone when you see a need but they never asked.

    So make sure you don’t squeak the spigot all the way shut. Give and give generously (it’s good for both them and you) just give where you are led, not where someone leads you.
    Mrs. WW recently posted…“Entertain Me”My Profile

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    1. Yes great point – “give where you led, not where someone leads you.”

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    2. If you don’t give to those preying on guilt or pride…what is left?

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      1. What’s left is humility and love.

        1 John 3:17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

        Matthew 6:1-4 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
        Mrs. WW recently posted…Ah, feels like home! Let me just move this stack of papers…My Profile

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  5. The thing that really irritates me is when organizations send children around to raise money for whatever. I usually end up giving if it is Boy Scouts (popcorn) or Girl Scouts (cookies), but admit that I really dislike the notion that schools send the kids out to sell candy or wrapping paper to raise money for the school. They get a huge amount of money from me already through taxes. The students shouldn’t be used as revenue enhancers. But I remember when my son had to do that and usually end up getting something. I can resist adults, but not kids and the organizations and schools know that.

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  6. Wow, that is quite the story. There is always someone out there trying to do things the quick and “unethical” way. Charity is personal so I’m not much for telling people what to do. However I have lived for quite a few years in a third world country where my perspective of rich and poor completely changed. If you are poor in the U.S. you are living beyond your means. Go live somewhere else where $5 a day makes you rich. It’s good to help others, no enable others, but teaching, educating and helping others makes you and others better.
    Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income recently posted…Best Online Finance Articles This Week Oct 4 2014My Profile

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    1. Your experiences living in a developing country sound interesting. We take our wealth for granted here – that is true. I can’t image living on a few dollars a day.

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    2. Any time spent in a third world country (as long as you aren’t afraid to leave your hotel) will open your eyes. Some of the happiest people I’ve ever met were poor beyond anything we know here. I’ve been in homes where they insist on feeding you the last of their food while they go hungry. Maybe countries should trade “poor” people for awhile. Just think of how that would turn out!
      Mrs. WW recently posted…“Entertain Me”My Profile

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      1. I just watched the documentary “Happy” and they talk about that very thing. It is true and very interesting. Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. Yesterday, when me and my daughter went to the grocery store, while we were eating in the food court one guy came to us and asked if we would like to buy a small card with a picture of Jesus. And when I asked him how much, I was totally shocked because it was too expensive! So, I said NO to him and told him that I don’t have money left.
    Kate @ Money Propeller recently posted…Friday Jet Fuel #13My Profile

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    1. Sounds questionable to me. Best to give only when it feels right and you have the money to spare.

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  8. Have to say, that headline caught my attention! Nice work making that succinct but compelling 🙂

    That’s a story that’s both unfortunate and funny at the same time. Good example of how we should be careful before being pressured into giving money to anyone.
    Ray @ Squirrelers recently posted…What’s in a Name? Money, Apparently!My Profile

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    1. Funny and true LOL. I learned my lesson and lucky for me it wasn’t a lot of money. Thanks

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    1. Funny in hindsight for sure. I wish I still had the calendar as a reminder. Thanks for visiting. Hope you had a nice trip.

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  9. I always have a tough time at the grocery store just passing by the people collecting money for cadets or kids sports associations or the Children’s Hospital . . . I know in my head that what you say is absolutely true. “I can say no. I can decide which charities to support.” And also, “Once I’m out of debt, I’ll be in a position to be much more generous.” But my head and my heart aren’t always in sync with each other. Hopefully with time, I’ll stop feeling that twinge of guilt every time I shop for groceries!

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    1. I know what you mean. I feel bad saying no but I have to set limits. Thanks for coming by.

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    1. That is a good policy. Appreciate you coming by and commenting.

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  10. Lessons are always being learned! I’m not sure I’d ever be so daring as to impersonate someone with religious connections for ulterior motives, that just seems to be wrought with fate eventually coming to bite you.

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    1. The sad part is that it is a true story. The good news is that she didn’t take me for $$$ and I learned something. Thanks for stopping by.

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  11. When I was at uni, I took part in lots of charity events, did my share of shaking a bucket at passersby on the street.

    These days, I don’t put in the bucket, not after I heard that a few unscrupulous thieves will just pocket the takings!

    I donate money (usually online) to my charities of choice but am more likely to help out by donating things like clothes, books etc for their stores.
    weenie recently posted…Music Scout!My Profile

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    1. It can be great to donate goods as well depending on the charity. Appreciate you coming by.

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  12. I don’t even try to come up with an excuse. I simply say, “no,” even if it’s a nun, a kid with big brown eyes, or the people that assault you for any number of fundraisers as you walk in and out of retail stores these days. I have a right to decline, and I exercise that right. Nobody is going to bully me into a snap decision to give up some of my hard earned cash that I hadn’t even budgeted for. I’m all for giving to charities, but I’ll give to the ones I choose, not the ones that guilt or bully me into doing so!
    brock @cleverdude recently posted…Customer Service: A Little Kindness Goes A Long WayMy Profile

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    1. Thanks Brock. I am a total wimp so it is always hard for me but I am working on it.

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  13. Haha, great title! I am so mean about charities. I just about NEVER give when people just up and confront me asking for money. It was part of why the ALS bucket challenge made me irritated. I do actually give to charities, but it’s ones I’ve researched and am sure I believe it. And then I usually give anonymously through the internet.
    Mel @ brokeGIRLrich recently posted…Financially Savvy Saturdays #57My Profile

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    1. I think a lot of people are the same – give to those that they personally choose are research.

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    1. Unknown charities for sure. Thanks for co-hosting #finsavsat – appreciate it.

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  14. I give a significant amount of my income each Sunday, at worship. I really can’t afford calendars and popcorn and cookies and I just tell people “not today”. That said, I’d really like to figure out a way to use my blog to support a charity of some sort, but haven’t figured out how or what.
    Kirsten recently posted…Live Like They Are DyingMy Profile

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    1. Maybe you could put a badge or something or even an awareness post. Interesting idea. I think there are a few bloggers that use their blog as a platform and/or donate a certain amount of earnings. I am not there yet. Maybe one day.

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  15. That was pretty funny in hindsight. Her ‘habit’ was more than just a Halloween costume. I also plan my charity ahead so I can confidently decline all requests accordingly. I was approached by a guy at the fair last weekend who handed me a small booklet he copied himself that had hand signals in it and stated he was deaf and was looking for a donation. I gave him $2 and then promptly gave the book to my daughter who is trying to teach some sign language to my grandson. He thanked me by shaking his head. Was I had? I don’t think so but we’ll never know.
    debs @ debt debs recently posted…Frugal FinCon Fiesta Update & Blogger AwardsMy Profile

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    1. Oh I wonder if he was deaf? Interesting! I know a bit of sigh language so I might have been able to test that. No matter what, it’s two dollars into the universe with good intentions.

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  16. Oh, man! That is too funny that you told them she had passed! I’ve gotten ripped off pretty badly before, but it was at a carnival and it wasn’t even for a supposed good cause. So at least the person who conned you was crafty.

    I usually just tell people no. I give what I can when it’s in my budget, but the cashier asking for money for the charity of the month is not in my budget. They’re awesome charities, I’m sure, but I feel like when they do that they’re putting you into a weird peer pressure situation. Once I bought formula when the foodbank was collecting outside the store for babies and kids. I couldn’t help it. $15 out of my entertainement fund was worth it because it was there, but it’s not something I can do on a regular basis. I’m like you, I plan and then give on my own time.
    femmefrugality recently posted…A Grown Man’s First Disney Experience–from AustraliaMy Profile

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    1. Those charities hounded my Grandmother. They were really rude to us. The ask at the cash register is annoying. I know they have to do it as part of their job and based on the small sample I have seen it works = people give.
      I like to give food to the food bank – it feels good to give something tangible although I bet they would prefer I give cash. Thanks for coming by.

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  17. Terrible. But hucksters are everywhere. I kind of feel the same way of giving to people on the street. Now I just don’t. Partly safety. I’d rather give to organizations that I’m familiar with and have a reputable track record. I’m also leery of large organizations with huge administrative costs as well. You just have to be as discerning as possible.
    Debt Free Divas recently posted…Weekend Reading – Saving More of Your Hard Earned DollarsMy Profile

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    1. I have a few funny stories about helping people on the street. Maybe another blog post? Thanks for coming by.

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  18. Wow, hadn’t seen that con — I can understand why it caught you.

    I believe in the right to say no. My standard (and true) answer is that I choose my charities for the year ahead of time and route my contributions to them.

    The only time we break that rule is for the little kids who come to our neighborhood raising money for school — I have to admit they reel me in 9 times out of 10. 🙂
    Jean @ NearlyRetired recently posted…Book Review: How to Age in Place: (the keys to thriving in our home in our golden years)My Profile

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    1. I have a hard time saying no the kids too. Usually they have something sweet on offer so that’s hard to resist too.

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  19. Erm, wow. lol That is a really smart con, I have to say. It would be interesting to think what her next step is if someone says no! Does she invoke her wrath or stop to pray for you in the middle of the store? 😛 I give a lot, but have a very strict “no religious affiliation” rule that probably would have ticked that woman right off. lol

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    1. She was scary and I was in awe of seeing my first “nun” up close. I was young and naive and it was a great con. Thanks for stopping by.

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    1. Oh I will need to check out that Charity Navigator. Thanks for the link. The number of charities is just staggering. Appreciate you coming by.

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  20. Sad to said but the thief was pretty darn clever to pose as a nun 🙁 I agree wholeheartedly about giving on your own terms and choosing wisely the charities that you donate. I know that some of the big charities gobble up too much of the donation in terms of administration fees and the constant mass mailings and e-mails is a turn-off for me.

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    1. It is a little embarrassing and I understand why people that are defrauded are reluctant to come forward. Agree that we need to consider how much of our donated money is actually helping people and how much is helping the charity.

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