America’s Most Honest Beggar
Don’t leave homeless without it.
A Manhattan ad exec took that to heart this week — lending her American Express Platinum Card to a beggar on a SoHo street when she realized she had no cash to give him.
That act of seemingly insane trust occurred after a slightly tipsy Merrie Harris, 45, stepped outside the trendy taqueria La Esquina on Kenmare Street with a pal who wanted a smoke break.
The homeless man approached asking for some cash to buy a bottle of water and some cigarettes.
“He asked me if I had any money,” she told The Post yesterday. “He said he just wanted to get a Vitaminwater. I said, ‘I don’t [have cash] — I only have my credit card.’ ”
Maybe it was the booze, maybe Harris has a soft spot for the underprivileged — but the next thing she knew, she was handing the stranger her high-powered plastic.
“He said, ‘Would it be OK if I borrow it?’
“I said, ‘Sure.’
“He said, ‘Is it OK if I get a pack of cigarettes, too?’
“I said, ‘Sure.’ ”
Harris, who volunteers with the Coalition for the Homeless, admitted she’d had a margarita at the party, but insisted, “I don’t think that was it. I’m eternally optimistic.”
“Everybody [who witnessed her charitable act] said they thought that was the dumbest thing, that there’s a fine line between charity and stupidity,” Harris said.
But Harris, global-business director for the JWT ad agency, said even she started having doubts as the man vanished down the block.
She went back inside the restaurant with a sinking feeling that her trust was misplaced — and that the pushy stranger was about to go on a platinum-card spending spree.
“Ten minutes passed,” she said. “I thought maybe, ‘OK, he did leave with it.’
“We went downstairs [to the basement-level eatery] and someone came down and said, ‘He’s back!’ ”
She went back outside to find her judgment was on the money as the bum returned — charge card in hand.
“People kept coming up to me saying that’s the best thing that ever happened.”
Harris said that she had a gut feeling he was a good guy.
“This guy just seemed totally trustworthy,” she said. “He was very specific about what he wanted. I gave him a hug. I said, ‘I knew you were coming back.’
“He said, ‘Of course. I’m a honest person.’ ”
Harris never got the man’s name. But she said she has no regrets about giving her card to a stranger.
“I’m definitely happy I did it,” she said. “I just really believe in the good nature of people.”