Saturday, July 28, 2018


On July 13, 2018, The Wall Street Journal published a community advisory titled as follows: "You Accidentally Sent $149 to a Stranger on Venmo? Good Luck Getting It Back." 

Venmo is a money transfer program, founded in 2009. It is part of the PayPal empire, and it is supposed to be quite convenient.

I have never used Venmo, nor have I ever used Zelle, another money transfer program that can help you buy cupcakes offered at a sidewalk stand presided over by an ethnically diverse set of extremely appealing young entrepreneurs (I am citing to a television advertisement, sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank). If you are out for a jog and don't have your wallet, don't worry!  Zelle can let you make that purchase. Naturally, Zelle assumes that you'll have your phone!

The Wall Street Journal article is pretty short, and it is to the point. If you have ever sent an email to the wrong person because "autocorrect" made you do it, or because you simply selected the wrong person in the first place, mistaking one "Denise," "Dennis," or "Jackie" for the one with whom you really meant to communicate, then you will sympathize with the Venmo user who, when making a similar mistake, manages to send $149 to someone that he or she doesn't know at all. 

In sum, as The Wall Street Journal advises, if you make this kind of a mistake with Venmo, good luck getting your money back.

I actually didn't need The Wall Street Journal to provide me with this advice. One reason I never use Venmo or Zelle is that I figured this out all by myself, without ever having had to experience this problem firsthand. My reason for mentioning the article is not that I think this advice is so important. Rather, I liked one of the stories discussed in the article, which had a happy ending. I think the reason for the happy ending is worth noting:

Emily Dunn, a student at San Jose State University in California sent about $45 to a friend named Riley along with a humorous message. He was confused when she later asked if he thought her message was funny. 
She had mixed up his last name, sending the money to the wrong Riley. 
Panicked, Ms. Dunn sent Riley-the-stranger a payment request. 
After several days brought no response, she figured it was hopeless. Finally, on day four, Ms. Dunn got a transfer notification. Stranger Riley had returned the money. 
“GOOD PEOPLE DO EXIST!!” Ms. Dunn gushed on Twitter.

Well, as the title of this blog posting proclaims, quoting Emily Dunn, I also contend that "GOOD PEOPLE DO EXIST!!" In fact, it is my belief that if any one of us went canvassing door to door, in a neighborhood located in even the "reddest" of the "Red States," that we would find a lot of "good people." They might not be people who would share each and every one of our own political perspectives, but they would be decent people, and the kind of people we would be happy to have living in our own neighborhoods.

What was exceptional in Emily Dunn's experience was that human decency overcame the radical detachment that is fostered by a society that is more and more in touch not directly, person to person, but through media that isolate us as individuals. When you make a mistake with a Venmo user, whom you don't know, you have no real connection with that person at all. No surprise if they treat your Venmo transfer as "found money" for them.

As Emily Dunn's story illustrates, there are exceptions, but what really helps people decide to be decent to others is some actual human contact.

If there is any hope for our democracy, we are going to need lots more person-to-person contact with people whom we don't know. When that kind of direct, human contact is involved, I think we will find that "GOOD PEOPLE DO EXIST!!"

Lots of them!

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