Friday, September 30, 2005
September 30 Update
Monday, September 26, 2005
September 26 Update
More than $20,000 now confirmed. Nicely done, people.
If you haven't already given, please do, and then "shoot" us an e-mail. That is internet lingo for "send."
Thursday, September 22, 2005
New Donation Update
That includes roughly $600 to charites other than the Red Cross (among them: animal-related relief efforts, Habitat for Humanity, and Bush-Clinton Relief Fund).
Please keep the donations coming -- looks like Rita is going to pick up where Katrina left off.
More updates as they warrant,
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Actual Donation Update
Thus far, we have confirmation that more than $16,300 has actually been donated to Katrina relief.
And that, my friends, is great news.
The donations are still coming in. If you haven't already donated the money you pledged, please do -- we will be sending out one more e-mail to remind everybody, and then we will back off, lest we now be accused of trying to shame our pledgees as well as Saab Guy.
After you donate, send us an e-mail at the address above (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let us know that the money has arrived in the proper hands.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
The End of the Story (?)
Hello, everyone. A whole lot has happened in the past day. Please bear with me as I try to explain all of this, the best I can. Which might take a while.
The response we have gotten since we started this site has been overwhelming. (I think this new "internet" device might catch on.) But for some reason, both my fiancée and I have been struck with periodic bouts of uneasiness in the past few days --uneasiness we couldn’t quite pinpoint. We got a few e-mails that questioned whether we were on morally shaky ground by using the Katrina disaster to “shame” a guy into donating money. And we took them to heart.
Despite the fact that we believe our original intentions were pure -- that we wanted to suggest a better use of money than fixing a bumper -- we found ourselves wrestling with some tough questions. Is it okay to shame someone, just because we disagreed with his decision? Is it not okay? How could it not be okay if we have raised this much money? Do our intentions even matter? Are we in some way being petty? Are we trying to dodge personal responsibility? (After all, we hit him.)
In short: what the hell are we supposed to do?
We have done nothing for the last 24 hours but think about this situation. I have consulted my friends, co-workers, and, believe it or not, professors of ethics at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford (who were very generous with their time, speaking with me for more than two hours.) We took all of their thoughts and feelings and advice into consideration, and here’s what we did.
I called Saab Guy, and we spoke for about fifteen minutes. Saab Guy told me that he had been doing a lot of thinking himself, over the last few days. He had talked it over with his wife, and had worried constantly that he was being petty. But the thing is, the crease bothers him. He wishes it didn’t, but it does.
I told him that he had every right to get his car fixed. I also told him that I had told the story to friends, and they had told their friends, and that there were people who were willing to make matching donations in his name. I did not tell him the amount, but I explained that it was a lot of money. (I wanted him to know that this matching situation existed, but I did not want to bully him. This was my biggest dilemma; in the end, acting on the words of the various ethics professors I spoke with, I decided that this was the best course of action. My decision was my own, and if I botched it, somehow, ethically speaking, the fault lies with me only.)
Saab Guy then told me that he had already given money to the Katrina Relief Fund (a possibility I weirdly never even considered at the time of the original discussion.) For the record, I completely believe him. And he understood my impulse, but he said that he wanted to handle this thing separately from (and I'm paraphrasing here) the moral obligation we all have to help those in need. (Fair enough, I thought, since the only reason these two things are linked at all, is because of my fateful decision to link them.) So, we mulled it over, and he suggested this compromise: We will send him a check for $836. He will use some of it to fix his car, and some of it will go to charity.
Perfect? Probably not. But nothing this layered is going to have a “perfect” result.
I anticipate this question from many of you: how could you not tell him the exact amount? Wasn't that the point? The reason I didn't is as follows.
Something felt iffy about this whole thing, to us. And we finally pinpointed that thing. And that thing was: that this story started as a private interaction between us and Saab Guy. Frustrated with what we considered pettiness, we decided to suggest a course of action that we felt was un-petty, as a way to fight back. Then, something neither of us anticipated, happened in a matter of hours: hundreds of people jumped on board, in a kind of internet-style execution. And given that shift of power, we felt we should morally reassess the situation.
To put it another way, we feel our intention was pure, and we stand by it. All we ever wanted was for money to go to charity. But when we opened up our efforts to other people -- and got them riled up with the idea that we were going to shame this guy, and make him confront his own decision, and basically scream at him with the weight of the internet and money behind us...well, it just feels a little wrong, in retrospect. That feeling, of wrong-ness, was suppressed for a long time by the euphoria of seeing pledges roll in, and watching this thing spread so rapidly.
None of us, I would say, could hold up under the kind of scrutiny we have put Saab Guy under. None of us is perfect. I think his original decision was silly, but we all do things that are petty, and selfish, and stupid. Maybe Saab Guy loves his Saab more than anything in the world. My most treasured possesion is a 1960 Carl Yastrzemski baseball card. What if someone accidentally tore it, and told me they would buy me a new one...or donate its monetary worth to charity? What would I do? Well, I'd probably want a new one. And that, without question, would to many people seem petty.
I don’t know how much of the $836 we send him will go to charity. But to us, this feels like a victory. Some part of that original $836, which had been earmarked to fix a creased bumper, has now been redirected to a far more worthy cause. And hopefully, thanks to the story and a few e-mails, a far greater amount will follow on its heels.
I have been asking you not to pledge anything that you would not otherwise donate. I hope that those of you who pledged are in some way satisfied with this result. I hope, as well, that you are optimists, and you recognize that Saab Guy mulled things over, and changed his tune a little. I hope you believe that Saab Guy is going to donate $835.99 to charity, and put the remaining cent toward fixing the bumper. Most importantly, I sincerely hope that everyone who pledged money to this idea follows through and donates, which is really all that matters. Because the money will help people. And, perhaps as a bonus, though it may seem abstract, we hope that our original idea has somehow survived this ethical minefield, and every donation that gets made because of this story (or, any other story) will counteract the concept of pettiness.
Please go to http://www.RedCross.org, and follow the link to the Hurricane Katrina site. Enter the amount you pledged. If you so desire, please make the donation in tribute to: Saab Guy. (There is a box you can check on the site that allows you to donate in tribute to, or memory of, someone.) Alternately, make the donation in your own name, or in your friend-from-New-Orleans’s name, or in any name you wish.
When you do this, you have to fill in an address as well, to which the Red Cross will send a letter telling the honoree that an amount was donated in his/her name. I invite you all to have that card sent to your home addresses, and to keep the card as a little memento.
If you would like to donate to another charity, please do so, and then let us know.
Either way, please then send us an e-mail at the address above, and tell us how much you have officially donated. So many of you -- the vast, vast majority, in fact -- told us you had already given something, which is so heartening. Just for the heck of it, we would love to have a running tally of the actual money that was given specifically because of this random occurrence. We will try to update this blog periodically with running tallies of the actual donations.
This has been one of the most interesting and complicated events of my adult life. It has twisted us around, sparked a lot of heated debates, and made us feel everything from euphoria to despair. It contains dozens of ethical and moral questions, the details of which we might be unraveling for years. Our only intention was to raise money for a good cause, and I hope we have done so.
And now, at the end, here is what I think I believe.
1. If someone bumps into your car, and some small and (almost) unnoticeable damage occurs, I personally think you should smile, and wave, and say “No big deal,” and let the person go. (Someone should write a book about this kind of thing. You could call it, like, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” or something. It could make a fortune.)
2. If something terrible happens, here or elsewhere, find a reason, any reason, to donate money.
3. I don’t think I will ever buy a Saab. I’m sure they’re great cars. I just don’t think I could drive one.
We will leave you with one final thought. This is an e-mail from a friend of mine, which says everything I have tried to say, in one neat paragraph:
I'll be happy to donate $20. (I've already given, so I'm not just being comically cheap.)
By way of contrast, I'm not a lawyer. Last April I got hit pretty hard at a stoplight by a guy in a Civic. He wasn't paying attention, and when the light changed he floored it. My head hurt. I took his information and left. He told me that he was a teacher who had just moved to LA to do Teach for America. I called him and told him that I'd take the car in to get looked at and then ask him to pay the bill. He said that would be fine. When I took the car in after the bumper started rattling, they told me I'd need a whole new bumper. It turned out it cost around $700. I thought about giving the guy who hit me the bill, but then I figured, Well, I'm an overpaid TV writer and this guy's a 22-year-old kid who just moved here from Indiana to do Teach for America. Screw it, I'll just pay for it.
And then I sued the $#!* out of him.
In more important news, I have spoken to Saab Guy. I am preparing a much longer post to explain everything we have gone through in the past 24 hours, but for now, know this: this story is going to have a happy ending. Not exactly the ending we had anticipated, but a happy ending nonetheless, I think.
Sorry to tantalize, but I am trying to organize all of my thoughts. Please check back later tonight to see the resolution to this bizarre story.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Late Wednesday Update
We have pledges from three foreign countries: England, Canada, and, believe it or not, Iraq. An American news reporter stationed in Baghdad has pledged $50. That, frankly, kicks ass.
A few things:
Some people have e-mailed us and asked about giving to charities other than the Red Cross. Although our personal preference is to eventually get this money to the Red Cross specifically, since they seem to be the most direct way to help those in need, we would never turn down a charitable donation. When the time comes to mobilize, and actually send this money out, we will give instructions for on-line Red Cross donations. Other targets for money can be found individually.
There is a fairly good chance that there will be some media mentions of our goings-on here in the next few days. We will update this blog as they happen, if they happen.
As soon as we can find the time, we will start posting selections from the e-mails we have gotten. They're pretty hilarious. Turns out people dislike pettiness. And lawyers.
Finally, if I can figure out how, I will try to post a picture of Saab Guy's bumper on this site, so everyone can assess the damage for him/herself.
Wednesday Night Update
173 people have pledged $28,753.
There are some exciting things in the works, but I don't want to announce them in case they don't happen. Please check in frequently for updates.
Also, I think I am going to close this forum to comments. I truly appreciate your thoughts on this whole issue, but I fear things may get out of hand...if you would like to express your opinions, about anything, please e-mail us at the address above.
Thanks, and keep the pledges rolling in.
Wednesday Morning Update
124 people have pledged $26,269.00.
Just a refresher, on how this is being handled (reiterating from previous posts, so bear with me):
1. If you'd like to pledge an amount, e-mail us at email@example.com. That address appears above, on the banner bar. Do not donate the money yet. We are waiting on Saab Guy's decision. When he decides something, we will post it here, and then instruct people on where to donate.
2. Do not pledge anything you would not otherwise give. One way or another, this money is going to be donated. The issue is whether it is donated in Saab Guy's name, or in some other name that comments on his decision. Again, when he makes his decision, we will instruct everyone on how to donate.
3. As an added incentive, I, Mike, have decided to donate an additional $836 for every $5000 we achieve from now on. So, when we hit $25,000, that's another $836 from me. Just a little incentive for more donations.
Keep the pledges coming!
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
It is now 7:23 PM in Los Angeles, roughly eight hours after I first emailed everyone. The current stats:
82 people have pledged $21,323.
Pledges have ranged from ten dollars to five thousand. That's right. Someone donated five thousand. If he gives me clearance, I will announce his name, but for now, let's let anonymity and grassroots fervor rule the day.
Please do forward the original e-mail, or this blog address, on to anyone you know who might be interested in donating. Please, also, emphasize the following:
1. I am not collecting any money at all. Each donater will simply pledge an amount to this particular idea, and then, eventually, donate the money directly to the Red Cross (or another equally direct and worthy organization).
2. Interested parties should e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org (listed on the banner of this site as well), and simply tell me how much they will eventually donate. When the Saab Guy makes a decision, I will post here, and hopefully e-mail everyone directly, to tell them to go ahead and make the donations.
3. Please do not pledge anything you do not intend to donate, regardless of the outcome. One way or another, I would like the Red Cross to get all of this money.
4. Absolutely any amount is great. I believe the Red Cross website has a $5 minimum, or something, so anything at that amount or above is fine. The number of individual donations is just as important as the final amount. (Maybe not just as important, but close to it.)
I hope to have tee shirts made that I will give away for free -- no money from the donations will go toward making them, or anything, obviously -- for anyone who gives more than a certain amount. Keep checking back here for details.
Sent : Tuesday, September 13, 2005 5:33 PM
Subject : Oh my goodness.
So, I sent you all an e-mail asking to shame a petty Saab driver by donating to the Red Cross. I sent this e-mail at around 11:30 AM. It is now 2:30, and I have pledges in the amount of:
Eleven thousand dollars in three hours.
This is the greatest thing ever.
More than fifty people have pledged money, with amounts from ten dollars to a thousand dollars.
I just wanted to give you an update.
If there are other people who hate pettiness and/or lawyers and/or pathetic insurance claims, please do forward the original e-mail to them, and have them e-mail me with a donation amount. Please make it clear that there is no middle man here -- all they have to do is let me know the amount they will *eventually* donate, in Saab Guy's name, and then later I will contact them and give the go-ahead to give to the Red Cross.
Thank you all so much, and keep the shame dollars rolling in!
The Original Story
From : Michael
Sent : Tuesday, September 13, 2005 2:15 PM
Subject : A Funny Story
Hi, everyone. Mike here. I have a story for you.
Recently, my fiancee rear-ended a guy in a Saab, as she was traveling at about 0.4 MPH. Despite the fact that there was no visible damage at all to his car, the guy insisted on having a police officer come over to assess the damage. (The police officer was dealing with a far more severe 4-car accident down the block at the time.) The police officer said, "I don't really see anything here," but the Saab guy insisted on an accident report, and told my fiancee there might be "structural damage," so he should go get his car looked at.
Three days later, Saab guy called us and reported damages in the amount of $836. The plastic cover on his bumper, apparently, has a "crease," which necessitated the complete removal of the bumper, and the purchase, painting, and installation of a new one. For $836. When I asked him to send me a digital photo of the damage, he announced that "it really isn't the kind of thing that shows up in a photograph."
Needless to say, I insisted on inspecting the car myself, which I did this morning. I kid you not, you have to be within 6 inches of the bumper to see the "crease," which even at that point looked more like a very faint shadow. Even when rubbing my finger over it, I could barely detect it.
Among the comments the Saab guy made to me were:
"Look, I could live with it, but I just don't want to."
"It wasn't like that before, and I'm sorry, but I just don't want to have to live with it."
It might not surprise you to find out that the man is a lawyer.
Anyway. Long story short: I told him I thought this was very silly. I told him that it is things like this that make insurance rates so high, which screws people. ("I don't care about insurance rates. That's not my problem," said the guy, to which I responded, "You should care. You're a resident of this city, and it's a huge problem." I was very polite.)
And then I offered a compromise. Why don't I, said I, donate $836 to the Red Cross -- in his name -- to help the victims of Katrina? That way, some good comes out of this pettiness. It took about twenty minutes of reiterating that plan, but Saab guy said he would "think about it."
I don't know if he is ultimately going to agree, but regardless, this whole thing gave me an idea. When I told the story to some friends, they agreed to make their own donations in his name. A hundred bucks, twenty, fifty...it has added up, and in the hour since I saw the car, donations are up to $1,936.
So, I am now writing to ask you for help. I'm sure many of you have already donated, and I expect nothing from anyone. But if you haven't donated yet, or you have, and want to do more, or you just want to see Saab guy shamed, I ask you to pledge to the Saab Guy Katrina Fund.
Just e-mail me and tell me how much you would contribute. (Don't make the donation yet -- I want a running total BEFORE he agrees or doesn't, so he knows exactly what he would be turning down for his new Saab bumper cover.) Don't pledge anything you wouldn't give anyway -- a dollar, five, ten, fifty, whatever. I think if we all pitch in just a little something, we could make this guy confront his pettiness, and could also help out in a big way.
After all the pledges are in, if he agrees, I will alert everybody who wants to donate, and you can all make the pledges in his name and get your own write-offs, and everything. If he says no, I will alert you to that as well, and you can either pledge the money in your own names, or in the name of someone who deserves to be honored, or in the name of, like, "Saab Guy is a Jerk."
There you go. Again, totally no pressure, but if you want to contribute, please let me know ASAP. I'll keep you updated.
(EDIT: a few little changes, for privacy.)