It pays to retain me... this story tells why

By Andrea Reynolds From the archives © 2010-2016

Are we too skeptical and suspicious to accept genuine kindness and generosity? I conducted an experiment for 13 years - and told everyone about it - to see how receptive people will be to helping an older woman start over. This is after helping police stop criminal activity and losing everything as consequence of my being a good citizen. To acquire only a safe place to park my van, a little water and electricity, I’ve offered very generous tasks and services to people who are financially comfortable as well as to those who are not. I’ve been documenting my experiences for a future book because, despite announcing upfront exactly what I’m doing, 99% of my offers have been rebuffed.

When I heard about a local man who died in his home a week before anyone noticed, I was sad that he’d been so alone. So in February I was surprised when his sister called me from California. I didn’t know her, but wanted to help any way I could. Her brother was a hoarder and she wanted someone to clean out the house and stage it for sale. Having those skills, I was willing to do it for no charge just to have a driveway to park in where I could sleep safely at night. I knew the house could be worth $100,000 if fixed up and I knew my de-cluttering and interior design services – my degree is the same as some HGTV hosts - would add another $10,000 in value to the home and sell it faster despite its being a stigmatized property. I expected no payment, yet she blew me off!

Yesterday (August) I drove by the house, saw that the property had never received any attention, and found a sold sign in front. I looked up the listing to find the list price was $32,000. I determined that if the house did sell for that much the owner - the one who blew me off - likely received $30,000 after the agent’s commission. Had she allowed me to do the work for free to allow me a place to park and allow me to document the progress of my work for my portfolio on this web site to show future prospective clients, she may have netted an additional $75,000 for just saying yes to me. Her refusal to be kind-hearted deprived her of a $75,000 gift from me.

Not only that, but with loans perhaps I could have bought the house from her for $30,000 in February when she called me and she would have had her $30,000 five months earlier. But she had refused to give me the address or a key so I could even look at it inside and out. (In June I found both the address and a photo of the home in a newspaper article. Too late)

My book will be filled with these stories of self-defeating choices. And all I wanted was a safe driveway to park in and an opportunity to acquire testimonials for doing good work so I could begin to land paying assignments.

Sadly, no longer will I be able to provide free work. I need to charge for my services because I have expenses to have a roof over my head in the bitter cold winter. But with my creative mind there is usually something else of value I can do for clients that is unexpected and sometimes outrageously delightful.

My advice? Be cautious, but before you reject a proposal out-of-hand, research who the person is and what they are asking in return. It’s not always a case of if-it-sounds-too-good-to-be-true-IT-IS. If you let your skepticism guide your decision-making, you may deprive yourself of valuable gifts from someone with a good heart and good character. (Like me.)

Andrea Reynolds has stopped working on her book, The Kindness Experiment. She offered to share 40% of the book’s profits with early buyers, but stopped after 6 months due to public skepticism. The plan now is to write Missed Blessings once she has sold her house and has some time available to write for herself.

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