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Comments by YACCS
Monday, September 19, 2005

Unavoidable consequences

Boy, I'd sure love a PSP

Retailers take a swipe at Katrina card use


Some stores across the country are refusing Red Cross-provided hurricane-relief debit cards because they do not approve of the goods being bought.

Responses have poured in since this column reported last week that the cards had been used to buy $800 handbags at the Louis Vuitton store in Atlanta.

Retailer Vicki Haniford said she has begun refusing the cards at her store in Illinois. "[Last] Saturday, I had 14 transactions go through from about six different people totaling a little over $1,000," she E-mailed. "They purchased jewelry and a TV with a DVD player. I called the Red Cross and they said unfortunately these people made bad choices when purchasing, but there was nothing they could do.

"This is totally and morally wrong," she says. "Many hard-working Americans donated money to the disaster victims so they could have food and clothing, not buy outrageous items."

Another reader told me: "My daughter works at an entertainment store in a suburban Atlanta mall. [Last Sunday], an apparent hurricane refugee came in the store and purchased a personal PlayStation and two games for a total of about $360, using a Red Cross debit card.

"They couldn't refuse the sale, but subsequently store policy changed. Everyone in the store was incensed, except the guy using the card, of course."

A Louis Vuitton spokeswoman did not respond to a question about whether their chain would continue to accept the distinctive white debit cards.

A Red Cross rep told me the card could be used to buy anything except alcohol, tobacco or firearms. "Once they're out of our hands, there's nothing we can do," she said.

Look, a lot of these people have never had $1500 at one time. Giving them that money is asking for trouble. Come on, 50 percent of New Orleans residents are functionally illiterate.

Kent posted something a couple of days ago which is relevant.

This might really sound stupid. But you know what has really amazed and shocked me about this? It's the eye-opener regarding how absolutely poor and isolated much of the population of New Orleans was prior to Katrina. And how much of a distinct culture it was. I must admit that I really had no idea.

Although I'm white, I've lived predominently black neighborhoods in Washington DC, Seattle, and Texas at various times, and thought I had a certain sense of Black America. But after going down to the Astrodome and meeting other Katrina evacuees here in Waco I realize that New Orleans really was different.

Even the style of dress is different. I see the women wearing these colorful dresses and head scarves that are completely different from how black Texan women dress. It's a style of dress that's almost more African, more like you'd see in Nigeria or Bahia Brazil. My wife's clinic in Waco serves a mostly black and Hispanic population and she says the Katrina evacuees are instantly recognizable. She can instantly tell from their dress, language, and comportment who's from Texas and who's from New Orleans. She says that a lot of the women she's talked to have never been out of New Orleans in their entire lives. That Waco is the first place they've ever been. Imagine that.

I don't have any better guess about how this is all going to work out than anyone else. My instinct is that it will be sort of like any other immigrant wave. The adults will have difficulty adjusting to new circumstances and many never will. The kids will quickly if not instantly adapt to their new surroundings.


That's going to be the X factor in dealing with reconstruction. New Orleans was literally like a third world country with the Saints and cable TV. So while people, black and white, were horrified by this seeming abuse, I would bet the card holder was oblivious. He figured it was his chance to have something nice.

Bush's plans for vouchers and loans will be as useful to these people as condoms in a convent.

posted by Steve @ 12:18:00 PM

12:18:00 PM

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