When a disaster strikes, I’m always amazed at the caring attitude of the vast majority of people. Donations, volunteers, and supplies will pour in to help victims get back on their feet and seeing such altruism is always heartening.
But I also find it odd how some people prey upon the misfortunes of others. After the tornadoes ravaged my home state of Sweet Home Alabama, hearing about looters sneaking in and rummaging through the scattered belongings of storm victims turned my stomach, especially hearing that people were driving in from other states to do so. It’s the kind of thing that makes me want to go Neanderthal on someone, or at least 15th Century (lock them in stockades in the public square for several weeks). I’m not sure there’s a punishment that’s truly appropriate given the emotions that come out of people when they hear about storm victims being victimized yet again. Grrr.
Back in 1996 I was in Wilmington, North Carolina right after Hurricane Fran had slammed into that beautiful city. I saw some wonderful acts of kindness but I also saw some despicable acts of selfishness. Somehow disasters, natural and otherwise, bring out the best in some (most) people and the worst in others. Here is my list of the 6 most disgusting people who swoop in after a disaster:
This one goes without saying … almost. Could anything be more disgusting than some low-life gathering up the mementos, jewelry, guns, and other valuables that were low hanging burglary fruit because no one was there to prevent it? Not only do these vermin steal items, they also steal dignity because they don’t care how injured, sick, or weakened their victims may be. Shooting them on site may be too good for them.
2. The Storm Chasing Contractors
After a disaster, people are desperate to get their lives back to normal and their homes rebuilt. The problem arises when storm chasing contractors come in to do repairs but perform shoddy work … or don’t perform the work at all after securing payment for materials. Working in the building materials industry, I see this happen far too often. I even saw a roofer auction his services at my store in Wilmington in 1996. He had committed to one customer, but another offered him more. He went back and forth until he had doubled his price.
3. The Critics
These are the people who leave blistering comments on news sites and blogs about the people suffering through these disasters. Their chief complaints center on why some people choose to live in a particular area and how much it’s going to cost taxpayers to fix things. Hey Sherlock! You have wildfires in Texas, tornadoes almost everywhere, hurricanes on the coast, nor’easters up the Atlantic seaboard, earthquakes in California and Arkansas, crippling snowstorms up north, tsunamis and volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii, and floods, mudslides, or straight-line winds just about everywhere else. Where do you want us to live? Chances are better than even that when YOUR home is damaged, you’ll be the first in line for help.
4. The Political Opportunists
Every politician grandstands during a disaster. Every. Last. One. Not only that, but when they show up, their security detail chokes traffic and slows recovery efforts. Just declare the emergency and get out of the way. We see enough of your grandstanding on the nightly news anyway.
5. The Retributionists
Much like the Westboro “Church” morons from Kansas who protest military funerals, this group seems to think that everything bad that happens is judgment from on high for whatever reason suits their fancy. That just isn’t the case. That way of thinking is far off base with what the Bible actually teaches … those people should be ashamed and will one day have to give an account for these disgusting and despicable actions.
6. The Price Gougers
I still remember when Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina and one very large supplier claimed it didn’t have any oriented strand board (a plywood type building material) when it actually had massive warehouses stacked full as discovered by a hidden camera. They were waiting on the commodity pricing index to come out much higher before they released the material to the public. I’ve also seen the big box home improvement stores (both the orange one and the blue one) drastically bump prices on lumber, generators, batteries, and flashlights after a disaster. Before you get your nighty in a knot, I’m fully away of “supply and demand” and I got A’s in all my economics classes in both undergrad and graduate school. My own company is currently offering flood relief items at our standard prices, which incidentally we’re undercutting the Walmart boys by over 25%. My philosophy is that disaster time isn’t a time to make money, it’s a time to make friends and be an asset to the community.
Since we live in an imperfect world and we haven’t learned to control the weather (yet), disasters will continue to happen. I guess these vile, disgusting, cockroaches of society will continue to plague us as well.
What other despicable people come in after a disaster? Which of these really bothers YOU the most?