There is a guy who hands out flyers all the time near my bus stop. He wears glasses, and has a funny face and an awkward walk. I figured that he is mentally challenged. Every time I walk pass him I’d take a flyer, so he could be done with his job earlier (at least that is what I would hope for if I were distributing flyers). Usually I would then throw the flyer away in the nearest bin a few steps away. I’ve been doing this for a while now (perhaps even more than a year), and have come to regard it as one of my ‘small acts of kindness’ of the day (usually, I don’t stop at all for safety reasons, as well as the fact that most beggars in Hong Kong – especially in Central – are part of an organized gang). 

Recently there has been some construction going on near my bus stop, and they’ve moved the bin closer to where the guy is handing out flyers. So this morning when I took his flyer, he saw me putting it directly into the bin as there weren’t a lot of people around. I really didn’t think he’d care. He was just doing his job after all. But then I heard a noise behind me and saw him swearing at me, and basically giving me the finger!

I admit, in all this time I’ve never actually stopped to read any of his flyers to see what they were about. They are usually bland, photocopied pieces of colored paper with a lot of Chinese characters on it. I just assumed they were promoting a local restaurant or the likes. I honestly thought I was doing him a favour by taking a flyer!

But this experience has me questioning, what is the correct etiquette for flyer distribution? If I’m not interested in the content, is it kinder for me to politely decline with a smile and walk away, or take one anyway and then throw it away?