Tuesday, March 21, 2023
March 21, 2023

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Dude, you owe me $2: ‘Venmo Vultures’ scrape for small debts in a tight economy


See them circling? Feel their gaze?

The “Venmo Vultures” are out there — and they want their money.

Say your pal laid out the cash for your latte at the place near the thing where you went that time. Your share came to $4. Not long ago, your ol’ buddy would have channeled their inner Bezos and swallowed the cost, no problem.

But inflation and the Consumer Price Index being what they are, your friend is now bugging you to make things right.

As prices rise, so do payment requests under $5 for users of so-called digital wallets like Venmo and CashApp — the peer-to-peer payment app that allows you to settle up with people to whom you owe money — according to a survey of 1,000 American consumers released last month, and conducted by Forbes Advisor and OnePoll in November.

Around 86% of people who use peer-to-peer payment apps agree that anything under $5 is petty and should not be requested.

Nevertheless, “people in my life are asking each other to Venmo them smaller and smaller amounts of money, like $2 to $6,” said Maddy Cunningham, 23, of South Philadelphia, who writes product copy for a clothing and shoe company. “It’s especially true for people out of college, trying to find jobs.

“With inflation up, every penny counts, especially when you’re living on your own with student-loan payments due.”

Some 25% of users of peer-to-peer payment apps say they deal with a “Venmo Vulture” in their life, repeatedly nickel-and-diming them with small payment requests, according to the survey.

It also shows that 38% of young adult users say they’ve been charged a “petty” amount by a fellow bill-splitter.

That was everyday reality for Andrew Nemroff after he graduated from college a few years back.

“Friends of mine, they’d get kind of pushy,” said Nemroff, 29, a mortgage lender from Fishtown. “They’d send reminders out on Venmo saying, ‘You ate a slice of my pizza and now you owe me $5.’”

It’s “absolutely” true that people “are certainly less willing to be laissez-faire about letting small debts slide and making sure they get paid,” said Robert Watson, 24, who serves as the graduate student government president at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studies both law and education policy.

“In graduate school, financial circumstances are often turbulent for a lot of folks,” said Watson, from Louisville, Ky. “Myself, I’m a proponent of giving people time to pay.”

As it happens, even people living on the margins might not ask for a $4 repayment for an expense during good times, said Samuel Rosen, a professor of finance at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

“But put a cash-strapped person in a recession, and it’s likely they would ask.”

Ultimately, the term “Venmo Vulture” can seem a bit harsh to some, who simply believe it’s not unreasonable to seek reimbursement for cash outlays.

After all, a little debt collection just might restore balance to the universe.

Genevieve McCormack, a 46-year-old attorney from Haverford, said Venmo serves a useful purpose.

“I went on a girls’ trip with college roommates,” she said. “On the app, you can see who hadn’t paid their expenses.” Even without anyone being called out, the app turned out to be “a good use of peer pressure.”

Eventually, McCormack said, “they all paid. And everyone was happy.”