The New York Times: Pardon Me, But Could You Help a Girl Down on Her Luck?

July 28, 2002 by Rachel Sklar

Neighborhood Report: New York Online

With a bold idea and three little w's, she began her ascent out of debt.

"Together, we can banish credit card debt from my life!''

Like many New Yorkers in their 20's, Karyn spends beyond her means. But those Prada pumps, manicures and cute designer tops add up. Now, she says, she is $20,000 in the hole to her credit card company.

Things would look grim were it not for her faith in the generosity of others, for she is confident that she can get that money just by asking for it. Ask she does at, a month-old Web site where visitors are invited to donate selflessly to Karyn's cause.

Because she worries about strangers' knowing too much about her, we don't know Karyn's last name or what she looks like. What she does tell us is that she is 26, lives in Brooklyn Heights and won't send strangers her underwear for money. We also know, or at least she tells us, that after receiving more than 70,000 hits on her Web site she has raised more than $700 in donations and $250 in merchandise through eBay.

It's not enough to appease the collection agencies, but not bad for a young woman who admits to owning such luxurious but questionable items as the ''Darrin's Dance Grooves'' video.

Karyn also admits that she racked up most of the debt by buying what she calls ''stupid stuff'' after moving to New York from the Midwest two years ago.

''I bought all these things that I thought I could afford and just assumed I could pay it back,'' she said by telephone from her apartment (there's a ''Contact Karyn'' link on her site). ''I never thought it was unreasonable until I was laid off for four months.'' Though she eventually found a new job, which, like her last one, is in television production, those lean months had taken their toll and her new and drastically reduced salary made no dent in her mounting debt.

With her Web site, Karyn hoped she could coax a few laughs -- not to mention a few dollars -- from the online community. She dabbles in financial theory (''In the long run, just who exactly is paying for me filing for bankruptcy -- you!'') and comforts the similarly debt-ridden. (''Dear Steve, I am sorry to hear about your addiction to DVD's,'' adding, ''I feel your pain.'')

Since the site went up, Karyn says she has received e-mails and donations from around the world, including Norway, Australia and South Africa, along with a modicum of fame: she reports that a movie studio (she won't say which) has already contacted her about acquiring the rights to her story. If something works out, Karyn reiterates her Web site pledge to give back: ''I would definitely give to charity, probably in the amount of 20 grand.''