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"Hello there! Do you have a couple of minutes to...."

No I do not. I feel revulsion at this third intrusive display of synthetic bonhomie in less than half an hour. Get out of my face.

You can spot them from a distance; twentysomethings wearing unfashionable primary-coloured nylon tops, dotted around the city centre of any large British town. Get closer and you'll notice their breezy and cheerful manner as they approach passing strangers. You may also notice the name of a charity printed on these tops.

Don't get too close though, or you might actually have to deal with them. And if you're lucky enough to avoid their intrusive chirpiness, there's likely to be another 50 yards up the street.

Chuggers (short for 'charity muggers') are charity collectors, but don't be fooled by their rehearsed friendliness1. These are not the old lady shaking a tin outside Woolworths; they are paid workers, and their job is to convince you to sign a direct debit from your bank account for a minimum of £8 per month.

Thinking of signing over £96 or more per year? Bear in mind that many of these people are on commission and are employed by a promotions company, not the charity. Who is paying for all this? Directly, or indirectly, the answer is you. The promotions company will, for example, typically expect to receive a large proportion of that first year's direct debit.

I'd like more of this writeup to have been based on personal experience; however, being the amoral asshole that I am, I've never spoken to any of them for long enough to receive their spiel. In fact, I seem to have blanked or given a dismissive wave2 to enough of them that they rarely approach me now3.

Okay; I know many of these people are students, out of work actors and such, and probably aren't raking it in (even if their employers are). However, they rely on, and exploit, people's unwillingness to appear rude (the similarly reliant-on-commission sales 'advisers' in Dixons don't enjoy this much goodwill). Frankly, they're intrusive and mercenary, and they made me feel uncomfortable until I realised that they just didn't deserve my attention.

I think there was supposed to be something about charity in there as well. That was it; give money to charity- just do it directly, and not through these people.

1 Don't get me wrong; they're usually pretty good at this. Unfortunately, it doesn't work when you know what they're after.
2 I appreciate that, of course, this would be extremely rude under normal circumstances.
3 This suggests that the same employees are plugging multiple charities. Also, bear in mind that if you move to another town, you're likely to have to go through the hassle of being rude to all the chuggers there until they ignore you.

Bibliography and Further Reading

  • Australian Chuggers:- http://radar.smh.com.au/archives/2004/06/on_the_take.html
  • How To Deal With a Chugger:- http://society.guardian.co.uk/charityfinance/story/0,8150,1015101,00.html
  • Macmillan English Dictionary:- http://www.macmillandictionary.com/New-Words/031212-chugger.htm
  • Confessions of a Street Fundraiser:- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2090680.stm

When walking downtown in any large urban environment, one is likely to encounter a hopeful brace of face-to-face fundraisers, a.k.a. charity muggers or chuggers. One may recognize them by their colorful logo-emblazoned tabards and clipboards. One member of the team will accost passerby in the hopes of initiating a conversation. Opening gambits range from the prosaic ('Do you have a minute?') to the elaborate ('Do you know what's the single most important thing for life on Earth?'*). If you stop, you will then experience a high-pressure sales pitch designed to elicit your sympathy for the charity, and more importantly your banking and/or home contact information, which will then be followed up by phone in hopes of binding you to an ongoing financial commitment.

The experience of interacting—or more properly avoiding interacting—with the chugger is unpleasant for both practitioner and victim, yet they continue to work the streets. The fundraisers are salaried employees of a fundraising firm contracted to the charities whose colors they wear, typically for a large flat fee. The charities pay a lot for the service, but the conversion rate of contactees to regular monthly donors is higher than almost any other method of public outreach. This success more than compensates for the flashes of ill will on the street corner, and so we seem doomed to continue to experience this intrusive form of fundraising for the foreseeable future.

* The expected response is, of course, water. Responding 'electroweak interaction' whilst sailing on by has a good success rate in producing the few moments of stunned incomprehension required to effect a clean getaway.

BQ'16 275

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