Chugger, n. Amalgamation of the words charity and mugger.
Every UK high street has them. Over-privileged, hyper-confident, young students wearing brightly coloured corporate rain jackets. It is almost impossible to walk down a main pedestrian street at lunchtime without one of these androids waving frantically to attract your attention or bounding over to you like an enthusiastic puppy who has just met a long-lost friend.
If you have never experienced this phenomenon, then when blindsided and cornered, be prepared for flattery and a real shakedown. They always pretend you are the most sexy, interesting and attractive person they have ever met and open with cheesy, cringeworthy lines. Apparently you do look like someone who wants to save a child’s life today. By implication, a child will die if you do not donate. How do they know that I’m not a paediatric surgeon, who has already saved two children today?
No, they can’t accept a one-off cash donation. It has to be a “longer-term arrangement”. They want your bank details. It’s only £3 per month to provide clean water, save the donkeys, end homelessness, *insert charity here. Soliciting a direct debit agreement is not considered begging, like asking for cash, which is an annoying legal loophole as I have reported aggressive begging before to a local Police Officer.
I hate the way these highly organised, paid street fundraisers, irritate me with their consistent, constant intrusion, even if I do my very best confrontational stare, not breaking eye contact first. I can go from neutral to hostile in a matter of seconds. They’re used to rejection. It is water off a duck’s back. There is no fear. It’s a game. Theatre. Playing the part of the pantomime villain. They know the tactics. It is wonderful – for them – that they have cultivated a strong sense of self-confidence and resilience so young, but not at the expense of the rest of us. They may pretend to show compassion and empathy for their charity, but when probed, their knowledge is an in-depth as a leaflet. I can see them doing a volunteer gap year abroad where they kid themselves they’re being green and helping the environment by flying half-way across the world to do a menial job that a local could do for three months then swanning around Goa for the remaining nine months, because it’s so cheap to live there.
I’m too old for the age range where they have the most success. If I spot a herd, I walk behind another member of the public. I avoid them by walking right past ignoring them completely. I do not engage at all. I’ve even stopped saying, “No thank you” because once, a young man took this as an opportunity to engage further and followed me for a few steps. He said, “What do you mean, no?” I turned and shouted in his face, “When a woman says no, she means no!” It is frightening just how resilient they are to the word, “NO.” (I wonder in what other situations they choose to repeatedly ignore it.)
Swearing does not work either. It’s a badge of honour that deserves primitive fraternity whoops, with high-fives all round from other chuggers whenever one of them is told to “Fuck off” by a member of the public.
I do feel a bit sorry for the desperate-to-have-a-job door-to-door newbies. Thank goodness we’ve got signs on the lampposts down my street saying that we do not buy or sell from the door. I don’t feel at all sorry for that certain kind of character who does commission-based sales, preying on the vulnerable with their scripted banter. They can jog on. As can the PR reps who insist in the press that this is the most effective way of obtaining funds, and what would we have the charities do instead? That’s your job to figure out, not mine.