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Saturday, 27 March 2010

Chuggers (Charity Muggers)

For those of you who weren't aware of the term "Chuggers" as meaning anything other than those who chug beer, which I have no issue with whatsoever, I provided the handy parenthesised title there so you know that I am talking about those scruffy bastards in the vests with the clipboards who try and guilt you up when you're going about your business on one of our (now largely boarded up) British high streets.

The act of giving money to charity is a deeply personal one. Maybe you give to a cancer charity because you lost somebody close to you to the big C. Maybe you give to an animal charity because they can't speak for themselves. Maybe you give to Sport Relief because you thought it was kind of cool that Eddie Izzard did all that running and that Smithy sketch was possibly the only remotely funny thing James Corden will ever do again. Maybe, like me, you give to a bunch of quite random charities because you were really drunk one New Year's Day and thought it might sort your karma out because you'd done some pretty questionable things the year before and My Name is Earl was on. It's a choice, and usually a proactive one.

Obviously to make you aware of the work the charities are doing so you can make the choice to give to them, some sort of fundraising tactics need to be employed. This used to be a man coming round your house and sticking a little sticker of a lifeboat on you if you put your loose change in his lifeboat shaped collecting tin. It was all quite nice. But not now. Now it has taken a far darker turn.

When someone with a clipboard approaches you on the street you know it's not going to be a good time. You will either have to be quite uncharacteristically rude (I am assuming all my readers are lovely and charming here), or you will have to have an awkward conversation where you have to get yourself out of giving some money to something. Very occasionally it will be someone trying to recruit you to the Church of Scientology. If this happens to you I suggest calling them a freak, they hate that and the resulting outburst which will always, always include the phrase "We're not the freaks! You are the freaks!" will brighten the day of any passers by or local market traders who happen to be watching. Bonus points if you can continue the argument without using the words "Katie Holmes".

Usually it's just a chugger, though.

The chugger will approach you, usually using some form of flattery to appeal to your ego. You might fleetingly think they are hitting on you. They're not, but that's OK, you don't want to go out with a chugger, they make fuck all and have to live with their mum, and they are probably also perverted in a way you wouldn't enjoy. Nobody normal would do that job, face it.

They will then fact you up a bit about the charity. It will be boring, this bit. You're just trying to get to Greggs (it is a recession, so eating like a northerner is the new rock 'n' roll. Fuck you, little M&S sushi selection!). It will give you the arse. You can see Greggs. You can almost taste that cheese and onion pasty. Yet you have to listen to this scruffy little codpiece tell you about water first.

Once that bit is over the chugger will attempt what sales people call "closing". The difference of course is that sales people are selling something. All that you actually get out of the deal here is that the chugger will go away, and while that is certainly an appealing idea, you reckon you can get that for free so you're not ready to give in and give yet.

There are several techniques you can employ here. Obviously the most fun is to punch them square in the jaw and watch them go down like a sack of aid parcels dropped from a helicopter. But that's illegal so it's better to keep that as your fantasy response. Same applies to shooting or raping them or any kind of hostage scenario involving their families. It's better to try and just blag your way through it so you don't come away in cuffs.

One approach is to say you already give to that charity, and say how good you think they are. Obviously you don't, because chuggers tend to only chug for the charities that sort of suck a bit - you never get chuggers for the ones with the good public image like Guide Dogs (cute dogs doing clever shit - it's cool) or Breast Cancer (pink fluffy pens and ribbons and crazy bra related antics - it's cool). This, you would think, if the chugger truly cared about the cause as they have just been impressing on you that they really, really do, would please them. It doesn't though, These fuckers come from an agency, they will chug for anybody. They didn't honestly go, oh, I do hate dirty water. Think I'll give up this lucrative job in the City and go and collect for those people who sort out all the dirty water. Of course they fucking didn't. They are working on commission so they only care about signing you up. That's why this is a good tactic. It pisses them off, because they think hey, this person gives to charity, if only I had got them sooner, or on a day when I'm chugging it up for a different one! And they can't show their disappointment either because it makes them look like a grasping cunt. I enjoy this approach.

Another option, if you are feeling like being a bit of a bastard and having a row, is to say you don't agree with the work the charity does. This is easier, but less fun, if it is a charity some people don't agree with the work of, such as Greenpeace, but you can do it for just about anything if you commit and are prepared to come out with some outlandish, horrible shit. "No, I think those people should die of the shits from all that dirty water. Too many people on the planet anyway and they haven't got anything to live for, have they, it's just the AIDs and witch craft over there, really, isn't it." or "I think leukaemia is sort of Darwinian really - weeds out some of the iffy genes." or just "nah, I fucking hate seals.".

I tried this approach once with a chugger for World Vision. World Vision do good things involving Africa as far as I can remember, but years ago they were a client of a company I worked for, and one of our guys had been to their head office. This place was fucking legendary. As a Christian organisation they would only hire Christians, and only the psychotic kind. I'm not even sure how that isn't discrimination and therefore a bit on the, well, illegal side, but somehow they managed to enforce this, and who gives a fuck anyway - would you want to work there? No, the answer is no, you would not. At lunch time, they would hang out in the canteen, singing Jesus tunes with an acoustic guitar. I had to inform the chugger that I couldn't bring myself to fund this. Not on my watch, soldier. Not acoustic guitars. Not tambourines and clapping. I will not finance these atrocities. What do you think I am, America?

Obviously the other thing you can do is sign up and give, then call your bank and cancel the direct debit once you've had your pasty, but that takes effort and you know you can't be fucked to actually call and cancel it, and that you'd feel a bit sleazy telling the person in the call centre you want to stop your donation to the NSPCC. Yeah, that's right, Shona (she's Scottish, I bank with Santander, remember) I don't care as much about the abundance of paedos as I may have made out to a total stranger on the street earlier. Please don't give me fees.

Sadly, once you have used your chosen method to extract yourself from the chugging scenario, you have to run the gauntlet of all of their mates, wearing the same vests. Chuggers hunt in packs. And so you have to keep going - do not ever, ever break your stride - shouting "I just spoke to one of you! I've already been done!". On the way back from Greggs, pasty grease burning your hand, the same chugger you already had quite a lengthy exchange with will stop you again, with the same line.



  1. I just say "I'm sorry mate I don't speak English". By the time they've cottoned on you can flick them the "V" from a very safe distance.