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Blog: I Upset A Chugger

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Walking home from the tube station last night I met a chugger*. (*NOTE FOR FUTURE READERS: these have probably been OUTLAWED in The Future, but here in the early 21st Century "chuggers" - "charity muggers" - are people who stand on the street, usually in town centres, trying to get people to sign up to donate to charities. They're don't WORK for charities, they're not volunteers or anything, and the companies they work for take a healthy SLICE out of your donation for their own purposes.)

I work in Central London, so I'm well used to chuggers - INDEED that very lunchtime I'd walked through a gauntlet of several of them as I popped out for lunch. What usually happens is they say "Hello!" and come over all smiley, so I reply "Hello!" or, if they've tried a different form of engagement (sometimes they say "Hey! How are you today!" or pay you a compliment) I reply POLITELY. To be honest the whole thing makes me angry - they're pretending to be friendly and to just want a quick chat, but they're really after your CA$H and, as I say in the above NOTE, they're NOT actually charity workers themselves - but I don't want to become the sort of person who is uniformly GRUMPY to people in the street. I think if we all get ARSEY with chuggers like this then it bleeds into the rest of life and we become ARSEY with people who might genuinely want to say hello.

So yes, I do TRY and be polite, and say "No thanks" when they continue "have you got a minute?" even though I know IT'S NOT JUST A MINUTE they'll a) take b) want. HOWEVER, there is a form a Chugger Ploy that makes me SO ANNOYED I am UNABLE TO BE POLITE, and this is what happened in my interaction later that evening. I was coming up to the corner of Leytonstone High Road when this guy saw me coming, prepared himself, and LUNGED for me, hand out for a Pally Handshake, saying "Hello mate!"

This makes me SPITTING MAD - it's an invasion of personal space, it's a perversion of ACTUAL HUMAN PLEASANTRY and, as I say, by ABUSING people's natural POLITENESS and unwillingness to appear RUDE they're ACTIVELY WORSENING SOCIETY by making us all a lot less likely to accept the friendliness of strangers. SO when this pillock LUNGED at me all false smiles and SPACE INVASION saying "Hello mate" As he stood there, half blocking my way, I swerved round and replied, not angrily or loudly but certainly grumpily: "No mate. Piss off."

It's not the biggest of swears nor can it POSSIBLY be the worst thing a chugger will ever hear, but this guy was UTTERLY MORTIFIED. He could not BELIEVE that anyone would speak to him this way. "WHAT?!" he yelped. "WHAT did you say?" I did not pause to explain, though I did consider stopping and telling him EXACTLY why I was annoyed, but had visions of this being a NEW METHOD to force you to talk to them. I turned round to see if he WAS actually upset, and saw that he'd part followed me down the street, arms outstretched, OVERACTNG HORRIBLY about how ASTOUNDED he was that anybody - ANYBODY - could take his act of goodwill as anything but PURE PHILANTHROPY, still demanding an explanation from me and anybody nearby.

He was, not to put too fine a point on it, being a TWAT, but being ME I then spent the rest of the walk home worrying about it. WAS he really upset? HAD I been harsh? But as I neared home I remembered another incident a few years ago. I was walking down Tottenham Court Road and saw some Chuggers ahead, who I politely rebuffed. I was musing about how they were actively making people less likely to react in a friendly way to strangers when a man leapt in front of me, hand outstretched for a handshake, saying "Hello sir!" He didn't have a High Vis Jacket or charity t-shirt or even a LANYARD on, and I thought to myself "Come on Mark, don't let the chuggers stop you being friendly - look, here's another human being offering the hand of friendship", so I took it and shook it.

The man then turned his back on me without saying a WORD, turning towards a group of young people and said "And that's how you get people to engage with you, easy isn't it?" He had USED ME AS A DEMONSTRATION OF HIS EVIL! This memory made me angry ALL OVER AGAIN - I know there are more pressing, unpleasant and harmful things going on in the world and INDEED on the streets, but I genuinely think that this is something that is making society LESS POLITE and LESS FRIENDLY. It's certainly having that effect on me - next time this sort of thing happens to me I may escalate and say "RUDDY piss off!" YOU WATCH ME!

posted 8/11/2013 by MJ Hibbett

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Comments:

A friend of mine has a theory of "proportional rudeness" which he applies in dealing with chuggers, cold callers and the like: the ruder they are to you the ruder you can allow yourself to be to them.
posted 8/11/2013 by Dave B

I can't walk in a straight line in certain streets in the centre of Manchester for exactly the same thing to be honest, and the attitude of some of them is effectively not right. You can always tell the ones who really believe in the charity because they don't get in your face, and wait for you to come to them to see what it's all about. They're the nice people and I don't mind conversing with them, even if it's a polite "no thank you, but thanks for your time" at the end of it. The charities I choose to donate to are of my own choice and are all causes that I believe in. What they should do is rather than effectively force you into anything, they should politely give you some information, and say "have a look at our website and see what you think" instead - then you're in control to make the decision. This needs a song, something like "Chuggers chug off" or something.
posted 8/11/2013 by Warren.

For doorstep people, I always end up saying "Look, if the endpoint of this encounter is perceived by you to be a flow of resources from my possession into your possession, however indirectly, I want no part in this shenanigans." I get ruder if they insist they're not trying to sell something, especially since they're already trying it on with my elderly neighbours.
posted 9/11/2013 by Chris Abbott

BTW, I once was approached by a chugger, and I decided to scream and run away.
posted 9/11/2013 by Chris

I liked Chuggers more when he still played pop.
posted 18/11/2013 by graysonscolumn

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