Beware – the chuggers are back

Charity collectors in Wolverhampton have been threatened with fines of up to £500 if they harass tourists. If this sounds uncharitable, think again.

As Mary-Chapin Carpenter wrote in her classic Stones In The Road:

“We learned about the world around us at our desks and at dinnertime

Reminded of the starving children, we cleaned our plates with guilty minds”.

That may be what schoolkids do, but the reaction of many adults when they see pictures of starving children is to reach for their wallets, purses and cheque books. Oftentimes there is psychological pressure on people to do so, and sometimes there is actual physical pressure.

If you haven’t heard the word chugger, you haven’t lived or worked in Central London. Unfortunately, the practice has long since spread not only to the aforementioned Wolverhampton but to all the provinces.

The word chugger is an abbreviation of charity mugger; these are the people, usually young and attractive – guys as well as gals – who stop people in the street and try to encourage, persuade, emotionally blackmail them into signing up to donate £2 a month, a week or whatever to whatever charity they appear to be working for. If they are enthusiastic as well as attractive, it is for a very good reason, they are paid for signing you up, and they don’t actually work for the charities for which they lobby.

Rather than write reams about this subject, check out this 12 and a half minute video; watch it in segments if you wish. * Then ask yourself if the figures add up, and if the sophistry spouted by their apologists is in any way convincing.

Between this Newsnight report and this week’s report on their activities in Wolverhampton, there have been so many complaints about the activities of chuggers that many other councils have clamped down on them, including Manchester, Britain’s fifth largest city.

It would of course be unrealistic to suggest there are no expenses attached to charity fund-raising or charity work, but just in case you hadn’t noticed, the starving children to whom Mary-Chapin Carpenter alludes in her song are still there, and she was writing about the 1960s. If you cannot resist the urge to give away your hard earned money, make sure it goes to an organisation like the Disasters Appeal Committee (mentioned in the Newsnight report) which will ensure it goes to the people who really need it, and not into the pockets of parasites maquerading as charity fund-raisers.

[The above op-ed was first published September 23, 2011. * When I republished it here in July 2021, I noticed the linked YouTube video from the BBC Newsnight programme had been deleted. I have replaced it with a much shorter one uploaded in June 2015 with the title 100 UK towns say ‘eff off’ to chuggers; my sentiments exactly!]

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