Chuggers

BY JIM BROWNE

I spent a few days visiting my daughter and her kids in London recently and while she and her husband were out at work and our grandchildren were at school I pottered around Central London with my wife.

I lived near Paddington for a while a long time ago and strolling around the centre of town then along leafy Hyde Park across to my old home near Lancaster Gate brought floods of memories rolling back in. Since then there have been many changes to London for the better but there have been some which the grand old capital could have done better without.

One thing that annoyed me – a lot – was chugging. On most big streets and at many stations these Charity sharks stand, waiting for people like me. My wife and I, who are clearly British, and who have a bit of time on our hands, don’t rush by like all the rats in the race (with my knees, rushing is now a thing of the way distant past). We are walking ducks.

Chuggers get their name from the portmanteau of “charity” and “mugger” – they are notorious for their aggressive and invasive street fundraising tactics. Fortunately we don’t get blighted so much by this scourge in the countryside.

“Can I have a minute of your time, sir?” became a right old drag. “What do you do to help the starving children in Africa, sir?” grated. “Maybe if you’re not interested your wife is, sir?” really annoyed me.

When we got home from London I put my feet up and then walked the dogs, who were very glad we were home. I took them out along my usual route across the meadow and then down towards the river for a swim. And, as I turned a corner off a path to cross a small footbridge over the river, who did I find there?

A bloody chugger.

Some man from Water Aid, standing there with his clipboard.

In the middle of the countryside.

I told him that he must be lost, that I’d just come down from London and that all his friends were there. That I presumed the plague was only affecting city-dwellers and not us exurbanites.

He laughed (these people grow teflon skins…got to hand it to them).

So I politely grinned.

But not for long.

While I understand that charities need to collect money. I also understand that charities – especially some good ones like the RNLI – are desperately short of donations since the new charity communications laws were brought in after the suicide of poor Olive Cooke. But chugging is so annoying for potential donors that it puts them off the collecting charity forever.

I feel genuinely sorry for the chuggers. They are earning very little doing a job that is worse than a traffic warden’s. The abuse they get must be horrific. They certainly have balls to do what they do.

But for the majority of the public these chuggers are overgrown mosquitoes in day-glow anoraks who force them to cross the street just to get away from them. They spoil your day.

Charities, listen please.

Chugging is bad for everyone. If you want to raise money, give the chuggers a collecting tin and those who show interest should be given a no-strings-attached standing order donation form. Get imaginative.

It’s as simple as that.

Aggressive soliciting never worked for anyone long-term. It never will.

Simply put, Chugging should be made illegal.

Are you reading this, Mrs May?