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Chugger Menace: Legislative Assembly utterly inert.

By johnboy 28 April 2011 50

Chuggers on City Walk

A few weeks ago I noticed a story in the Herald Sun on moves by Melbourne City Council to bring their charity muggers, or “Chuggers”, under control. A couple of days later the Age carried a stirling defence of the chugger and the value they perform for charity.

This was interesting because back in February we proposed something similar would have some merit in Canberra, particularly City Walk where they can be verminous.

The response to our poll on the subject was emphatic and the comments similarly skewed against the chugger nuisance.

chugger poll screenshot
[Poll screenshot taken 1300 28 April 2011]

So I started asking the denizens of the Legislative Assembly what they thought. They managed to surprise me, they don’t think anything at all.

My exchange with the Greens went like this:

Johnboy: With Melbourne Council debating chugger bans do the Greens have a position in the ACT?

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/charity-muggers-face-bans-restrictions/story-e6frf7l6-1226036575396

Greens Spokesperson: No, at this stage the Greens in the Assembly have not received any complaints about the behaviour of charity fundraisers, known as ‘Chuggers’, in Canberra.

Johnboy: So just because you’re out of touch with community sentiment you have no position?

Greens Spokesperson: We would be happy to look at the rules and a possible code of conduct, but it is not clear that it is the same problems exist with Canberra Chuggers as the council is responding to in Melbourne.

I was taken aback, the Greens have positions on nearly everything under the sun, almost none of them anything anyone would ever have raised with them.

Here was my response from the Liberals:

At the moment there is no intention to go down the same track as what is being proposed by Melbourne City Council.

Amongst the Government there was no enthusiasm for the issue. Ministerial offices handed the enquiry from pillar to post. I had to explain to Simon Corbell’s office what a Chugger was despite that office being less than a hundred paces from the source of the problem.

And let there be no mistake there is a problem. Here’s what the chair of Canberra CBD, Peter Barclay, had to say when we asked how they would feel about more restrictions on Chuggers:

Most people that I have spoken to find it very annoying to be asked for
money on a regular basis by the very same people, in particular along City Walk and Garema Place.

Traders are reluctant to ask them to move on in case their business is targeted for damage after hours for example The Hub Newsagent at the bus interchange.

Tourists who decline to give money often are verbally abused, not a great impression to walk away with.

Returning to the sisyphean task of finding anything out of the ACT Government. The Chief Minister’s Office eventually referred my question to Simon Corbell’s Office of Regulatory Services who spat back the existing policy.

I asked if they felt the existing policy was being satisfactorily implemented and if there were any plans to change it. I was promised a response.

A week later I asked how they were going with it.

After a pause I was informed that my enquiry was now in the hands of Justice and Community Safety.

Days later a spokesperson from Simon Corbell came back to me:

Corbell spokesperson: The Office of Regulatory Services regulates the Charitable Collections Act 2003. People collecting for a charitable purpose in the street or by going door to door are required to wear identification with the licence number and name or logo of the organisation for which they are collecting. If people have any doubts about a person collecting for any purpose, they should ask for details about the charity. This may include contacting the organisation directly to ensure that the person is collecting on their behalf. If a person is still unsatisfied, they should contact the Office of Regulatory Services on 6207 0400.

Johnboy: Thanks, so can we take it that the AG is happy with the activities of charity fundraisers in City Walk and Garema Place?

Corbell Spokesperson: The Minister does not have a view on the activities of charity fundraisers in the City. Charitable collections are a regulated activity, if Canberrans have concerns about the behaviour of people seeking charitable collections they should contact the Office of Regulatory Services (ORS). If you have any concerns about the activities of charitable fundraisers the Minister would encourage you to, in the first instance, bring them to the attention of ORS.

So if you find Chuggers infuriating, or your business is being eaten by them as pedestrians flee to the regulated environs of the Canberra Centre your elected representatives neither know nor care.

Let’s be clear on how Chuggers operations work. A charity contracts a commercial organisation to fundraise on their behalf.

The commercial organisation pays young people a fraction of what they get out of the charity to employ high powered sales tactics and no small amount of guilt to extract your credit card number.

In the first year the operator keeps the majority of the money and then over a number of years the percentage of the regular deductions from your credit card that actually goes to the charity increases. In the order of five years later all the money you’re giving is actually going to the charity you’ve chosen to support, give or take what it costs to lease the CEO’s Mercedes and keep them in the style they’ve become accustomed to.

It’s a very wasteful model, but it does give charities reliable revenue streams, which some of them consider to be worth it. Smaller slices of an enlarged giving pie.

But not all charities do this, in fact very few do, and generally not local ones. I asked the RSPCA’s Michael Linke what his view of chugging is and got this response:

RSPCA takes a very strategic and long term approach to our fund raising activities. The activity of “charity mugging” is something we don’t engage in. As a charity we need to solicit donations, government funding meets about 10% of our annual budget and as such we are left with having to find about $3.6M per annum from our local community.

However in doing this we work with donors and try an engage them, we offer them options, whether it is supporting cats, dogs, native wildlife or our cruelty inspection work. We look to engage our supporters. We also offer something back through invitations to events, information evenings as well as creating events our supporters can be part of. We think of RSPCA supporters as long term supporters, not random people we pass in the street.

Look at next month’s Million Paws Walk. RSPCA has created a wonderful experience for the whole community to come together and enjoy a great day out. At the same time we raise over $160,000. This event is a classic two way event, beneficial to supporters and beneficial to the charity. Everyone feels good about the day.

Our Cup Cake Day, held in August every year, is another example of engaging with the community. The community bakes and sells cup cakes, we don’t solicit anything, it’s a passive event, everyone loves it and it raises almost $100,000. People feel engaged, people have fun and money is raised.

So no, you won’t get mugged by RSPCA volunteers soliciting a $10 or $20 gift. We value your support much more than a ten second interaction.

I can’t explain the torpor of the Legislative Assembly on this, wild conspiracy theories to drive patronage into the Canberra Centre before knocking down City Walk and Garema Place do spring to mind.

But hey, maybe tweeting @SimonCorbell next time you get chugged will get the message through, we hear he’s having a photoshoot today with CityNews to talk about the wonders of social media.

What’s Your opinion?


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50 Responses to
Chugger Menace: Legislative Assembly utterly inert.
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Erg0 12:26 pm 02 May 11

dvaey said :

Innovation said :

Out of curiosity, when do prospective donors find out about how little of their money goes to the actual charity (or are they never told)?

Out of curiosity also, if you donate say $10 to a charity through a chugger, the charity gets $5 and the company gets $5. You still receive a tax deduction receipt for $10 even though the charity only receives $5. Surely theres a massive tax scam happening here that the ATO would be interested in?

I would imagine that, for tax purposes, the whole $10 is going to the charity and they then pay $5 to the collection agency for services rendered.

At least, they could do it that way if they wanted to get around this issue. No idea if they’re actually doing it.

Mysteryman 12:17 pm 02 May 11

colourful sydney racing identity said :

johnboy said :

colourful sydney racing identity said :

EvanJames said :

What about a list of charities who engage in acceptable fundraising? Give people an option to contribute to causes without encouraging the silvertail charities who feather their nests first and exploit chuggers?

Médecins Sans Frontières
http://www.msf.org.au/

Sadly MSF were pioneers of chugging.

Say it isn’t so. I am so disappointed.

They can often be found near the the pedestrian crossing under the Canberra Centre overpass – opposite Globalize and Jay Jays’s. They are less offensive than some of the others, but they are still most definitely chugging, unfortunately.

johnboy 9:33 am 02 May 11

colourful sydney racing identity said :

Say it isn’t so. I am so disappointed.

My credit card is still being clipped every month, fortunately it was long enough ago that at least the money’s going where it should now.

johnboy said :

colourful sydney racing identity said :

EvanJames said :

What about a list of charities who engage in acceptable fundraising? Give people an option to contribute to causes without encouraging the silvertail charities who feather their nests first and exploit chuggers?

Médecins Sans Frontières
http://www.msf.org.au/

Sadly MSF were pioneers of chugging.

Say it isn’t so. I am so disappointed.

Innovation 4:22 pm 30 Apr 11

dvaey – I know there are numerous genuine doorknockers (eg salvos red cross et al). These people perform a very valuable and genuine service. I was referring to the doorknockers that operate on a commission basis. It’s easy to tell the difference between the two types because the former will happily give you information how to donate by other means and they don’t usually ask you for ongoing credit card deductions.

PS your comment about the tax deductible amount is very interesting. I hadn’t thought about that.

Jono1974 9:27 pm 29 Apr 11

I really wish something could be done about the Chuggers in City Walk. I have had enough of being chased and having to plot my way around them. It wouldn’t be so bad if it were just on the weekend but it is every lunchtime.

joingler 6:13 pm 29 Apr 11

EvanJames said :

What about a list of charities who engage in acceptable fundraising? Give people an option to contribute to causes without encouraging the silvertail charities who feather their nests first and exploit chuggers?

Hard to go past the Salvos. There is a man who sits near at the entrance to Woolies Gungahlin who collects for them nearly every day. He is always friendly and keen for a chat whether you are donating or not. And he is typical of everyone I’ve ever encountered from the Salvos.

Had a funny experience this afternoon where I ignored people from the Cancer Council asking for donations. I told them I wasn’t interested then went straight up to the Salvos guy and gave him $20. I got a filthy look from a couple of the Cancer Council ‘volunteers’ but none confronted me about it which was a shame. I was in a cranky mood and could have done with letting off some steam…..

dvaey 4:55 pm 29 Apr 11

Innovation said :

Out of curiosity, when do prospective donors find out about how little of their money goes to the actual charity (or are they never told)?

Out of curiosity also, if you donate say $10 to a charity through a chugger, the charity gets $5 and the company gets $5. You still receive a tax deduction receipt for $10 even though the charity only receives $5. Surely theres a massive tax scam happening here that the ATO would be interested in?

Innovation said :

I regularly get door knockers seeking donations that are obviously on a similar financial arrangement.

I used to door-knock for a couple of charities (mostly red cross, salvos, etc), and can tell you that some people just do it without a financial reward. I could often collect $300-$500 in a day and every cent of that was passed onto whoever I was collecting for. Not all charity collectors are doing it for their own personal gain.

Rabbithunter 4:16 pm 29 Apr 11

“Most people that i have spoken to find it very annoying to be asked for
money on a regular basis by the very same people, in particular along City Walk and Garema Place.
Traders are reluctant to ask them to move on in case their business is targeted for damage after hours for example The Hub Newsagent at the bus interchange. Tourists who decline to give money often are verbally abused, not a great impression to walk away with”

That is the quote you have included from Peter Barclay. I have just spoken to ACT Policing where I was told: “No formal complaints have been received regarding any charity workers operating in the City”.

AKA: Bollocks.

I believe you have misused Mr. Barclay’s statement; it’s pretty obvious he is talking about the unfortunate souls asking for money near the Interchange and City Walk.

Besides, it is absurd to try to imply that any Red Cross worker with their upbeat cheer would verbally abuse a tourist or target a business for damage.

So maybe remove it from your article as it doesn’t make either party look particularly informed.

Innovation 4:12 pm 29 Apr 11

Out of curiosity, when do prospective donors find out about how little of their money goes to the actual charity (or are they never told)? I regularly get door knockers seeking donations that are obviously on a similar financial arrangement. When I offer to donate by email with the charity directly I find out that the chuggers or door knockers (conveniently) don’t have (or won’t give) email or physical addresses or phone numbers or anything.

If this isn’t a concern for ACT’s ORR isn’t this an issue for the ACCC? Isn’t this misleading and deceptive conduct?

johnboy 3:25 pm 29 Apr 11

colourful sydney racing identity said :

EvanJames said :

What about a list of charities who engage in acceptable fundraising? Give people an option to contribute to causes without encouraging the silvertail charities who feather their nests first and exploit chuggers?

Médecins Sans Frontières
http://www.msf.org.au/

Sadly MSF were pioneers of chugging.

EvanJames said :

What about a list of charities who engage in acceptable fundraising? Give people an option to contribute to causes without encouraging the silvertail charities who feather their nests first and exploit chuggers?

Médecins Sans Frontières
http://www.msf.org.au/

EvanJames 2:50 pm 29 Apr 11

What about a list of charities who engage in acceptable fundraising? Give people an option to contribute to causes without encouraging the silvertail charities who feather their nests first and exploit chuggers?

cashman180 2:28 pm 29 Apr 11

I just tell any chugger that harasses me that I will no longer support that charity in any way, shape of form. I do the same for charities when they call me with depressing statistics trying to get money out of me (usually they have my details from donations I have made in the past).
Let them know you don’t appreciate the harassment with your wallet – due to the great comments by the RSPCA I will definately be participating in the Million Paw Walk and donating what I can to their work.

Monomyth 1:32 pm 29 Apr 11

As someone who was a ‘chugger’ for all of 3 days in QLD, I also have no sympathy for them. I We were not paid an hourly wage at all, instead, our earnings were comission based if someone signed up. Given we were signing them up to make ongoing monthly donations, we did not get many takers. I made no money, and lost more than I could really afford by going to and from the spruiking points.

We were encouraged to take things like No-Doz to keep ourself peppy and alert, and had to stand for hours with no break. By the third day, I told them I’d been offered a position elsewhere (I hadn’t) and simply walked away. I feel a bit bad for them, but the majority of people who go into this are doing it for their own gain or because they like it, so I’m not completely heartbroken for them.

p1 10:27 am 29 Apr 11

johnboy said :

Erg0 said :

On a related note, I wonder whether the ACT Government has a position on those people who push Dead Sea cosmetics in the Canberra Centre? I hear Marrickville Council had a crack at banning them, but it didn’t work out so well…

They have, at least, spent good money for their space in the Canberra Centre. Their regulation is a matter for centre management.

Since I am pretty sure they all work for Mossad, I thought ASIO should be regulating them?

amaroovian 9:49 am 29 Apr 11

Bennop said :

I’ve said it before and I’ll say i again “Just keep on walking”. If thats too much trouble, then you probably shouldnt be in public anyway.

Nice idea in theory – try that with the bloke in the blue top that was hanging around the front of Subway near the remaining sheep sculpture a couple of weeks ago. I never made eye contact, kept walking and dutifully ignored him – and this twit followed me giving his spiel and when I still didn’t pay attention his voice got louder and louder, making people turn around to look. He followed me almost all the way to the Canberra Centre entrance. Now I am not easily intimidated, so was confident enough to stop turn and tell him to F*&$^ off before walking into the Canberra Centre, but like Thumper said – what about the elderly and others who are more easily intimidated. These people are a menace.

In the meantime I am sure the RSPCA will enjoy my contribution when I take part in the Million Paws Walk in a few weeks.

georgesgenitals said :

EvanJames said :

Great comment by CEO Linke. I like giving money to the RSPCA but wouldn’t be able to if they engaged in this greedy, venial fundraising. Just look at the charities who use Chuggers and other such high-pressure outsourced fundraising. They have CEOs and boards on stratospheric salaries, huge bureacracies… bugger the lot of them.

+1. Michael Linke is a credit to his organisation.

+2 in addition to explaining to chugger charities why they are not getting any of my donations, I will tell the none chuggers why they do.

georgesgenitals 6:28 pm 28 Apr 11

EvanJames said :

Great comment by CEO Linke. I like giving money to the RSPCA but wouldn’t be able to if they engaged in this greedy, venial fundraising. Just look at the charities who use Chuggers and other such high-pressure outsourced fundraising. They have CEOs and boards on stratospheric salaries, huge bureacracies… bugger the lot of them.

+1. Michael Linke is a credit to his organisation.

johnboy 5:30 pm 28 Apr 11

amarooresident3 said :

Out of interest, have you contacted the Office of Regulatory Services to complain?

Seeing as the current behaviour is policy compliant I still don’t see the point.

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