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Intersection Windscreen Washers: Community Service or Intimidating Grifters?

By benita_449 - 21 February 2010 100

You know the ones: Intersection of Northbourne Avenue/Cooyong St/Barry Drive. Started as one and has multiplied to almost every corner of that intersection as well as in Dickson.

Here’s what most people would describe happens in this situation (ie. Chain of Events A):

1. Motorist pulls up at a red light.

2. Hard-done-by-windscreen-cleaner-guy lifts his cleaning wand to essentially offer a windscreen cleaning service while the motorist waits at the intersection.

3. Motorist accepts offer, gets windscreen cleaned, and perhaps offers some coinage as a token of appreciation.

4. Cleaner accepts token of appreciation. Repeat ad nauseam.

However, what I have noticed occurring in many situations is (ie. Chain of Events B):

1. Motorist pulls up at a red light.

2. Hard-done-by-windscreen-cleaner-guy lifts his cleaning wand to essentially offer a windscreen cleaning service while the motorist waits at the intersection.

3. Motorist refutes offer by waving hands and shaking head to signal ‘NO’.

4. Cleaner waves down the refusal and sets about cleaning windscreen anyway thereby ignoring the request of the vehicle operator to stay away from their property.

5. Motorist often feels intimidated as to what is happening, and perhaps not wanting to enter a confrontation: offers some coinage to the cleaner to prevent a scene from occurring.

6. Cleaner accepts. Repeat ad nauseam.

What bothers me the most, is that I’m happy enough to scream them away if they refuse my requests to NOT touch and potentially damage my property. And they most likely remember me and often don’t approach me again. But what really bothers me is when I watch the type of motorist around me falling into the trap. In most cases, I’ve seen the washers target women alone in their cars – often women of an Asian extraction. And in all those cases, the motorist has signalled a clear ‘No’, the washer has waved down their refusal, and the motorist frantically starts looking for something to hand over – all in an intimidating fashion.

I’ve made a complaint to the ACT Government on this issue (via Canberra Connect) and was told: “There’s nothing the Police can do about it, but you can make a complaint to ACT Fair Trading”. What the???

So does that mean that I can effectively:

(a)    set up a stall on the side of a busy street,

(b)   cause a potential traffic hazard,

(c)    hock my wares in an intimidating fashion to passer-bys who are trapped and have no option but to wait out my barrage; then

(d)   accept cash from them that is not taxed,

(e)    contributes nothing to the community,

(f)    doesn’t get reported as income tax;

(g)   allowing me to then claim a full Centrelink dole payment for both myself and my defacto junkie wife with track marks all over her exposed skin,

and the only consequence is to have the ACT Fair Trading look into the matter?

Absolutely Pathetic. Up there with the most ridiculous response from a government I’ve ever heard alongside the standard: “We can’t investigate the matter until we receive a complaint from a member of the public.” WELL WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS IS YOU BRAIN-DAMAGED NIT-WIT!

Before I go-ahead and submit the complaint to ACT Fair Trading (what a joke) I’m keen to hear other RiotACT-ers intelligent contributions on the matter.

And before any regular RiotACT members try to pay-out on this post: No, this isn’t the most pressing issue in my life, but it is the most appropriate for this forum. And No, this isn’t the worst thing that has happened to me but it is something I can garner support to change. And Yes, I have better things to do with my life than harp on this issue – that’s why I spent just 4 minutes to write up this post.

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100 Responses to
Intersection Windscreen Washers: Community Service or Intimidating Grifters?
excession 10:22 am 23 Feb 10

My partner hate’s ’em.

I don’t drive, so I’m rarely in a situation to observe them in action, but if I am in the car, isuch behaviour will generally be observed on the intersection of Melrose Drive and Hindmarsh Drive, some scruffy guy with a squeegee and some water, ambling around, ‘washing’ windscreens.

It’s generally ‘making a quid’ for someone; and it’s generally-speaking, hassle free. What’s a guy with a squeegee going to ‘do’ to anyone who doesn’t cough up? It isn’t without risks (intersections are dangerous places).

Think of it as evolution in action. (qv Darwin Awards)

I liked the provisos / warnings at the end of the Original Poster’s effort, but find their estimate of ‘four minutes’ to compose their thoughts to be laughable. Bravo for posting, I suppose.

grunge_hippy 10:18 am 23 Feb 10

Call Ned. I’m sure he would love another thing to stick to stanhope. I’m sure WIN news would jump on the bandwagon too.

remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Choconut 10:16 am 23 Feb 10

Finally! Someone has said what we’ve all (or most of us) have been thinking: that these window-washing scum are a nuisance to drivers, a road safety hazard, and generally a parasitic drain on decent society. I find it remarkable that the police are powerless here – imagine if I were to stand around at traffic lights for no reason, just chatting to or harrassing or soliciting drivers…I’d be moved on by policy in 5 minutes.

I’ve found the best thing to do is ignore the window-washers or wave them away. Don’t even look at them: they’re beneath you. If they then start washing the window, I turn on the wipers…if they make any rude comments, which they usually do, a sneer and a raised index finger usually reminds them of their social standing (well down in society’s s-bend). Until the revolution comes and we can dispense with them in a slow and painful fashion, this is all we can do, alas…

Fiona 10:16 am 23 Feb 10

If I wave them away but they elect to clean anyway I don’t pay. Wouldn’t scream them off my car, because I’m not that precious, and my windscreen is usually filthy anyway (so I sometimes accept and pay).

The only thing that gets to me is when traffic gets held up because they start cleaning too late in the light cycle.

Danman 10:14 am 23 Feb 10

Make your car a 25kV faraday cage….

Spam Box 10:10 am 23 Feb 10

Never had a problem with them. One guy in particular I respect for his work ethic, he’s out there all the time.

Better that then robbing houses for shot money.

Deano 10:09 am 23 Feb 10

Personally I admire their enterprise in getting of their backside and making an effort to support themselves. Yes, they probably don’t pay tax on their income or declare it to Centrelink but they aren’t wasting their life or breaking into houses either. Good luck to them.

As for finding them intimidating, get real. You’re inside a mobile metal box, surrounded by witnesses and they are armed with nothing more than a squeegee and a bucket of dirty water. Even if they wash your window after you decline their offer, you are not obliged to pay if you don’t want to.

People object to them because they represent a part of society that they like to pretend doesn’t exist.

niftydog 10:04 am 23 Feb 10

Give them nothing! They’re doing better than many of us!

Just think about it for a second. Even underestimating the figures they are absolutely making a killing:

Lets assume 1 car per light cycle (say 3 mins?) & $1 per car.

In 1 hour they’ve made $20.
Stick at it for 8 hours, five days a week and that’s $800 every week
$41,600 tax free per year!!!!!

The reality is even worse – they probably average more than one car per cycle in peak hour, and possibly twice as much or more per car. They also do longer hours and weekends.

Those of you out there who think you’re helping out a disadvantaged soul need to wake up to yourselves. You are most likely indirectly supporting the illegal drug trade.

Eyl 10:01 am 23 Feb 10

A few months ago i just had a crack in my windscreen replaced and was told not to get it wet for the next 24hrs. Later that afternoon i was approached in Civic by one of those people and i clearly said “No thanks” and he insisted so being the only car in that lane as he lent over my car to start washing i reversed backwards a bit. I know it was kinda wrong of me to do that but i just paid $100’s to get the crack fixed. So he just said to me “its just water” then went accross the road and started yelling obsene stuff at me. I never reported this however, i know what the police would just say.

Rawhide Kid No 2 9:50 am 23 Feb 10

One way to get them off the streets is point out every OH&S rule and regulation they’re breaching. Including no insurance. But then they might not care about Rules & Regulations. Its obliviously not against the law to do what they do. Otherwise the would be fined or something. But then I could be wrong.

pptvb 9:46 am 23 Feb 10

You would have more luck securing one of the window washers a modeling career than getting “Fair Trading” to leave their office or make a decision.
Not until one of them is hit by a car will anything be done.(would he offer to clean up his own mess?)
I bet the window washers wouldn’t be allowed to operate on Pialligo Ave, in view of M.P’s or even POTUS !

kennardly 9:41 am 23 Feb 10

I think if they are not doing this for money to get their drugs they would be robbing your house instead. Which one would you prefer?

prhhcd 9:39 am 23 Feb 10

Thank you Benita. I’ve been wanting to write about this issue for a while, but you did a much better job then I could have done. I have also complained to the ACT govt via Canb Connect and told there is nothing they can do. Ridiculous.
I find them extremely intimidating and intentionally avoid those intersections (e.g. Northbourne/Antill st). I would be glad to see them go.

grump 9:24 am 23 Feb 10

any feral cyclists or pedestrians involved?

spinact 9:20 am 23 Feb 10

Doesn’t matter how long you spent writing up your post or how many disclaimers you put in, you WILL get paid out on this post. All complaint style posts do. So stand by for pay day.

I’ve never had a problem with the windscreen cleaners. They offer, I shake my head and they move onto the next car. Mind you I’m not a women of asian extraction.

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