Charity 'chugging' tactics stir call for action

By Dan Santy 01/03 Updated: 02/03 12:46

Shoppers being approached by a charity collector in Leamington this week.

CALLS have been made to stop “nuisance” charity workers pestering shoppers in the centre of Rugby.

The Observer has received a string of complaints from harassed shoppers who said the town centre had been turned into an obstacle course by what have been described as charity muggers or 'chuggers'.

In Rugby, High Street and Market Place are the chugging hotspots although the hard-sell fund-raising practice of getting people to sign up to direct debits is already limited to a maximum of two days a week in the borough.

But residents remain unhappy with the chuggers.

Tara Kinross said: "I think what they do is for a good cause but I'm constantly being asked to set up direct debits for charities which, given the economic situation, I can't afford to do. This can be awkward and embarrassing.

"If they went back to donation tins I think people wouldn't feel so uncomfortable as I always put some money in a tin if people are out collecting. That way you put in what you can afford at the time."

And Rosie Evans agreed.

She said: "It drives us mad, especially when they approach us more than once in the same day.

"We support charities which have been important in our lives so it does drive me crazy when you have to play the avoid eye contact game.

Vicky Skinner was equally fed-up with the activity.

She said: "I hate it. Many are finding it difficult to feed their own family and then getting harassed by people while trying to shop is horrible. It makes me not want to give.

"I don't like being rude to people but find I have to or I cannot get away. It's not just charity workers either, it's energy companies and people trying to sign you up for anything really.

"I can't afford to commit to a monthly payment and I give when I can. People with tins are much less intimidating, and fund-raising events make it fun to donate."

The views were echoed with scathing comments by Peter Quinn, chairman of charity organisation Charity Aid, who described 'chugging' as an "exploitative, dishonest and parasitic industry" which siphoned off millions of pounds from donations intended for charity work.

He added: "Independent research shows chuggers keep more than the first £100 they get from a donor. The only reason chugging exists is that the public are not aware of the facts."

A borough council spokesman said chugging in Rugby had been limited to two days a week since the introduction of the Bid scheme in 2005.

Charities known to have had workers operating, such as Shelter and the NSPCC, were contacted but had not responded as we went to press.

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