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Behold: The Chugger

The word Chugger strikes images of beer and perhaps Vikings drinking a lot of it. The truth behind the word is far more complex though and if you’ve ever been accosted on the street by someone with a money bucket and clipboard, you’ll know what it’s all about.



BEFORE I set foot on English soil I’d presumed that a ‘Chugger’ was someone who regularly engaged in ‘chugging’; gulping down a large quantity of drink. Six hours later I found out London already had a word for this person – it was ‘Londoner’. I would wax lyrical about the quantity and regularity of heavy drinking in the capital (by no means a bad thing I hasten to add), but I’ll save that for the weekend: that’s how binge drinkers do it after all.

No, today’s rant is about the slightly odd phenomenon of The Charity Mugger, or ‘Chugger’ as the Metro and now everyone else, calls them. These are the people who further clutter up an already cluttered High St, desperately trying to make eye contact so that they can charm you out of £3 a month for some dubious cause: starving children or some nonsense.

For those who didn’t spot the tongue in the cheek of that last paragraph, I’m not the anti-Chugger at all and am certainly not anti-charity. In fact I’m constantly amazed that so many people seem to be repeating spurious arguments about how everyone knows that all charity money goes on administration or supporting warlords. If you don’t want to part with £3 a month to help someone in the third world then don’t, but please save me from your recycled ramblings on how this was a moral rather than parsimonious decision.

It’s not like most of us are that short of money though. Odd how when a middle-class child comes banging at your door in late October, dressed as one of the killers from the Scream or Saw franchises and demanding candied prunes  lest they vandalise your house, you think they’re adorable and swiftly empty your pantry into their already full rucksack of goodies. Conversely when a badly paid Chugger asks you for a minute of your time to help starving children who really do need your help, they’re a pain in the arrrrfternoon. We seem to treat competing causes (if you can really call trick-or-treaters a ‘cause’) like prospective lovers and neediness is always an unattractive quality.

The problem is one of timing. It really is everything: the Chugger almost always catches you at a bad time – on your way to or from work or during your lunch break. If you don’t work in an office and are therefore more likely to be wandering the streets during office hours, you get more pestered than anyone. If these Chugger organisations are not paying students to bounce on their heels and wave clipboards at people on high streets then they’re buying up ads on daytime TV. I could be wrong on this, but if a disproportionate number of people listening to your sales pitch are on the dole, you really need to rethink your marketing strategy.

Don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure the New Zealand branch of WorldVision got this right. Hit people around 6:30/ 7ish, when they’re having dinner. They’re not on the way anywhere and they’re just sitting there watching skinny people whilst making themselves fatter. Perfect!

Get rid of the Charity Muggers on the streets and let’s return ‘chugging’ to where it belongs: in the pub or back on the High Street at one in the morning after heavy drinking.