Collectors tell of getting the cold shoulder and abused: 'I got asked if I was from ISIS'

Next time these people get on your nerves, spare some sympathy. Photo / Getty Images
Next time these people get on your nerves, spare some sympathy. Photo / Getty Images

There is a job where you can be ignored by almost everyone, sworn at, patronised and even racially abused.

This is the world of charity collectors, those smiling people who stand on footpaths and street corners, to try and get money from people for the charities they represent.

They also bear the brunt of the fury of many who feel the tactics used by the collectors, or "chuggers or charity muggers", is confrontational and intrusive - and they are not afraid to let the collectors know.

The Daily Telegraph on Thursday revealed The Fair Work Ombudsman was poised to announce an inquiry into how charities outsource their fundraising, with the investigation reportedly considering stricter punishments on those charities that allow for-profit middlemen to rort the system.

The public face of these middlemen are the collectors who bail shoppers up for their hard-earned dollars. "Chuggers" who spoke to in central Sydney today said they coped the full spectrum of responses.

"There are three sorts of people. The ones who will just ignore you, the ones who politely decline or the ones who say something angry," said Sam, who works for the Red Cross.
He has only been in the job two weeks but has already been on the receiving end of abuse.

"I got asked if I was from ISIS," he said pointing to his beard. Others speculated they would pocket the money for themselves. "They say 'you're just going to keep the money'."

Sam said very negative responses were relatively rare, with the worst of it being a cold shoulder. That happened a lot. He estimated the success rate was only about "one in 10".

Abrahim spent his first day on the job for Red Cross yesterday and agreed people could bring race into it as a means of abuse.

They also brought with them all sorts of prejudices against charities or international organisations they didn't believe did what they claimed to do.

"They say 'you guys don't do this, or don't do that' ... There is not much you can say to change their minds."

Sam told you could spot people who didn't want to be disturbed "their faces are like thunder" and the majority of people had the same reason not to stop.

"They're all running late for work. If that's true then I don't know how anything gets done around here," he said with a smile.

Chandra, 20, has only just begun her job collecting for the Fred Hollows Foundation. She watched one man tell her boss to "f**k off" and has grown used to people not returning her smile or greetings.

"I feel like saying to them, 'that's OK you don't want to contribute, but you could say hello back'."

When she did convey that to people the usual response was: "It's your job - so get used to it."

Another "chugger", who asked not to be named, said she was used to pitying glances from people.

"The worst is the muttering about you when you walk away. It's so obvious, and the looks they give you are as if you are a piece of sh*t on the ground," she said.

She could understand though most people had experienced what they considered to be rude behaviour from collectors themselves so were just reacting.

"They are probably fed up. I try and not let it ruin my day."

One middleman fundraiser investigated by the Ombudsman for underpayment earlier this year raised funds for The Wilderness Society, OXFAM Australia, UNICEF, RSPCA, Starlight Children's Foundation of Australia and the Cancer Council.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Michael Campbell told the Telegraph everyone involved in charitable fundraising had a "social, moral and corporate responsibility to ensure compliance with workplace laws".

"Many charities have no idea whether the workers who are wearing hats and T-shirts bearing their logos and collecting donations on their behalf are being paid correctly or treated fairly," he said.

Many charities had been "horrified" to discover workers were being exploited.


Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 26 Oct 2016 03:21:53 Processing Time: 913ms