Street Collectors: Is Shopper Fatigue Setting In?

Posted by on Sep 27, 2011 | 5 Comments

Colonel Gaddafi was furious when he was tracked to his hiding place by Vince Flam, a chugger for Mencap

Colonel Gaddafi was furious when he was tracked to his hiding place by Vince Flam, a chugger for Mencap

It may come as somewhat of a surprise to Speculator readers that The NZ Forest and Bird Society (FBS) can be a bit, well, rude. In fact, at the risk of cracking a shocking pun, they are developing a bit of a reputation as badgers.

This is according to ex-Takapuna councillor Mike Sheehy, who made a plea at the recent Devonport Takapuna Local Board (DTLB) meeting for the Board to address the issue of the “ongoing badgering” to which professional fundraisers – and particularly those representing FBS – are subjecting Takapuna shoppers.

Sheehy and his colleague from Milford Murray Hill related several stories of over-zealous collectors intimidating shoppers in and around the Takapuna and Milford shopping centres, and expressed concern that this was driving customers away from shopping at those locations.

In the UK, these individuals have been labelled “chuggers;” a shortening of the phrase “charity mugger.”  They are professional collectors, trained in the art of “stop and besmirch ” (if you don’t pay up), who are employed by professional fundraising organisations and trained and hired to inveigle their way into your lunchtime daydreams to secure your bank details and a regular payment to Good Cause of the week.

Sheehy made the point that the system had worked relatively well under the old council, but under the new regime, council official Warwick Robertson appeared to be handing out permits to anyone, as evidenced by the cantankerous gentleman recently the subject of  a Speculator article who was apparently  collecting for Women’s Rugby League.

Councillor Diane Hale made the point that the Board has the power to develop its own bylaw with respect to the issue of regulating street collections, but a report was needed to assess the level of disquiet among the community.

Devonport shoppers may have noticed this new breed of charity collector that can often be found ensconced outside Westpac; young, often from the UK and aggressively over-friendly.

Indeed, The Speculator was wandering down Victoria Rd minding his own business the other day when he was loudly assailed by a young chap with a voice like a foghorn and a sarff London accent to boot, who asked cheerfully; “Question for you Sir; what do you know about the Red Cross?”

Which is irritating because it’s the kind of approach which is designed to give you little choice but to answer, and thus suck you down the path to ultimately providing your bank details for an ongoing regular payment to whatever Honest Cause is being promoted.

By coincidence, I was having dinner later that night with a friend who works for Greenpeace, and I asked him if these street collectors really were worth the antagonism they generated. His reply was unequivocal; they were definitely effective as a recruitment tool. Which begs the question, how willing exactly are those recruited? A different issue altogether and an impossible question to answer of course.

I strode past the young chump while explaining I was signed up to enough charities thank you, and one of his colleagues yelled after me “Have a nice day” in way that suggested she didn’t really mean it.

While the experience in itself was unpleasant, it is also concerning that organisations with such honourable motives are being represented by such noisy larrikins, who must have some impact on the perception of the organisations they represent, who seem to have adopted the policy of “the ends justifies the means.”

Not to mention the ruining of a perfectly good (if unrealistic) daydream.

Any thoughts on this issue, Devonpopulace? Let us know if you have any experiences – good or bad – of “chuggers” in Devonport, by posting a comment on this article. We’ll forward your feedback to the Local Board, where it may form part of the case for a tightening of the regulations. – Ed


  1. GB says:

    We can all address this issue and others, when Len Brown comes to Devo village, from 6:30 tonight is it??

  2. Ric says:

    The “Chuggers” are much like the beggers on Queen st. If no one gave them any money they would soon dissappear.

    Whats the old saying about a fool and their money being easily parted

    Ric – I’m not sure being a fool is worse than being uncharitable – are you?- Ed

  3. Jordan says:

    Just tell them you’re already a paying member. It usually gets you a smile and a handshake. I don’t feel guilty about it because I do support one charity, but if I supported them all I couldn’t support myself!

  4. Marg says:

    Personally, they scare me witless and I will go out of my way to avoid them! I did have a very unpleasant encounter last year sometime with a collector from Greenpeace who started on at my young son saying ” and what do you think about your mother’s attitude?” which we both found very aggressive and disturbing. I choose my own charities to support and I often support the representatives of local groups (who sit quietly in the New World foyer !) but feel completely antagonistic to the “chuggers” on the main road.

  5. Roger Brittenden says:

    Personally, I am getting a bit sick of these “street collectors”.
    Almost every day there are three or four professionals occupying the area outside Westpac, hassling people to the point where people now avoid using the curved bench seats on the corner.
    When I painted these seats recently I saw at first hand their technique to stop people who were passing by and the discomfort they caused.
    Definitely time for the LB to pass a by-law!

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