Crackdown on 'chuggers' in Romford over trade fears
PUBLISHED: 16:26 11 June 2015 | UPDATED: 16:07 12 June 2015
Controversial town centre fundraisers - or "chuggers" - are to face restrictions on where, when and how they work after complaints from shoppers and businesses.
Fears have been raised that the daily presence of clipboard-wielding charity collectors in South Street, Romford, is driving away business as punters go to great lengths to avoid their glare.
They are paid to sign up donors on the spot but their unpopular tactics have now caught the attention of Havering Council.
The Recorder can reveal the authority has joined a growing list of more than 100 councils in drafting an agreement with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) to limit them to work only certain days and in designated areas on the high street.
The plans will also limit the amount of workers allowed, though full details are still being hammered out.
Readers have made their thoughts on “chuggers” known through social media, accusing them of “harassment” and calling them “annoying”, but the Recorder visited South Street to get the other side of the story.
Sarah Irving, 19, of New Cross Gate, has been fundraising for Oxfam for four weeks. She gets paid £9 an hour and travels all over London Monday to Friday in search of donors.
“It gets easier,” she said, after explaining she initially had a three-day trial, tasked with getting 12, 18 and then 24 donors.
“We only have to get their name and phone number and then they get a call in a few weeks. I have to get 35 a day now. A lot of people quit after one day.”
Lesley D: “Its so annoying when they pounce on you to try to get you to donate money. I class it as harassment and no I don’t donate.
“I think it puts people off of coming down South Street. In turn if people take a different route they are taking away the lively hoods of the shop keepers!”
Robert Z: “Dislike the chuggers. I avoid South St where Marks and Primarks are for that reason.”
Mark R: “Running the gauntlet of chuggers and sales people in south street can be annoying but a polite smile and a no thank you is all that’s needed.”
Peter C: “I walk along South Street nearly every day, sometimes I get approached 3 times, get fed up with it”
Sam H: “It’s very difficult to move down what should be a wide pedestrianised area and I find the only way to avoid being accosted is to be intently messaging on my phone.”
She does it because it’s a “good cause” and “better than retail work”, and understands some might not agree with their tactics.
“People have their own views and I don’t blame them,” she said. “I don’t take it personally. You can be as nice as possible and sometimes they don’t acknowledge you at all.”
Sarah and her colleagues are only allowed to take three steps each way when trying to sign up a donor.
Her team leader, who did not want to be named, has been in the industry for four years and said Oxfam is “very strict” on staff not crossing the line.
“We don’t allow them to touch people unless it’s a handshake,” he explained. “We don’t like them to talk to someone for too long or walk with them. That’s why I’m here watching them. If I see anything like that they will get debranded and could lose their job.”
And he was passionately against the idea of restricting the movements of his staff. “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion but this decision is not a good idea,” he argued. “Charities rely massively on face-to-face fundraising.
“Billboards cost £20,000 a week and nobody looks at them. What do we do when TV adverts come on? Change channel or make a cup of tea. Charities will take the hit. Children in Africa who need water may be a long way down the road but the first contact comes from what people do here today.”