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How to Avoid The Chuggers (Charity Muggers)

Take a walk down pretty much any high street these days, and often just a regular street, and chances are you’ll get accosted by a ‘chugger’. No I’m not talking about someone overly downing a massive amount of beer, though they may go and do that later on. I’m talking about very cheerily aggressive people stopping you and telling you all about the wonders of a charity that they’re supposedly trying to help.

Chugger (noun): Charity + Mugger
Paid “charity” street worker (read: student) who has been trained to believe that they are carrying out a worthy task, improving peoples’ lives by conning Joe Public out of their money for this week’s Good Cause. Usually an agency worker where the agency takes a hefty cut of the hourly rate that the charity in question has paid for, whilst at the same time increasing profits by selling on details of those foolish enough to actually stop and sign up to said Good Cause. (Urban Dictionary)

So while your walking down town and trying to mind your own business and keep your money safe, what methods do you use to try and steer clear of these young ambitious (and seemingly well paid) chuggers? A couple of friends and I have assembled a top 10 list of our favourite tried and tested methods that have got us out of awkward conversations and helped a real charity-case; ourselves. I do want to point out that I’m not against charities and do give what I can when I can (which I’ll admit isn’t very often), but I’m not a fan of “all these people are suffering and only you can help them” type sales pitches. I don’t want that kind of responsibility, I’m not frickin’ Batman.

Honourable Mention: Rugby – When eye contact is made, picture yourself on a rugby pitch with the tri line just behind them. Run, dodge and weave your way right past them, not stopping until you’ve planted your non-existent ball (usually your shopping) in the scoring zone (usually the lap of an elderly man sitting on a bench).

Chuggers may use subtle psychology to try and part you from your money.
10. Photography – Interestingly how I got the pictures for this blog. When you’re walking down the road and spot the Chugger Patrol, get your camera out and look up and the tops of the buildings. Take a few pictures (fake it if you want), then fiddle with some settings. Say things to yourself like “ooh, the lighting isn’t quite right” and “I’ll just adjust the exposure a tad” then take a couple more. By which time the chuggers will have seen you ‘working’ and won’t be arsed to talk to you as you walk past them. The main downside to this is that it can take a little time, so not ideal if you’re in a hurry.

9. Be Literate – As well as killing time on a long commute, having a book, newspaper, or magazine to hand can help bypass a chugger or two. Open a page and put your nose right in to give you an excuse not to notice the massive smiley person after your money. However, try to keep an eye on where you’re going, particularly if you’re heading towards a main road, otherwise a chugger will be the last of your worries.

8. The Direct Approach – Chuggers are trained to be very friendly and positive in their approach, so this is a regular fire versus fire technique. Instead of allowing a chugger to spot and approach you, you head in their direction with the biggest creepy grin your can concoct. You can make this more effective by turning your head slightly sidewise but maintaining eye contact. The goal is to get nearer to the chugger so they get creeped out and move to someone behind you. However, cock-this up and you’ve virtually given your bank details right to them.

7. The Very Direct Approach – The English language has been blessed with a rich lexicon, as such there are plenty of words that you wouldn’t want your 8 year old to shout in front of a church of elderly people. This technique is commonly used by anyone who has had a bad day, normally work-related, but isn’t recommended for people with small children (protect their little sodding ears and all that). It works simply as this, when approached by a chugger, trying to capture your attention by talking about how great things are, you simple keep on walking but give them two “words of encouragement” that rhyme with Cook Off.

6. Be Embarrassing – Most effective when you’re visiting somewhere that people are unlikely to see you again, so not one for your home towns. Once eye contact with a chugger is made you have but a few seconds to try and make yourself as unappealing as possible and make the chugger go straight for the unfortunate person behind you. Some suggestions are faking tourettes, rip off your t-shirt and shove it down your bottoms, or get into dance mode and try to moonwalk past the chugger.

5. The Floor – I’ll tell you what, I never noticed how fascinate the floor is. Go ahead, have a look. If you think it’s pretty good now, it’s really thrilling when you’re out there on Chugger Street. Pulling off the ‘Stare At The Floor’ does require a bit of a steely determination, and a dynamite concentration. Try focussing on the feet of the person in front of you, unless of course it’s a chugger. Like the reading a book tip, watch where you’re heading.

To be fair, this Chugger started his spiel with "I'm not after your money today".
4. I’m Late! – One of the easiest evasion methods on here. When approached by a chugger simply speed up your walk, point down to your wrist, and announce that “you’re late for work, sorry”. This can have comical effects when you’re wearing a t-shirt and clearly have no watch on. Be warned though, a determined chugger will offer to walk with you in which case you’d better think of somewhere you can get to and claim it to be your place of work (if you’re brave, properly equipped, and love a bit of irony, you could always be on your way to work as a chugger yourself).

3. Eigo ga dekinai (I don’t speak English) – A treat for anyone who has an interest in the world. For this one to work you have to be able to mutter a line or two in a foreign language, something most of us can do thanks to learning it at school (if we can remember that far back) or European holidays. Beware that most chuggers are or have been University students, and it’s very possible that they studied that language that you are about to try and blag your fluency in. This is more likely to be the case with European languages. Thankfully I have yet to meet a chugger who can speak Japanese.

2. iGnore – The beauty of the portable music player has meant that you have a visible reason for blatantly ignoring people. Spot a chugger down the street and whack your headphones in. You don’t even need to be listening to anything, as long as your headphones are visible you can just breeze past them. You can make this more effective by singing along (quietly) to what you’re listening to (or pretending to listen to). Of course listening to loud music means you’re (supposedly) more likely to get robbed, so still keep your wits about you.

Smart move my friend, keep your hands on your money ... literally.

1. The Phone – The easiest way to avoid chuggination in this day and age is down to the fact that there are over 70 million mobile phones connected in the UK (which is actually quite funny if you know what the UK population size is). The technique is to simply whack your phone to your ear and pretend to talk to someone. Use a few “hmm, yeah …” and “so did it work?” type sentences, try to imagine a conversation you might have with someone. Or if your imagination’s not up to the task, you could actually ring someone and have a brief chat. This way if you’re approached by a chugger you just need to gesture to your phone and they’ll get the hint (unless they’re sodding rude). Please remember to put your phone on silent, otherwise you risk not only deafening yourself but also looking like a complete berk.

So there we have it, our top ten tips on how to avoid getting chugged. Unfortunately if the dialogue begins you’re on your own there, but here are three quick methods of trying to break it. First of all, if they ask you any ‘Qualifier Question’ (ie are you in a specific age group) just say “No”. If it’s followed up with other questions just repeat No until they get bored of you. If they have a memorised script then let them say the entire thing, then just stand there for a moment, make a few “thinking noises” then casually walk off. If all else fails, start crying. You can almost guarantee they’ll let you go.

And just because a friend of mine asked me how the Japanese ignore people, here’s a rather stereotypical scenario (set to start at 5:33).