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Street Donation Guy Etiquette

June 4, 2008

What is the proper way to handle those sometimes annoying people on the street who want to tell you about the poor children in Africa/India/China/Peru/etc who will die if you don’t sign up with their organization and pledge to contribute less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day?

One of these guys stopped me yesterday while I was downtown and I politely told him I did not feel comfortable leaving my credit card information on piece of paper in a stranger’s hand in city like Washington DC. He seemed upset. So I asked him if his organization had a website I could look at, which he gave to me, then very sarcastically apologized for wasting my time.

Last year, I was walking with my girlfriend and one person stopped us and actually showed us pictures of different kids and said that the kids with the older, more worn pictures were actually in more danger because their pictures were not as glossy as some of the others. Apparently people don’t like to “adopt” the kids with the wrinkly pictures, and we would be extra responsible for the demise of these kids because we were their last best hope. Again, when asked about the website she acknowledged it existed, but suggested we give her the pledge now then cancel online later if we don’t like what see on the website. A better sales approach, to be sure, but it was still not going to happen.

These encounters have made me wonder: What is the proper etiquette for this type of situation? Is it less rude to blow by them, or to stop and listen even when you have no intention of giving them money?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ashley permalink
    June 5, 2008 8:47 am

    In Chinatown and Penn Quarter it’s always the DNC and Greenpeace taking over the sidewalks with kids that come to DC with the hopes of a cool summer internship and then find out later that they will be soliciting pedestrians all day, everyday. DC newbies are easy to spot because they generally stop for these people just as much as they throw dollar bills at street performers and bums. Sooner rather than later, annoyance sets in and the counterattack is formed. I have five deflection plans for these situation all of which require you to be on the lookout at all times so you can formulate the best plan of attack.

    1. You can usually spot these people on the street corner from a block away. Cross the street as soon as you spot. An extra 30 feet on foot is well worth it. This works best with the bums and not so much the solicitors because they usually have three of four street corners covered.

    2. Get really into your iPod. If you have a video iPod, even better. Pretend to be so fixed on it that you can part your eyes from it for one second and can’t manage to hear anyone around you.

    3. Let’s say you aren’t paying attention and one of these guys sneak up on you. Reach for the cell phone immediately. “Hello. OH MY GOD IS HE OKAY?!? WHAT HAPPENED?” Walk quickly while shouting these words. This tactic has always done the trick for me.

    4. The main target for solicitors are groups of people. Easier to stop cause people aren’t typically charging down the street when they are walking with someone and they get a larger audience for their pitch. If crossing streets isn’t an option, be sure to be late for something. Whether it be a game, meeting, wake, etc. an “I’m so sorry but we are very very late, maybe next time,” can usually do the trick.

    5. When all else fails, bust out the sign language. They can’t give you a pitch or expect a response if they think you are deaf. A simple point to the ear and some kind of hand gesture will do the trick. At most, they will hand you a brochure to which you nod and then be on your way. Terrible, I know, but all in the name of self preservation.

  2. Keri permalink
    June 5, 2008 8:59 am

    I like respond to “do you care about the environment” with “no.” That seems to work.

    Sometimes I tell the DNC kids, “I work for the DNC, keep up the good work. We need each and every one of you.”

    Ok, so maybe I just like fucking with them.

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