“Hey, I like your hat!”
“You look like a guy with something to say, wanna stop and talk with me for awhile?!”
“Hi, my name is Sherrie! (Sherrie tries to shake my hand) what’s your name?”
“Hey, fellow plaid wearer, can you stop and help me out for a minute?”
“Now here’s a handsome guy I’d like to know better, hey handsome guy, gotta minute?”
If you live or work in Downtown Seattle, you hear these insincere come-ons, and many more like them … all day, every day. Since I spend the majority of my life in Downtown Seattle, I suffer through them more than most.
What am I talking about?
Why, the Downtown Seattle fundraising scammers of course, a/k/a “charity muggers”, a/k/a “chuggers”.
A woman’s right to choose, a whale’s right to swim, a tree’s right to live — the causes change weekly, but the pitch stays the same: Disarm the passerby with comical insincerity, hawk the cause, and be persistent. Very, very persistent.
For the last six or seven months, I’ve been very polite. I’ve said “No, thanks” and walked on. The chuggers typically follow me for a few steps before giving up, but they do, eventually, give up.
Lately, however, I find myself getting less patient with the fundraising scammers. Just two hours ago, I alighted from a trolley car and began walking toward Westlake Park. When a scammer approached me at 5th and Pine, hand outstretched — I yelled “get the fuck away from me!” as loudly as I could. Several days ago, I threatened to punch a scammer if he continued to follow me. Last month, I colloquially invited a chugger to service me orally while holding out my middle finger.
Because it’s all just gotten to be too much. They harass me in the morning, they harass me in the afternoon, they harass me on the weekends. In 2011, I’ve been approached literally thousands of times by the fundraising scammers. They step in front of me, follow me, and sometimes make snide remarks when I ask them politely to leave me alone.
I’m not alone. More and more often, I’m seeing Downtowners react with hostily to these people, and in my opinion, the “fundraisers” deserve every bit of the abuse.
You see, what the chuggers don’t realize is that when they approach the average Downtown resident or worker, we’ve already been approached 5 times before, on the same day. Usually for the same cause. We get approached all day, every day, and we know their shtick. We play along for a few months, and then we get weary.
Exactly how many times are we supposed to feign politeness?
On top of it all, we know that they are not legitimate “fundraisers”. Hell, even legitimate fundraisers usually aren’t legitimate. 99% of charities are outright scams, but the ones being plied on Downtown streets take it to a whole new level.
We’ve all seen the ads pinned up around town:
Make the world a better place for $9/hour!
We are aware that the whole thing is a racket. Sham companies hire 20 college-age kids to panhandle under the auspices of “charity”, pay the kids an hourly rate, and keep what they bring in. Not a tree is saved; not a whale is helped. We’re not stupid. We know this.
Yet, every day, we smile and politely say “no thanks”. We know the economy is tough, and we know that scammers have to eat too.
There is a point, however, at which a welcome is worn out.
With me, that point has arrived.
The scammers are showing absolutely no respect for Downtown or its people by browbeating us every day, and they thus should have no expectation of respect in return.
Chuggers, you’ve burned me out. Please leave me alone. Please leave us all alone. You’ve milked the core and its people for all of the patience they have.
Yes, you have the right to stand on the corner of 2nd & Pike and work your hustle, but I also have the right to be an asshole.
From now on, if you exercise your rights, don’t be surprised when I exercise mine.