Imagine I stopped you on the street, perhaps applying a bit of gentle pressure, persuaded you to give me your bank details, then used them to take over £500 from your account without really telling you what it was going towards; you would have good reason to think you have been mugged.
Yet last night’s Newsnight revealed that this is, in effect, what is happening with chugging. The British Heart Foundation are paying on average £136 per sign-up, but claim that they get £3-4 back.
The industry ‘watchdog’ the PFRA – who, of course, get some of that £136 – were wheeled out to defend the practice along with the British Heart Foundation (to whom I’d occasionally donated in the past, but will channel that money elsewhere in the future) but not, to my mind convincingly.
To me it’s hard to see how it’s anything but an incredibly bad way to give money. Half the people who sign up never even cover the costs of the sign-up to the charity they are, supposedly, supporting. Even if the £3-4 return on the sign-up fee is true it still represents and administration cost of 20-25%.
In effect we have a practice that doesn’t really benefit the charity as much as if should, and most certainly doesn’t benefit the high streets where they hassle people.
In Wandsworth we still have an uneasy truce in which the PFRA have, graciously, agreed not to chug in the Tooting Broadway area, but insist they are entitled to go chugging when and where they want. And while the council still has no power to licence or regulate the practice pedestrians in the rest of our town centres still have to risk walking the gauntlet of chuggers when they go shopping.