I’ve written about this before (not entirely sure where – can’t find it so it may have been a Facebook post) and this article on the Huffington Post captures my feelings on the situation of our high streets today. Kinda. Our high streets are not the only battleground. But let’s focus on the high street for now.
So most high streets are mirror images of each other. Only each town/city has a different layout and certain things that make them unique but if you ignore the aesthetics they are identical. Same shops, with the odd (slowly becoming extinct) family store/non franchise and most town/city centres wouldn’t be complete without the staple that is the Big Issue salesperson, busker, accident/injury rep, breakdown rep, Sky salesmen (it’s always men), TalkTalk sales-folk, Messenger of God (you know, the folk that ask if you believe and force leaflets and what-not upon you – evidently God is not a believer in ‘Going Green’ to preserve the green goodness that he supposedly created) and of course, ‘Charity Chuggers’.
It’s almost like 4D. Our daytime TV is wrought with accident/injury claim lines, sponsor a [insert animal/child/anything really here] and our streets are to these monotonous adverts as Disney on Ice is to the kids’ favourite characters.
Using tactics such as positioning directly outside of an entrance/exit to maraud you BOTH ways. Flanking you by spreading out across a street so there is no escape. Although one of my funniest moments was probably the laziest attempt ever: I was walking to work (this is going back about 8 years and I was starting work at 13:30 for a late shift) and as I passed Phones4U (R.I.P) an employee was standing outside smoking a fag. He called over to me, “Are you due an upgrade because I can do you a fantastic deal?”
“I work for T-Mobile.”
“That’s OK, I can bet whatever deal you have!”
“What? You can give me FREE line rental too?”
“Aw, no (laughs uncomfortably).”
Pwned like a n00b. Although, after this, a few yards down the street I then get tackled by a Jesus-man. I politely took the card, carried on walking and then binned it.
I am the type of person that finds it very hard to say no. Especially when I am quite a caring and giving person (folks that know me will scoff at this; to them, I say fuck off). On one occasion, I was taking my eldest to school when a man from some children’s charity asked me if I had a minute. I didn’t have much chance to respond and before I knew it he was engaged in ‘pitch mode’. I advised him we were running late and I need to get my daughter to school and he responded with something like, “It only takes two minutes to give your bank details, imagine if it was any of your kids!” Boom. That got my attention and I almost let slip a few expletives until I realised how it’d make me look considering my daughter is by my side and a few other parents and kids on their way to school too. I can’t think fast when it comes to being polite so my response was a pathetic, “I don’t have two minutes, especially for the likes of you.”
Now, I’ve said it before, I am not against charities. I give to the Alzheimer’s Society monthly out of my pay and I give to others when I can. Sponsored walks, marathons – things that are either close to my heart or that my friends and family partake in. Casual giving. What I do not like is the almost military operations that not just charities but sales reps go to. I am still trying to get the guts for when the guys on the accident/injury stands when they ask if I’ve had any accidents to point at my kids and say, “Yeah, these!” just to see what their reaction is.
I hate it when I walk into a shop and the reps flock to me to ask if they can help. I’ve said this before – a number of times I’ve just turned round and marched straight back out. Most times I only go into places like PC World or Currys to kill time while I wait for Lauren to look at clothes and stuff. What’s happening on the streets is pretty much the same meaning now, there is very little respite from this nonsense!
There should be some sort of code of conduct, similar to standards required for selling insurance where you can’t try to convince/coax people to take it on. If there already is, then these fuckers need to familiarise themselves with it.
But sadly that war doesn’t end there. It’s on the doorstep. Before it just used to be Jehova’s Witnesses. It was much easier then. Hearing an unfamiliar knock on the door, my mind would work through a very simple flow chart:
One thing that really pisses me off is the fact that (other than it no longer being as simple as my above thought process) I have a sign on the front door saying no cold callers or solicitors. Now, these fuckers expect me to take the time to listen to what the have to say and read their leaflets and shit. Yet they can’t seem to read a simple instruction on my door. Again, there should be some sort of monitoring guidance in place for this. Telephone calls can be blocked and alleviated by the TPS (Telephone Preference Service) as well as the option to opt out of the ‘open register’, meaning companies get an edited version without your details.
It just seems like, considering most people aren’t that well off, we are being backed into a corner of being asked to give and feel guilty when we can’t as it’s a constant reminder that a lot of us do not have the disposable income we once had or wish to have. Worst of all, I don’t see it changing. For the better, anyway.