The other day a person on the street asked me if I cared about children with HIV.
They asked it just like that, as I have typed it. "Do you care about children with HIV?" the man asked as I was briskly walking past, on my way to somewhere.
How was I supposed to answer that? Well, I know how the gentleman would have liked me to answer it. "Yes, of course I do," would have opened up a dialogue about the topic, segueing into a discussion about the charity he was chugging for.
'Chuggers' (a combination of 'charity' and 'muggers') are commonplace in Australian capital cities. Fundraisers (uni students, foreign visitors, do-gooders) lurk on busy streets and systematically stalk the public in an attempt to appeal to a passerby's good nature in the form of charity donations or subscriptions.
That part I have no problem with. Charities are wonderful, necessary, commendable organisations. I love charities and I give to charities often. I also appreciate that charities need to raise funds by a variety of means and that at times means face-to-face interactions with the public.
My issue is with the language used around the topic in a bid to lure would-be philanthropists. Chuggers use open-ended questions, which, when phrased correctly are intended to engage the person they're speaking with and encourage full, meaningful answers (and are supposed to be less leading than closed-ended questions).
But in this context, I feel this type of language is extremely leading. In Sydney's Martin Place just a few days ago I was
asked shouted at: "Do you care about animals?"
My answer was a short, sharp "No" because I didn't have time to say: "Yes, I do care about animals. That's why I don't eat them. Do you eat them? I also have two rescue pets and donate a decent sum monthly to my chosen charities. I am on my way to an important meeting right now so can't talk but as a whole I think charities such as the one you represent are wonderful and I applaud their good work."
And can you guess their response? "Well that's not very nice", to which I replied "nor is your approach".
Perhaps more constructive, open-ended questions would have fewer people crossing the street to avoid such situations. Perhaps a little professionalism would do the charity these people represent some justice. Maybe some statistics and facts around the cases they're spruiking could ignite a meaningful interaction and coax a coin from a pocket or two.
Because right now the attention-grabbing one-liners that chuggers are employing are the street equivalent of tacky clickbait, and I'm not biting.