COLIN DRURY: ‘Chuggers’ are the scourge of Fargate

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ALWAYS, they see me coming and always they try to stop me.

I like to think this is because I give the impression of being a gregarious and generous kind of guy.

More likely it’s because they think I’ll be easily led and more easily out-argued.

Which, to an extent, is true.

No-one, for instance, ever has any trouble leading me for a pint, and they have even less difficulty out-arguing me after a couple.

But, for them, I will be neither coerced nor convinced. For them I remain always resolute and redoubtable.

The Fargate charity muggers.

They are forever there. Rain or shine, weekday or weekend, morning or noon, it makes no odds.

On this great street – Town Hall at the top, Cathedral at the bottom, Greggs en route – they have occupied the road like an enemy army in an overrun land.

They have taken permanent positions, like pigeons swirling and swarming around a controversial hot food trailer.

They have created a gauntlet where goodwill is sucked dry in the name, not of charity, but of agency profits.

And it will – eventually, it really will – put people off going there.

Aye, I don’t like Chuggers. They bring out the Daily Mail reader in me, all right.

I don’t like the immorality inherent in paid-and-perks begging. I don’t like a cut of my donated cash going on commission. I don’t like those fluorescent jackets they wear.

Not to say these people can’t be great entertainment value, of course.

Sometimes – mainly when I’m bored at work, and I’ve already killed off some time by doing one of those online questionnaires which tell you something like which Beatle you’re similar to – I’ll head out just to see what lines they’re coming up with.

I’ve been told jokes, I’ve been complimented on my shoes and I’ve been bombarded with the kind of facts which are probably worth knowing if only I could be bothered to remember.

And after all that I’ve been treated with an amusing barely-concealed hostility when it dawns on my assailant there’ll be no debit card numbers going on to their clipboard.

I’m not yet as bad as two friends who would spend bored student afternoons betting who could keep them talking longest – but I’m getting there.

One recalled discussing a failed relationship with a game girl who, even as he quoted heartbroken Shakespeare to her, was still holding on to the belief she could wangle £10 a month from the situation. Suffice to say when she realised it wasn’t going to happen she left him quicker than most people leave...well, a chugger.

Like I say, great entertainment value...

And yet, the joke – on Fargate at least – is starting to wear thin. Because while I find it a mild, if amusing, irritant, there’s plenty of shoppers for who being approached and ordered to stop is not only unpleasant, it borders on harassment and intimidation.

And there’s plenty of those who won’t just say no to the chugger, they’ll say no to charity for good. Because why would you hand over your hard-earned when you know some anonymous agency somewhere is creaming hundreds of thousands of pounds off the top?

Always they see me coming and always I wonder: does no-one care they’re doing more harm than good?