The ‘Not-So-Gentlemen’ Callers

ImageI was chatting with my partner’s father the other day, and he told me this story, which really annoyed me on his behalf.

He and his wife are in their 60’s, and they live in a ‘nice’ area in Northside Dublin. The last three years has seen an unbelievable influx in the amount of people calling door-to-door in their estate. We sometimes stay to help them with their dogs if they’re away, and I can vouch for this. We live no more than a 10 minute walk from their house, but our estate doesn’t attract a fraction of the door-to-door callers that theirs does. Perhaps we’re not deemed as ‘nice’, or as affluent, I would hazard our estate is newer, and not as established, therefore younger. And after hearing this story I would go as far as to say that these callers are targeting the older and more vulnerable in society.

They offer a huge range of services, many gardening, guttering cleaning, window cleaning, driveway hosing etc. Many of them are keen to see them swap service providers, Internet, TV, electricity, gas… And lastly is the newest visitor, the door-to-door charity collector, and this is where I feel a line was crossed last week.

So last week the Dad-In-Law (DIL) was in the house alone, when the doorbell went. Normally he would politely decline whichever service is being offered at the time, (he’s heard every possible pitch by this stage), but this time was different. This time the young man at the door was wearing a bib that was for a major Dogs charity that DIL is very fond of, so he started chatting. The young man went about his speal and DIL said he was very aware of their work and admired it. He regularly attends Dog Shows where this organization hosts a stand and told the young man that he always makes a donation when he can. The young man responded by telling him that was great and asked his name. DIL gave his name, thinking he was signing up for a newsletter or something similar. Then the young man asked him for his bank details. DIL was surprised

Image“Why would you need them?”

“I’m going to sign you up for a Direct Debit”

“But I didn’t ask to be signed up, as I told you, I make cash donations when I can”

“But this is better for us, for the charity, all you have to do is give me your bank details and its done automatically”

“But I don’t want to have a direct debit, I didn’t agree to that, you’ve misunderstood”

“But it will…”

At this point DIL put his foot down and re-iterated that he didn’t want a direct debit, thanked the chap, bid him good evening and came back inside. He was a little shook but didn’t think much of it, making a mental note to tell the people at the relevant stand the next time he saw them what happened. But it wasn’t over.

About 20 minutes later the doorbell rang again, it was the same organization but a different caller. DIL opened the door; curiosity got the better of him. The caller started.

“My colleague told me that you won’t sign up for a direct debit but that you support the charity’

“That’s right”

“Well we’d like you to sign up for the direct debit”

“I don’t want to”

“But its better for us”

“For the Charity?”

“No us, we work off commission, if you sign up for the Direct debit it won’t cost you anything but we’ll get the commission. You can just cancel the direct debit in the morning then if you feel like it, we’ll still get the commission so its better for us”

DIL was in total shock, he couldn’t believe what the chap was telling him, that he was more interested in his own wages than the charity he claimed to represent. I mean, he was under no illusion that the chap was working for nothing, but to be so openly underhanded about undermining the charities work was a whole different thing. He cut the chap off abruptly and came back inside and that was the end of the matter.

I don’t blame the charity directly, I would imagine it was actually an agency employee as opposed to a supporter of the charity, and I imagine that they have little control over what salespeople say, because charity or not, ultimately, these are salespeople.

My bigger concern is with the growing number of these callers. I know people in the area close their gates and put signs up asking for no unsolicited calling, but it all goes ignored. Many are older and live alone, DIL was well able for the gentleman caller, would everyone else have been? I read about the lady of 71 last week who was bullied into handing over e370 to men who claimed to have done up her garden, work she had specifically told them she didn’t want done (link here: http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/woman-71-intimidated-and-harassed-by-men-demanding-money-to-fix-driveway-court-hears-29460518.html).

I know times are hard and everyone is trying to get by, but I wonder if this is crossing the line? I give to charity, but I feel part of the idea of it being ‘charitable’ is that I’m not provoked, or in this case, bullied into doing it. Should there be some form of policing the amount of people allowed call door-to-door? Should service-people be issued licenses and should it be regulated? Should charities and service providers calling door-to-door be expected to apply for a license, similar to the licenses required to apply for a street collection so that the same areas aren’t being swamped by callers who’ve decided that they’re rich enough to visit?

Just some thoughts I had, I’d like to hear anyone else’s experiences.

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