‘Chuggers’ – The sleazy car salesmen of charities

I will divert from my usual blog content today to go off on a rant about charity muggers, or as they are more commonly known now, ‘chuggers’.

It seems these days, it is almost impossible to walk through a shopping centre or along a populated street without being approached by a chugger. The approach seems to be variations or combinations of irritation such as:

  • Walking up with an extended hand to shake
  • Making a complimentary/amusing comment about me
  • Dancing or gyrating in front of me so they cannot be ignored
  • Juggling or so other diversion
  • Trying to attract my attention, even long after a have passed them

A high percentage of the chuggers seem to be relatively attractive young men or women. Presumably, this assists in enticing people to talk to them. It is noticeable that the majority of the chuggers have an accent. I’m guessing that this is the preferred occupation now for those on working holidays, as opposed to working in a pub or a cafe. I don’t recall ever seeing an elderly chugger. Maybe they just have more respect for how they are perceived.

I will admit that I once did make the effort to listen to a chugger. Admittedly, it was a pity stop as it was a freezing cold day and the girl was standing outside with little protection. And yes, she was attractive and foreign.

She gave her spiel for a charity that I can’t recall but vaguely remember that it was worthwhile. Anyway, she somehow convinced me (…did I mention, attractive and foreign) that I should donate to the charity. I discussed how much I was willing to commit per month to be advised that it wasn’t enough! I was informed that the amount would not be enough to cover the administration costs. I can assure you that the amount was not pennies but real paper money and I was still a cheap skate! Perhaps the charity should consider their administration costs.

I donate to three charities and have done so for close to a decade. I won’t divulge the charities as I consider that choosing your charity and donating is a personal matter. My choices for charities are based on a cause that emotionally moves me. I research the available charities that help the cause and what work they do. I will then make a choice of what charitable organisation I wish to donate to. Prior to this post, I have never told anyone that I donate to a charity. If I felt the need to publicise that I donate, I am probably doing it for the wrong reason.

Perhaps that is why I detest the chugger. They are force-feeding a charity to me without emotion. They are dancing and singing on the street about something like children with cancer. The theatre of the chugger is just to attract attention, without any consideration to the solemn nature of the cause. I don’t expect wailing or tears but some respect. It all feels like someone that wants to earn a commission, not someone with a genuine passion for the charity. It comes across as very sleazy and to be honest, I lose some respect for the particular charity by utilising this approach.

In this age, the point of the chugger makes little point. Prior to the internet, it may have been appropriate to advertise on the street for a charity to promote awareness. As almost everyone carries a computer in their pocket these days and information is just a fingertip away, the need to have someone physically approach you on the street seems pointless.

It is interesting how chuggers and their harassing sales technique has become the standard now for charities. I’m not sure how the approach was developed and why. I have worked in customer service as well as sales for a large part of my career. I have been cognisant of doing my best to avoid ‘commission breath’ and approach customers professionally and with integrity. I may have missed some sales to a more aggressive individual but I always want to go to bed knowing I have helped a person and not just helped myself.

I won’t abuse a chugger but neither will I make the effort to acknowledge them. Perhaps I am being petty, however, to me they are serving no one but themselves with no interest to a charity.

To me, if someone wants to donate some money in the morning, go no further than the old fella sitting quietly in his Salvation Army outfit. These people live the cause.




Better a pipe dream than no dream at all

pipe dream


definition – an unattainable or fanciful hope or scheme

I recently commenced my pursuit of retiring to Thailand in 5 years. Based on my current financial situation and incoming salary, this is not a practical goal. A more realistic goal would be 10 years and even that is a bit of a stretch.

10 years, however, will not work for me. I am mentally committed to retire in 5 years and will find a way to make it happen. Even in the early days of my mission, I am amazed at the increased focus I have on finding small ways to save and create money.

An unfortunate aspect of my current job is cleaning. Often times, I am scheduled for public toilet cleaning. This can be a fairly unpleasant activity due to the smell and the interesting ability that some people have to miss the bowl with their movements. Without going into more graphic detail, it hasn’t been my favourite job. With my new focus though, I attack the job with gusto, attempting to make the best of it, with the mindset that every task I do is making me more money towards my early retirement. Realistically, I would make the same amount of money doing an average job or even hiding in the storeroom. My passion for my retirement though has instilled in me a purpose to succeed in whatever I’m doing, even if menial and unpleasant.

I have lived a lot of my life without direction. I was basically living day to day. I lot of the time I was doing the minimum I could so I would continue to get paid and not make it obvious I was barely making an effort. By good fortune, I obtained a job coordinating services to terminally ill clients. Many of my colleagues struggled with the role and it was not uncommon that there were tears in the office when a client passed away. I was the opposite. I found the job invigorating and thrived on providing some quality of life to my clients up until their death. I recall one conversation with a client, at a time at which he started to enter the end-stage of his condition. Paraphrasing, he said ‘Scott, if you want to do something, do it now. You don’t know when your time will come’. He ended up passing some weeks later but his words (albeit not verbatim) have stuck with me. I don’t know when my time will come and my health scare 18 months back reinforced it.

I’m not one of these ‘live every moment’ people. I find that tiring and try hard. I have no compulsion to bungy jump or socialise every day. I do believe though, that life should have a purpose and a destination.

I have gone off on a bit of a tangent from the title of pursuing a pipedream but hopefully not far that I have lost the point completely. I know many people, including family, that don’t have a dream. They seem content to just continue on with life but with no clear destination. I don’t judge them and they are welcome to live their life however they wish but I struggle to stay motivated without a goal.

I believe that your goal should be big. Bigger than you really can achieve without being so unrealistic that it can never be reached. I like the idea of the carrot that is slightly beyond my reach to keep me constantly trying and working hard. An easy goal doesn’t breed effort and provides little satisfaction if achieved.

A friend of mine once said to me ‘Reach for the stars and you may reach the sky’. It has taken me some time to actually follow his advice but now it is happening. I’m reaching for the stars. But what if I fail? At worst, I will be much further ahead then setting no goal at all. At best, I might just make it! Only time will tell.











The evolution of my Friday’s

Today is Friday and I’m ready for the weekend! ‘Friday’ is a bit of a loose concept with 7 day shift work but, as it is, I actually have the whole weekend off.

Friday has always been a great day for me during my career but for different reasons.

The very early years (Work sucks years)

I hated work. I hated having to get up for work. I hated the customers. I suffer from social anxiety, so customer interaction was painful. How times have changed there but I will get to that in another post. Anyway, it was painful and I hated every minute of it until I left for the day. I had almost no friends and the weekend was an escape for a couple of days. Friday was basically the end of a week of suffering, so it was a day I looked forward to.

The middle years (The drinking years)

One day, I was invited out by a colleague for a drink at the pub. I had honestly barely touched a beer to that point and had never been out socially. Anyway, it was almost like that scene in Old School with Will Ferrell when he drinks after a period of abstinence. I was totally uninhibited. I was singing, dancing and generally being loud and having fun. I woke up feeling terrible and threw up but the memory of the fun I had was there.

Friday night became ‘go out drinking night’. The purpose of which was not to have a quite drink and be merry but to drink to get drunk.

Sadly, the need for alcohol became a crutch for any social event. If there wasn’t alcohol involved, I wasn’t going. I considered myself charming and interesting as a drunk and dull and boring when sober. I was more likely irritating and loud as a drunk and yeah, maybe I was dull and boring when sober.

Anyway, people change and my colleagues moved on to get relationships, got married and have kids. Not me though, I stuck to my Friday night commitment to get drunk. I would spend the entire week recruiting people to go out with me on Friday night. Friday night was party night, Saturday was hangover day. My only saving grace during this time was my passion for gym training or even more days would become drinking days. As you can imagine though, my Friday nights (and sometimes Saturdays as well) cost a lot. Alcohol alone cost a fortune, add on a meal, cab fare to and from, lap dancing, etc etc. Ok, I’m joking about the lap dancing…..but there was that one time….

I eventually found a couple of regulars that shared my passion for drinking on a Friday and seemed to have the same inability to sustain lasting relationships. For far too many years, and long past the age when I should be there, I frequented night clubs dancing and drinking.

I was standing there one Friday night at some stupid hour of the morning in a drunken stupor under neon club nights when I observed that everyone around me was almost 2 decades younger than me. It was a sobering moment and I decided that things had to change.

Unfortunately, my friends wanted to continue the drinking lifestyle. I didn’t want to offend my friends and also didn’t have the willpower to decline, so I continued on with Friday night drinks for some time yet.

The only way out I could see was to escape. I sold up my home and moved interstate. Perhaps a drastic step but it was the only way I could see to get out of the situation I was in. Initially, I wasn’t that successful. I would go to pubs in the new city by myself and drink. Eventually though, the frequency of the pub visits reduced until they didn’t occur at all. I would occasionally grab a couple of beers to have on a Friday night while watching football or a movie on TV but that was it. I was drinking because I like the taste of beer, not to get tanked.

The next stage (the spending years)

Financially, the next stage was no more productive then the ‘drinking’ stage but at least it was healthier. Friday night meant that the weekend was tomorrow and it was time to buy things. If I wasn’t buying something or looking for something to buy, I didn’t feel that my weekend was productive. Sometimes it was just something little like a new plant and sometimes it was something much more costly, like trading in my car or motorcycle for an upgrade.

It became very clear that I was bored. I had no goal except to…actually, I didn’t know. I seemed to be in an aimless mission to nowhere and was getting there fast.

Now (The Frugal Years)

I had a health scare! What a blessing that turned out to be. It gave me the realisation that I was mortal and so was my family. I would die one day and who knows when they day might come up. I packed up shop, quit my job and moved closer to my family.

After securing a job (and grateful I was that I got one very quickly) and I bought a new home. Somehow, the reality of mortality came with an understanding that I had to consider my financial future. I sold the high performance motorcycle I had and bought one that was practical. Riding 300kms an hour wasn’t necessary and was well beyond my courage/stupidity level anyway.

I bought a house that was suitable for me. Not too big, was a reasonable commute to the city and most importantly, didn’t have an excessive mortgage.

Frugality started to influence my life. I didn’t socialise outside of work. I started to buy things based on need rather than want. I avoided further liability purchases and tried to limit my larger purchases to those that would create value, such as home improvement.

Finally, to create a purpose for the new saving mentality, I set a goal. Early retirement to Thailand. Everything started to make sense and had a reason. I wasn’t saving money for the sake of it, I had a reason to work hard, hustle for a buck or two and make some sacrifices. The new goal is almost constantly in my mind and directs how I live my life now.

Of course, I wish I hadn’t waited until my early 50’s to wake up but as the old saying goes ‘better late than never’.


Inspiration and Motivation – The Power of a Smile

I woke up this morning a bit out of sorts. I had worked late last night and was looking forward to a bit of a sleep-in before I started work. No such luck though, as I was woken from my slumber an hour before my alarm by a loud knock on the door. I jumped up to find some guy at my door trying to peddle some life insurance, a new religion, a change of internet plan….actually, I didn’t take much notice. I just politely declined and excused myself.

Anyway, even though I wasn’t really listening to the guy at the door, I was still fully awake by the time I closed the door. I thought there was no point going back to bed, so I went about making my breakfast. I aimlessly faffed around for what seemed like 20 minutes (but was more likely 2 hours) and suddenly it was time to go to work.

For some reason, I just wasn’t feeling it today. Maybe it was the early wake up, or maybe it was the grey and drizzly weather, or maybe it was because I wasn’t entirely sure where I would be working that day and had concerns I might be rostered to one of my less favourite job sites. I note quickly that I have a permanent job but occasionally I’m not rostered onto a specific location until the day of work.

Whatever the reason, I wasn’t really that keen for work. I wasn’t what you would call miserable but I certainly was very flat and didn’t really feel like talking to anyone. This is not particularly desirable for a face to face customer service role.

Perhaps by good fortune, I was assigned a particularly busy work site, with no opportunity to make myself busy doing other things in an effort to avoid customers. I had no choice but to interact with the customers. I was looking at a long day ahead.

It wasn’t long at all when I was approached by someone with a big smile to ask a question. What did I do in return? I smiled back. It wasn’t forced, a smile just naturally came to my face as I answered the question and said goodbye.

That smile totally sparked me up! One smile! Immediately, my attitude towards the day improved and I looked forward to the next customer contact. In fact, I actively started seeking it. I started wandering looking for anyone with the slightest confused face to help or even just to say hello. I carried the smile with me and received lots of smiles back. Every smile was that little bit of fuel that carried me through the shift. Surprisingly, the time flew by and it didn’t really feel like I was working at all. Just having 30 second relationships with people.

It’s incredible how quickly my mood changed in an instant. Next time I’m feeling work is a chore, I hope I remember to give someone a smile as it’s a gift that is often returned.

Enjoying the moment…

It’s only the early days of my early retirement ‘project’ and I’m a long way from feeling overwhelmed, stressed, drained, jaded or depressed by the practicality of my impossible goal. My mind is almost constantly thinking of ways I can progress further financially, working on projects to scrape together a few dollars and researching details about retirement and living in Thailand. I’m finding it invigorating and exciting. Of course, in between that, I have my work commitments and general day to day tasks to complete.

I was in the middle of putting a load of clothes washing on today when I caught something out of the corner of my eye. In my fish pond (sans fish) was a single, beautiful flower. It was a vibrant pink in colour and I had to walk over and look at it more closely. I found myself just admiring the flower for several minutes. During those minutes, my mind was totally focussed on the flower and it’s beauty. No thoughts of work, money, my goals, jobs to do or anything else crossed my mind.


It was a moment of clarity and gave me pause to reflect that every soon often, you have to let yourself take a moment and appreciate what is around you. There are so many little things around you that make you smile, feel at peace and just lets you switch off the gears in the melon for a while. It doesn’t need to be a flower. It could be listening to your cat purr, the smell of your morning coffee or a refreshing breeze on a hot day. Whatever it is, enjoy the moment.

Don’t get so focussed on your goal that you forget to live.