Robert Hampton

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17th May 2015

Charity begins at phone
Posted by at 6.28pm | In the News | 1 response

I’ve been interested and saddened by the story of Olive Cooke, the 92-year-old who, it is alleged, was hounded by charities for donations in the weeks before her death.

Olive Cooke, 92, threw herself into a gorge in Bristol after struggling to cope with charities calling her up to 10 times a day and sending her almost 200 letters a month requesting donations.

Before her death she had almost 30 direct debits to charities and was struggling to cope with hundreds of pounds of bank charges after failing to meet her commitments.

A while ago, I was walking down Church Street in Liverpool City Centre. Anyone who has visited this, the city’s principal shopping street, will know that a trip to Marks & Spencer can quickly turn into a game of cat and mouse with the many “chuggers” that lie in wait there – so much so that Liverpool introduced restrictions on their operations.

“Hi there Mr Sunshine!” – ah, the fake compliment; the chugger’s calling card.

I failed to take sufficient evasive action and ended up cornered by one of these people. This was years ago, before my aggressive masculinity asserted itself (stop laughing, you) and I ended up signing the form that got thrust into my face. In any case, it helped assuage the guilt I feel as a do-gooder liberal leftie.

This wasn’t enough for said charity, though. I got calls from them every couple of months, and a constant stream of letters through the post. I’m pretty sure my entire monthly donation was being spent on postage and phone call charges.

He wasn’t ready when I said that on reflection, I should probably just cancel the direct debit as I couldn’t afford it (this was actually true; at the time I was going through a bit of a squeeze financially). Not sure if he’d get any commission for that call.

So that was my experience with Big Charity. The point is: if I can be guilt-tripped into donating money like that, I can’t begin to imagine how a vulnerable person would feel.