Well, apparently, I was wrong.
A career as a Telephone Fundraiser does not require a diplomatic, tactful and warmly persuasive personality. What it actually requires is for you to leave your morals at the door along with any erroneous belief that sweat shops are the troubling concern of a land far, far away.
After the first break of the day our trainer happily commented that it was unusual for the whole group to return, she went on to explain that normally, when people find out what the five pound an hour job requires, they, not to put too fine a point on it, do one.
During my day of training, I was trained in the art of saying basically, whatever the hell was necessary to get punters to commit to a monthly direct debit and as the agency for whom I was working get paid on what is known as a ‘cost per acquisition’ basis (they turned over £18m last year!), this means that they, as a company, get a lovely financial benefit every time one of the mugs, sorry supporters, finally get exhausted with the don’t take no for an answer company policy and cough up.
If one of the ‘prospects’ (yes folks, that’s what they call you) targeted for a telephone mugging, happen to ask any awkward questions or make some other futile attempt to wriggle off the hook, with feeble excuses like having no money or being of pension age, we were told to make agreeing noises and then rebuild our case. In other words crank the guilt pressure up a notch. As very few people are prepared to admit that they consider their problems, however bad they may actually be, worse than disease, famine and poverty this strategy is unsurprisingly, pretty effective.
I was also trained to understand that as employees, in terms of importance, we ranked right up there with a hole punch and that failure to achieve our Mugging Target would result in dismissal. We also discovered that being a minute late for work would lead to our measly, minimum wage pay being docked by up to half an hour.
When I got home I shot upstairs, threw my clothes into a bin bag and hurled myself into a scalding shower complete with disinfectant and a scrubbing brush. Whilst I may be able to eradicate the external memories of that appalling day, I am afraid that the disgust and repulsion at the activities of telephone fundraising agencies, and perhaps more troublingly the implied complicity of the charities that they represent, will be with me forever.
Still, I suppose charity is big business these days. Perhaps it is unsurprising that these grubby little opportunists have latched onto the concept. Masquerading as philanthropic organisations that increase funds raised for good causes, these privately owned companies are, in actual fact, employing the same grubby, used-car-salesman tactics that have been adopted by conmen from time immemorial.
At the risk, once again, of pointing out the obvious; the engine behind the fantastic achievements of most charities are volunteers who tirelessly give of their time and experience to help those less fortunate. Why are we condoning, if not actually encouraging, these greedy, self serving limited companies, (limited in both ethics and conscience) to weasel themselves into the equation?
So, here’s a word to the wise; if you want to donate to a charity, make sure it is the charity who is directly benefiting and that your hard-earned is not in reality being used to fund a shortage of swimming pools, Bentleys and diamond studded mobiles amongst the increasing proliferation of greedy and unscrupulous intermediaries.
Just giving? Don’t make me laugh.