Beware the phantom charity collectors

Beware the phantom charity collectors

Shaking money tins for charity isn't easy.

Whatever the weather, those kids are on the streets, raising funds for worthy causes.

The cheeky sods don't target me. They head straight for my daughter. They shake their tins, they smile and they wait.

And she looks up and shouts: "STICKER!" It turns into an Amazonian tribal dance to the rhythmic beat of the money tin, my girl skipping and chanting: "Sticker! Sticker! Sticker!"

"Ah, I think she wants a sticker," the charity collector says.

"Well, I should think so," I reply. "You've been shoving them under her nose for the past two minutes. But, alas, I just gave all my change to one of your friends."

"No, you didn't, daddy," interjects my offspring. "You didn't give money to anyone because I don't have a sticker. See? No sticker."

"I don't think I've got any loose change."

"Yes, you do, daddy," cries my ingenious daughter, head-butting me repeatedly in my hip pocket until something jangles.

It's all about those damn stickers. If there are six tin shakers around a shopping centre - and they usually hunt in packs - then I must cough up cash for all of them.

My daughter goes home covered in stickers. I wish there's one big enough to cover her mouth.

But I'll always give whatever I've got because I am a proud member of the charity collectors.

I once stood on the grey, damp streets of Greater Manchester shaking things. The police usually threatened to arrest me for public indecency.

But I really did collect for charity whenever I was free on a Saturday (I was a British university student. I was always free on a Saturday.)

It felt good doing the right thing. More importantly, I was poor and the charity organiser bought pizza for the collectors.

One wintry afternoon, I found myself stuck outside a supermarket in Preston's town centre. Nobody goes to the Preston town centre in Britain, not even people who live in Preston.

It was there that I discovered the surreal charity bias that exists everywhere, from Preston to Singapore.

"Eh, lad, what are you collecting for?" an elderly woman asked.

"Er, it says on the tin there… cancer."

"Ah, cancer, I like that one. Here's £1 (S$2.10). I don't like giving money to those funny charities."

England and Singapore not only have charity collectors in common. The two countries also have fake charity collectors in common.

On Wednesday, The New Paper reported that some unscrupulous teenagers were collecting donations without the necessary permits, producing fake nametags that came with glued-on photographs beside text that read: "I collect money for charity…that one ah."

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