Deflecting Unwanted Sidewalk Attention

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Topic: Deflecting Unwanted Sidewalk Attention

General Discussion July 9, 2012 at 7:00 am

Deflecting Unwanted Sidewalk Attention

It’s midday and sweltering on my day off and I’m attempting grab a quick bite and/or get my heavy groceries home without them melting. As I reach the home stretch on 14th between Irving and Kenyon, the tag team in matching shirts lurks in the distance, clipboards in hand. “Got a minute?,” they ask as I walk by.
Canvassers used to not get to me, but lately I have been annoyed at the level of aggression displayed by some who try to simultaneously enlighten me while soliciting my credit card information.  I’m tired of being lunged at and feel singled out (“Hey you! Yes, you! You know you want to talk to me about the environment, because you’re carrying reusable bags!”) as I attempt to run a few measly errands at DC USA. In most cases, I will smile and politely decline or say I’ve already talked to them before (FACT), because they are ALWAYS out on that stretch. What irks me is how some will formulate a quick retort intended to make you feel like a soulless individual who doesn’t care about gay rights, protecting a woman’s right to choose, or contraception for all. In writing this, I do not intend to offend anyone who does this for a living. I deal with enough craziness at work, and I just want to walk in my neighborhood in peace!
So I ask, fellow PoP colleagues…what’s your strategy for handling canvassers or other unsolicited individuals who approach you when you’re out minding your own business?

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You don’t owe anyone your attention out in public–that goes for canvassers, panhandlers and dudes who order you to smile or badger you for your number. Tell them you’re already a supporter, and keep moving. And remember they’re not out there for shits and giggles. It must suck to do that job. So be nice, but don’t get caught up.

Generally I just ignore the canvassers, unless they’re working for an organization I donate to (in which case I tell them I already donate.) 
Although I have to admit, the fact that the canvassers have approached me while I’m carrying several heavy grocery bags home really irks me too.  Isn’t it obvious that I wouldn’t have a free hand to make a donation, even if I wanted to?

I am a Journalist, so I just tell them I am “On the Clock” – and cannot support any causes as such….

I agree.  A simple “no thank you” is all I do.  I contribute to several charities; I know what’s in my heart and I don’t feel the need to explain myself to anyone.  Those people don’t know you and the only thing they are trying to do is meet their quota.  Go on your merry way and don’t let it bother you. 

I just say, “I can’t give any money, sorry,” and keep walking.
I always wonder how this fundraising strategy could really be that effective for charities. Having to pay canvassers has to cost more than they actually raise–I’ve never seen anyone actually make a donation.

I pretend to be on my phone. Works like a charm.

I have been approached in a pouring rain by these canvassers — “Got a minute for the environment?” So annoying. My strategy for street nuisances of all types is to just start muttering darkly to myself and keep walking. Even if you are dressed for work they will suspect you’re crazy and leave you alone. Works like a breeze and you don’t have to justify or respond to them.
But I totally agree — it would be nice to live in the city without constantly being aggressively accosted and badgered on the street. Between the panhandlers, sexual harassers, Street Sense vendors and incessant “Got a mintue?” “Got a minute?” canvassers, it becomes a real quality of life issue.

Answer 1: I’m a Republican. Go get a real job hippie.
Answer 2: I work for the White House and ethics and conflict of interest restrictions prevent me from contributing to any organizations. But I’m fighting for your cause from the inside!
Neither of which are remotely true.

I usually tell them I already donate to whatever organization they’re representing. It’s (usually) a lie, but I figure maybe it’ll give them a little boost of optimism instead of the constant ignorance or rejection they probably get all day!

As a former canvassar for a public interest group (door-to-door in rural New England, so I was the person interrupting your dinner rather than your walk), I’m thankful for everyone who makes an effort to be nice and polite! It isn’t an especially easy job, generally pretty low paying, and even the most passing positive interactions really do make a difference in your day. My own strategy is to donate when I can and otherwise say “no thanks” and wish them luck – they likely need it!

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