Posted by
• 08.30.11 09:00 am

As a street canvasser, my daily goal is to lure as many strangers into talking to me as possible.

As a street canvasser, my daily goal is to lure as many strangers into talking to me as possible. Once she’s stopped (for my campaign, women stop more than men), I try to convince her of two things simultaneously:

1. The famine in East Africa is the worst thing on Earth and the only thing that will help is your immediate donation.

2. I am a good person who can be trusted with both your credit card number and all of your contact information.

99% of people know in advance this is what I want and refuse to even acknowledge my presence. The other percent, the uninitiated, listen intently to my entire rap before realizing I want their card. Then they come up with a lot of euphemisms for “Oh! Well that’s a ridiculous thing I would never do.”

At that point, I try to rescue the entire conversation and convince them to do a one-time donation as their cart is already starting to roll away. Maybe this sounds harder than it actually is — I manage to fundraise a few hundred day, which alleviates my base pay from minimum wage to something slightly more respectable. For every 50 people who flee from clipboards like the black plague, there’s a sweet middle aged woman who calls me precious and writes my employer a huge check.

The part of my job that is most frustrating, yet simultaneously the most hilarious, is the excuses people give for why they are not stopping to talk to me. As simple as it is to ignore my presence (which I hate) or just say “No, I can’t help you,” most people shout some desperate excuse from the side of their mouth as they break into a light jog to escape. The strangest power I hold as a canvasser is that a sizable amount of strangers feel a need to justify themselves to me. So without further ado, the top five best (and worst) excuses for not “helping to fight the famine in East Africa.”

It’s not a secret that rich people hate their children; they’re left with the Nanny whenever possible. But if Maria is at a Quinceañera, sometimes it takes all you’ve got to make it ’til noon without stopping by Trader Joe’s for a wine run. If the kid has to come, she’s waiting in the Mercedes. Weirdly, the more brutally hot it became this summer, the more this excused seemed to come up.

A lot of the time, folks come up to me and announce this with satisfaction. “Aha!!! I’m not registered in this state! So it doesn’t matter HOW great your petition is, it’s not my problem!” When I reply with an ear-to-ear smile that we’re fund raising and we still need their help, the look on their face instantly goes from triumph to shame. They’re embarrassed to suddenly be revealed among the 99% of other people who don’t give a shit about talking to me.

Throwing out a non sequitur like this is probably the best way to make an exit because it throws me completely off balance.

No English, huh? Then I bust out a quick “En Africa los hijos tienen hambre!” KABLOOW! Didn’t know the white boy could say stuff in Spanish, huh? This almost never works, fund raising-wise, but it sometimes impresses the cute girls I work with (I can dream).

Every day without fail, some Oscar Wilde type throws this one out there as he walks out of Whole Foods with three bags of kale and organic fig jelly. This makes my head throb a little, since with a job like mine you are constantly teetering between self-righteous desperation, immense gratitude and the verge of complete burnout. But I’d rather have funny one-liners like this than more geriatrics stopping to educate me on how “Jimmy Carter stole our social security.”


Send “Dear Street Carnage” letters to

  1. . says:

    fuck you.get a job.

  2. Tony Shararagus says:

    In all seriousness, why did you pick this job? Aren’t there better jobs for shit pay where you don’t have to deal with 99% of the people you encounter ignoring you and/or disliking you for what you do?

  3. Dur says:

    You say: “I already signed the petition. Keep up the good work (shithead)!”


  5. unclaimed smegma says:

    My wife and I have an unspoken agreement, whenever we see a street canvasser as we’re walking together, to begin the most vicious, loud, profane fight we can. As soon as we’re past the canvasser, we resume our previous conversation as if nothing had happened. The canvasser is usually too embarrassed to try to stop us, and we have an excuse for ignoring the ones that have the balls to try.

    It’s very satisfying.

  6. Dr, Dodecahydro says:

    My baby cat is in the hospital truck, let me tell you about jimmy hat carter. sorry man, gotta go

  7. last hired first fired says:

    “It’s not a secret that rich people hate their children”

    HaHa, proletariat class warfare via a blog post. HAHAHA

    waa, im so poor i only have 2 gigs of RAM, waa

  8. jussin says:

    “The part of my job that is most frustrating… is the excuses people give for why they are not stopping to talk to me. As simple as it is to ignore my presence (which I hate), yadda-yadda i’m a fucking douchebag.”
    just because you stand in the street with a clipboard doesn’t mean you deserve anything from me. you’re lucky people even breathe in your direction. as far as i’m concerned, people should be allowed to punch you if you get in their way. you’re the WORST kind of hippie because at the end of the day you do it all for a buck and you’re too lazy to get a real job.

  9. iwontslowdown says:

    i think you’re confused about what constitutes a non sequitur:

    Premise: “Please help Africans” –> “My cat is in the hospital”

    Conclusion via inference: “I am too broke to help starving Africans b/c my cat is sick”

    Seems logical to me

  10. Brahms says:

    Sure, hang on, I’ll be right back.

  11. Carly Jones says:

    Seriously-I hate you.

  12. - says:

    I usually would say something like “Are you kidding me? They should figure out how to get food or move to a more fertile region or die or something.”

    Get a real job, beggar. What makes you think you have the right to accost people and ask them for money? I’ve had about a million different jobs and never been a sidewalk solicitor cause it was too humiliating.

  13. veruca says:

    I hate when you fucks try to hit me up on my college campus. I’m living off of student loans that I pay interest on, why would I ever choose to give you part of the fixed amount I have for the term? Go bother some billionaires to give up an insignificant portion of their wealth for your cause, not someone that would have to downgrade their living situation if they caved to the many street canvassers I have to deal with every day.

    Also, why would I ever give my credit card information to someone when you admit you are trying to CONvince that “2. I am a good person who can be trusted with both your credit card number and all of your contact information.” Your entire industry is one step from carny. At least carnies have prizes for taking your money, you guys just have a pompous attitude and fake concern for causes. Join the peace corps if you care about helping others and want to make it your career.

  14. patrick bateman says:

    i have to return some videotapes.

  15. paul says:

    We’re like drug dealers- no matter how many canvassers you take off the street, there’s a whole legion waiting in the wings to replace them

  16. sloptop says:

    wait, so, if i get one of those vests, i can scam people’s credit card info off them?

  17. sloptop says:

    ps you people are a fucking venereal disease on this city. though always intrusive, i absolutely hate the ones who flag you down in the most vocal, obnoxious way possible, as they’re actually trying to get on my nerves. do you realize how unacceptable it is to set a pick in front of someone on the street? that’s what muggers do.

  18. kat says:

    Alright, speaking as ~the best canvasser in the country~ (by the numbers) one summer, this article blows. This is the sort of shit that new canvassers talk about on breaks all excited-like, as if anybody should care. Even other canvassers don’t give a shit. You nailed the precarious emotional balance though. I was tilted very much towards total burnout for the vast majority of my tenure and visibly did not act ‘like a canvasser’, hence my success (?)

    Anyways, I hate other canvassers pretty badly and I also hate myself, so I’m not sure why you were writing this. Sympathy? Hell no.

  19. Stirrups says:

    I keep running into one of my acquaintances on the street while he’s canvassing. That knee-jerk reaction of flicking a “don’t talk to me” look towards him really conflicts with saying a passing hello. I’m pretty sure we both end up looking like assholes.

  20. RolAIDS says:

    @ ‘kat’s success’ – she has nice tits and probably looks slutty / gives blowies.

  21. greg says:

    Some of the cutest girls i ever met were when I worked for two weeks as a canvasser. Previously I worked as a canvasser for the Obama campaign and while the pay was the same as something like environment america, the job was way easier b/c i never asked for money. just signatures. one of the best jobs i ever had.

  22. luke says:

    I dunno, sometimes even when one of these broads with a clipboard is really hot it’s not worth stopping for five seconds and having to listen to their shtick.

  23. Bill Bellamy says:

    These people are like bums. I don’t care to give a homeless dude any change, so why would I give one of those petition/donation seeking individuals any of my money?

  24. duh says:

    my god i hate you so much. almost as much as those “do you like comedy” fuckers.

  25. Friend says:

    More stuff like this.

  26. booty says:

    I just say “no thank you” and keep walking.

  27. Evan says:

    These people are raising money for good causes, in this case for the East Africa crisis appeal. 2-3% of that money will go on admin, maybe 13% will go on further fundraising and the rest will go towards saving peoples lives. If you are all so inconvenienced by people simply asking you (you don’t have to say yes!), then you need to re-evaluate your priorities. We all live fucking great lives, the very least you can do is let these people do their jobs

  28. jussin says:

    evan, you fucking idiot. your stats are empty. “we all live fucking great lives” oh yeah? you wanna come live with me? you don’t know my life, so shut your uppity privileged mouth.

  29. internetguy says:

    Actually I’m glad you’re doing this for African famine… they need the money and most people won’t ever give unless it’s shoved in their face and they’re made to feel awkward about it.

    BUT… sucks when people are canvassing for just about everything short of African famine… like puppy shelters and what not.

  30. popfop says:

    I’ve never used this trick so I don’t know if it works, but all canvassers are supposed to have numbers to match up with the nonprofit they work for. Cut them off mid sentence and ask for their badge number. If you really want to give them a scare say you’re from the “central office” and ask for a badge number. Otherwise they’re *literally* just panhandling.

  31. Evan says:

    Calm down jussin you fucking dick wipe. I’m generalising of course, but it’s a generalisation that’s based firmly in reality. Look up HDI; The UN’s measure of human development, and you’ll see that in comparison to the vast majority of the rest of the world, you are privileged. I know that people have there own problems wherever they live, I’m just putting things in perspective. If you are someone has had had a genuinely hard life then I’m sorry to hear that.

    Internet guy, you’re right. Unless people are reminded of what’s going on, or pressured into making a decision they won’t. The reason most people get annoyed is because they know they could do something to help if they really wanted to. PS on the puppy shelter thing, as Western culture is based on consumerism, I would still rather someone signed up to help out some puppies than whatever else they spend their money on. Probably fucking Xbox games for their spoilt kids, or some shitty jewellery on QVC.

  32. popfop says:

    “Aid to Africa is just the means by which poor people in rich countries give money to rich people in poor countries.” – Someone Who Gets It

  33. Blah says:

    “I manage to fundraise a few hundred day, which alleviates my base pay from minimum wage to something slightly more respectable. ”

    “Alleviates my base pay[?]” No wonder you are relegated to standing in my way as I head for the Starbucks. Perhaps you should seek elevated pay as a website editor? Nope, they missed it too.

  34. getarealjob says:

    fuck you for ruining my walk down the street

  35. youareallassholes says:

    I just read this and seriously people? It doesn’t take a lot of fucking energy to say no. Stop acting like we’re the scum of the earth. You say in the same breath that you can’t afford to donate to a really good cause and then tell US to get a job? Maybe you’re the one who should get a job if you can’t afford to throw five bucks towards something sensible.

    Get over yourselves.

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