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.”
1. “MY BABY IS IN THE CAR”
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.
2. “I’M NOT REGISTERED IN THIS STATE”
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.
3. “MY CAT’S IN THE HOSPITAL”
Throwing out a non sequitur like this is probably the best way to make an exit because it throws me completely off balance.
4. “NO HABLA INGLES”
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).
5. “I’M FIGHTING MY OWN FAMINE!”
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 SBTVC@StreetCarnage.com