How to Deal with The Flood of Solicitors on the Streets

Excuse me, were you trying to enjoy your day? (photo by Ronnie Macdonald (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Living in the NYC metro area, being approached by bright young things (or, sometimes, slightly less bright middle-aged things) who want to know if you have five minutes to support a cause, or if you cook at home a lot, or if you know about a certain horrible thing happening in the world is just the cost of being awesome. At some point in everyone’s life around here someone has stepped in front of you whilst wearing a bright T-shirt and carrying a clipboard and smiled as they asked you if you had one minute to help out.

In Hoboken recently, however, things seem to have gotten out of hand—these street canvassers and solicitors (some of them are trying to sell you stuff) seem to be everywhere, and they seem to be a little more aggressive than in past years. Sometimes known as Chuggers (for charity muggers), encountering one on a Saturday morning while walking down Washington Street is no big deal. Encountering five in ten minutes sets your teeth on edge. And encountering them every day can drive a person insane.

Here’s some advice: Don’t feel guilty about ignoring them.

Hired Help

There’s certainly nothing wrong with folks trying to get you to support a cause or buy a service, but keep in mind these folks are most likely not volunteers. Most of them are paid to fundamentally be salespeople. Even if the cause they’re supporting seems absolutely wonderful, they have a quota to hit, and possibly a bonus if they get a certain number of signatures or donations. Companies like Dialogue Direct, for example, will put an army of cheery young folks at your disposal.

Again, nothing wrong with hiring out if you’re raising money or awareness, but don’t feel bad about ignoring these kids. It’s most likely a job for them, even if they chose it because it lines up with their beliefs (although the kids pushing Hello Fresh on us every block aren’t doing it because they’re Woke about dinner).

The Pressure

Like all sales, there’s a pressure element. They step in front of you, smiling, and always lead with an innocuous question that’s easy to answer, and act like you’re a jerk if you don’t stop. This is all intentional, of course. Once they get you to engage, it’s a sales pitch—and the important thing to remember is that the idea is that you accept everything they tell you without question. Most charity guides encourage you to do your own research before donating, and the Chuggers clearly don’t want that, which is a bad thing.

The Blueprint

So, now that you know you shouldn’t feel one moment of guilt for telling these folks to sod off, here’s your common sense guide to doing so:

  • Don’t slow down. The more aggressive Chuggers will step right in front of you, but if you hesitate you’re lost. Just keep walking.
  • Don’t answer. Psychologically there’s power in engagement. Remember, this is a stranger intruding on your personal space and time—it’s your right to just ignore them.
  • Avoid corners. We here at HoLi would never advise people to jaywalk. But, totally jaywalk, because the Chuggers tend to congregate at the corners where people sometimes get stuck waiting for lights to change.
  • Lie. If you do get caught, tell them you already spoke to their partner fifteen minutes ago. And do so without slowing down.

If you feel bad about not supporting a certain cause or charity, don’t forget nothing is stopping you from looking them up, doing some research, and choosing your own way to donate or otherwise support it.

Hoboken’s crowded, messy, and crazy enough without a simple walk down the street turning into an obstacle course. Next time the Chuggers come for you, be ready!


Jeffrey Somers

Staff Writer • Jeff Somers (jeffreysomers.com) is the author of 9 novels including We Are Not Good People (wearenotgoodpeople.com) and the publisher of The Inner Swine (innerswine.com). Jeff may be reach at [email protected] . Follow him on Twitter at @jeffreysomers .

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