Tuesday 27 October 2015

Charity fund raisers: doncha just hate 'em!

The other day I phone a friend in Australia from London. She hung up before I had a chance to say a word. So I rang her again. This time she answered and when she realised who I was, she explained that she had initially thought she was the recipient of yet another begging call from a professional charity fund raiser.

This happens to me quite often when I ring friends and relatives in Australia or New Zealand, usually in the early evening, their time. It is becoming a serious irritation. More and more Aussies and Kiwis are installing call monitors. As a result, calls from abroad show up as "private number", "number withheld" or "number unobtainable". The person being called assumes -- with some justification, sadly -- that they are in danger or being pestered by a smooth-talking telesales person or criminal displaying all sorts of inventive ways or relieving that person of some or all or their hard-earned cash.

My mother, who died aged 95, was a particular target in her later years for charity beggars. Being a polite woman, she would always hear the callers out and would try to explain that she was an old woman and already gave significant sums of money to charity. As I tried to explain to my mother, this information encouraged, not discouraged, the fund raisers who were almost all working on a commission of one sort or another. It was quite shameful the way they tried to exploit her good nature.

In a related matter, I have recently been receiving calls from a particular UK number that is almost certainly using auto-call phone software.I tracked it down to a charity I have supported for many years. I have now withdrawn my support in protest.

Words that are misused or unnecessary

Some German friends recently asked me to edit a letter they were writing to their neighbours about a matter of mutual concern. Their spoken English is excellent, but they were worried that their grasp of the written word was not so good. As I suggested changes, I realised that some of them would have been made were I editing a similar document written by a person with English as a first language. This took me back to when I was a journalism lecturer and produced for my students a simple guide to some of the errors that irritated me. You may find it of use: