Imagine you’re walking through campus. You’ve got your headphones in, you’re keeping to yourself, eyes set forward, just trying to get to your next class. And while you’re in that haze of being wrapped up in your own thoughts, you see something that throws you off a little. It’s the big, fake smile, that friendly wave and the fixed eyes. You’ve just crossed paths with a clipboard activist.
You know who I’m talking about. They range from asking you to sign a piece of paper to show your support for some cause you didn’t even know existed, to asking for your personal info so you can make monthly payments to some organization they just told you about.
Being in college for almost five years, I thought I worked out the perfect system to avoid these people. Over-the-ear headphones have been a great help. Keeping your eyes open as soon as you leave a building to scout them out is never a bad idea, and it helps to route an alternative path to your next class.
Sometimes, though, you don’t pay attention and you walk right into them. If you’re like me, it’s hard to just walk by someone who’s talking to you without acknowledging them. So on the rare occasion that I do get caught, I usually throw them two excuses to not carry on a conversation: I either tell them that I need to get to class, or that I’m on my way to catch the bus. Neither of these are lies, of course, so I don’t feel too bad using them as excuses.
Unfortunately for me, I got caught in their web just the other day. I told the girl that I was on my way to catch the bus, but I knew that I had a few minutes to spare. In a weird, irrational way of thinking, I figured that I’ve been winning the game of avoiding these activists for so long that I was probably overdue for an actual encounter. After talking to this girl who was representing an organization that helped take care of children in developing countries, I found myself incredibly annoyed at the way they solicited their company.
I myself was born in a “third-world-country,” so I know what extreme poverty looks like, and I appreciated the apparent goal of the “totally nonprofit” organization she worked for. But that didn’t make their approach any more understandable. I noticed that the typical clipboard had been replaced by a tablet. And the minute I saw the screen, I saw a registration page ready and loaded to receive information. At the end of her spiel, she asked if I was ready to make a donation of $28. Of course I said no. When she asked me why, I told her I had no idea what the reliability of her organization was, I had no idea where my money would actually be going, and I had no idea who the people that would receive my personal information were.
It was at that point that she began to spew out supposed “facts” about her company—how trustworthy they are, where the money went, their approval rating based on some nonprofit organization rater, etc. After I asked her to just give me the website for her organization, and that I would look into it later—which was a lie—she told me that over 50,000 people had signed up with them and that no one had signed up through their website.
At this point, I was annoyed and part of me wanted to tell her why I wasn’t interested, but I thought it would be better to just walk away, especially after her coworker stepped in to shoot more “facts” at me. Honestly, though, I’m a college student. It doesn’t make sense to me to give my credit card information to a random stranger so that they can type it into their iPad. It doesn’t make sense for me to be making monthly donations when I’m already in tens of thousands of dollars in debt from student loans. Maybe they’re doing the same thing, just working the job to get paid. I made sure to tell them that they were good salespeople, but that still doesn’t really affect how I feel about their process.
Maybe I should have offered them a trade, I give them my information to make monthly donations to their cause, and they give me their information so they can make monthly donations to pay off my college debt. I kind of doubt that that would have worked, though.