2020 Vision

I’ve been working in this industry for a long time – over thirty years. For most of that time, I’ve been working as a freelancer, but it’s always been working for someone else. When I set up Magnum Solutions (my freelancing company) in 1995 I always had a vague desire to grow it into a company that wasn’t just me selling my time and skills to other companies. But I’ve never really known how I wanted to do that.

On the other hand, I’ve spent a lot of those thirty years building web sites in my spare time. Whether it’s my (now, long defunct) BBC Streams project or current sites like Line of Succession or TwittElection, there’s always something that I’m tinkering with. Some of them get some small level of popularity. None of them has ever made me enough money that I could consider giving up the freelancer life in order to spend more time on one of these projects.

This year has been slightly different. This was the year that the market for Perl freelancers in London finally hit the level at which I decided to take a permanent job. So I’ve been working for Equals (formerly FairFX) as a senior developer since February. But even that didn’t feel quite right. It felt a bit like a step backwards to go back to being an employee.

And then, while on holiday a month ago, something crystalised for me during a conversation with a friend. She asked how I’d really like to spend my time and I replied that I’d like to take time off from working nine to five and spent it trying to turn one or more of my side-projects into a real business. She asked what was stopping me from doing that and I replied that I didn’t have enough money. She laughed and asked me what the money in the ISA that I’ve been paying into on and off for the last decade was for. I’d always vaguely assumed it was for “the future” (whatever that means) but I realised that she was right. There was no reason at all why I shouldn’t use some of that money to support myself while I took time off work to do what I really wanted.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve given notice at Equals and I’m leaving just before Christmas. And for the first six months of 2020, I’ll be living off my savings while I try to find some way to make a living from the various business ideas I’ve been doing almost nothing with for the last thirty years.

I’m going to be structured about it. I plan to try six things for a month each. I have an idea what the first two or three things will be but I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t go into any detail right now. I do want to be very open about what I’m doing while I’m doing it – I’ve set up a new web site at and I’ll be writing about my projects there. Hey, even if nothing takes off, perhaps there’s a book in the reports of all my failures.

At the end of June, I’ll take stock and decide whether it’s worth continuing the experiment.

And that’s what I’m calling my “2020 Vision”. Because bad puns are the basis of good marketing – or something like that.


When Smart Meters Aren’t

In a process that took ten years, from 1986 to 1996, the Conservative government privatised energy supply in the UK and turned it into a competitive marketplace. The British public resigned themselves to a lifetime of scouring pricing leaflets and frequently changing energy suppliers in order to get the best deal. This became simpler with the introduction of comparison sites like uSwitch and nowadays most switches can be completed online with very little effort on the part of the customer.

Of course, one of the crucial reasons why this works is that nothing actually changes on your premises. Your gas and electricity are still supplied through the same meters. The actual changeover is just a flick of a switch or a turn of a tap in a distribution centre miles from your house.

I’m a member of the Money Saving Expert’s Cheap Energy Club. This makes my life even easier. They know all about our energy usage and a couple of times a year I get an email from them suggesting that I could change a bit of money by switching to a different plan.

They also set up deals for their customers. They have enough clout that they can go to big energy suppliers and say “we’ll give you X,000 new customers if you can give them a good fixed deal on power”.

And that’s how I switched to British Gas in February 2016. I got a good fixed deal through the Cheap Energy Club.

The next innovation in British power supply was the recent introduction of smart meters. These are meters that can be read remotely by the suppliers, eliminating the need for meter readers. Because it’s automatic, the suppliers will read your meters far more frequently (daily, or even more often) giving customers a far better picture of their usage. You even get a little display device which communicates with the meter and gives minute by minute information about how much power you are using.

Last August I investigated getting a Smart Meter through British Gas. They came and fitted it and everything seemed to work well. All was well with the world.

Then, a couple of months ago, British Gas announced massive price hikes. This didn’t bother me at the time as I was on a fixed deal. But that deal was going to end in October – at which point my electricity was going to get very expensive.

A week or so later, I got an email from the Cheap Energy Club telling me what I already knew. But also suggesting a few alternative plans. I glanced through them and agreed with their suggestion of a fixed plan with Ovo. My power would go up in price – but by nowhere near as much as it would with British Gas. I clicked the relevant buttons and the switchover started.

Ovo started supplying my power this week and sent me an email asking for initial meter readings. I contacted them on Twitter, pointing out that I had smart meters, so there was no need for me to send them manual readings.

Their first reply was vaguely encouraging

But actually, that turned out to be untrue. The truth is that there are (currently) two versions of the smart meter system. Everyone who has had a smart meter installed up until now has been given a system called SMETS1. And SMETS1 meters can only be read remotely by the company who installed them. There’s a new version called SMETS2 which will be rolled out soon, which allows all companies to read the same meters. And there will be a SMETS1 upgrade at some point (starting late 2018 is the best estimate I’ve been able to get) which will bring the same feature to the older meters (and by “older”, I mean the ones that have been installed everywhere).

Of course, the SMETS1 meters can be used to supply power to customers of any company. But only working as dumb meters which the customers have to read manually. And, yes, I know this is very much a first world problem, but it would be nice if technology actually moved us forward!

I see this very much as a failure of regulation. The government have been in a real hurry to get all households in the UK on smart meters. At one point they wanted us all switched over by 2020. I understand that target has now been softened so that every household must be offered a new meter by 2020. But it seems that somewhere in the rush to make the meters available, the most obvious requirements have been dropped.

The power companies keep this all very quiet. The market for power supply in the UK isn’t growing particularly quickly, so they’re all desperate to grab each other’s customers. And they won’t tell us anything that would make us think twice about switching supplier.

Ovo will come out and fit new smart meters for me. And (like the original British Gas installation) it will be “free”. Of course, they aren’t giving anything away and customers are paying for these “free” installations in their power costs. It would be interesting to see how many households have had multiple smart meter installations.

Of course, if you’re switching to save money (as most of us are), then I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t switch if your smart meters will no longer be smart. But I’d suggest asking your new supplier if they can use your previous supplier’s smart meters. And making a loud “tut” sound when they say they can’t.

And when you’re offered new smart meters, don’t get them installed unless they are SMETS2.


Public Service Announcement: Aegon Pensions

Do you have a person pension with Aegon? If so, I suggest you ask them to double-check the statements they have been sending you, as they might well be incorrect. I’ve recently discovered that mine have been wrong to the tune of several thousand pounds for seven years.

This year I’ve been transferring all of my personal pensions to a SIPP at Hargreaves Lansdown. It has generally been a painless process. You fill in a form and sent it to HL, they contact your current pension provider and a week later the money is sitting in your HL account.

Of course, you’ll want to know how much is in your pension fund, so you know how much money to expect to be transferred. But your current provider will be sending you annual statements. As the stock market has been rising for a lot of the last twelve months, the amount you’ll get will almost certainly be a little more than the amount on your last statement.

But there will be two values on your statement. – the fund value (FV) and the transfer value (TV). FV is the amount your fund is worth if you leave it with the current provider. TV is the amount they’ll send to your new provider. Looking at all of my statements, FV and TV were the same amount. So all was well with the world.

I found that I had six personal pensions (I really have no idea why I had so many – it seems rather more than you’d need) and, over a period of a few weeks, I set the transfers going on all of them. Five of them worked fine – I got a little more money than I expected. The sixth was with Aegon.

One Friday afternoon I got a phone call from an adviser at HL. Aegon wouldn’t make the transfer unless I confirmed that I was aware of the current valuations. He read out the valuations that Aegon had given him. TV was about 20% smaller than FV. This meant that I’d lose about a fifth of my money if I transferred the fund. I asked him to put the transfer on hold until I could confirm this with Aegon.

Aegon’s customer support line is closed over the weekend, so I couldn’t speak to them until Monday. But I double-checked my statements. There was a different between FV and TV in 2007, but since 2008 every statement had shown the two values to be the same. And, naively, I assumed that my statements were accurate.

On Monday I called Aegon. Their customer support people tried to help but really all they could do was to pass my questions on and tell me to wait for ten days or so.

A couple of weeks later I got a reply which basically just said that my statements were wrong and that, yes, there was a 20% early exit fee on my plan. I wasn’t happy with that so I wrote back to them asking how their system could issue incorrect statements for seven years without anyone noticing.

Today I got a reply to that letter. Here’s what they say:

Statements are system generated reports which are issued annually. These are usually issued directly to Policyholders or Financial Advisers without being checked. It was only when you brought the error regarding values to our attention the the matter has been investigated and future automated statements have been inhibited.

So there you go. There was apparently a bug in Aegon’s system which went undetected for seven years, until I tried to transfer my pension fund away from them.

I’m going to continue to try and find out how I can get my money out of Aegon without losing a large chunk of it. Given that most of the industry doesn’t work the same way that they do, I suspect my best approach is to accuse them of mis-selling the policy in the first place.

But if you have been receiving statements from Aegon over the last seven years, I’d ask them to check the values if I was you. Let me know what you find out.


Insurance Update

Regular readers will know that two and a half weeks ago, my kitchen ceiling collapsed. A few people have asked me how things are going. Here’s an update. It’s not a happy story.

I’ve been talking to Aviva to work out what needs to be done. I took out my buildings insurance through my bank, First Direct, but apparently they farm all of their insurance out to Aviva. On the day that it happened I made an appointment for Aviva’s surveyor to come round and look at the damage. It happened on Wednesday and I was given an appointment on the following Tuesday. Six days seemed a long time to wait, but there didn’t seem to be any alternative.

So I took Tuesday off work and waited for the surveyor. Twenty minutes before the end of the eight to one window that I had been given he called me to cancel the appointment. His car had broken down. Of course, I can’t blame him for that, but a good company is one that can deal with unexpected problems like this. He told me that someone would call me and make alternative arrangements.

I stayed at home for the afternoon, but no-one called me.

Two days later (Thursday 25th) I tried to call them to find out what was going on. But I called after 5pm which is apparently when all their customer support people got home. Frustrated I did what anyone would do and tweeted my anger.

Those tweets were noticed by someone in Aviva’s social media group who replied, sending me his email and asking me to send him full details. Which I did.

The following day I got an apologetic-sounding phone call from an Aviva customer support agent.  He claimed that the original surveyor hadn’t told anyone that the appointment had been cancelled and offered to set up another appointment. Having already taken three days off work for this (two to deal with the emergency and one to wait for the Aviva surveyor) I was loathe to take more time off (I’m freelance and every day off is a day I don’t get paid for).

My wife was out of the country so we set a provisional date for this coming week, after she gets back. But I said that what I’d really like was for them to find someone who could see come round out of normal office hours. The agent said that he would see what they could do and that someone would call me back. I bet you can guess what is coming.

And you’d be right, of course. Another week has passed and no-one bothered to call me back. So it looks like my wife will be dealing with this in a few days time. At one point I optimistically hoped that the work might all be done by the time she got back. How naive was I?

So it’s two and a half weeks since the ceiling collapsed. I still have  huge hole in my kitchen ceiling and a shower that I can’t use for fear of it leaking again. And I have no idea when anything will move forward. Right now I wouldn’t be surprised if nothing was fixed by the end of summer.

The worst thing is the impression I get from Aviva that no-one there has the slightest interest in helping to fix this problem. I’ve never had to call on them before and, based on this experience, I hope I never have to again. I really couldn’t recommend them at all.


An Interesting Evening

(But the “Chinese curse” kind of interesting)

This evening I got home at my usual time, picked up my post from the doormat and was sitting on the sofa reading it. Suddenly I heard an almighty crash followed by the sound of running water. It was coming from the kitchen. I ran in and found this.


And this.


The ceiling had collapsed, scattering rubble and water everywhere. And water was still pouring out of the hole. Looking up into the hole, I saw this.


It seems that something had been leaking into the lagging for a long time. The lagging had been soaking up the water, getting heavier and heavier, until today was the day it got too heavy for the ceiling to support it any more.

I got on the phone to our buildings insurance people. They have registered my claim and are sending a surveyor round next Tuesday (six days seems rather a long time to wait). Then I got in touch with Aspect to get a plumber round to see if he could work out what was going on. While I was waiting for him, I cleared up the most important bits of the mess – cleaning and drying the chairs and moving the table out from under the drips. The plumber arrived about an hour later and started to investigate.

What he found seemed to bear out my theory. But the question was, where was the water coming from. The bathroom is directly above the hole, so there were plenty of suspects. But he soon tracked it down to the shower and fixed it. Then, before he left, he ripped out the wet lagging so that there was no water left to drip on the floor.

So everything seems to work properly again. I haven’t had to turn the water off and there’s no longer water dripping into the kitchen. There’s just rubble and water all over the the kitchen floor and a big hole in the ceiling. The insurance company will pay for someone to fix the hole, but I’m going to have to do as much as I can to tidy up. I’ve done some this evening but I’m bored and going to bed now. I’ll do some more tomorrow.

But this certainly hasn’t been the evening I had planned.

Some of you will remember that we had a lot of work done in the house in 2010. The leaky shower was fitted as part of that work. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the shower has been slowly filling the ceiling with water since then. Bloody builders.


Money From HMRC

I got a letter from HMRC this morning – to my company, not to me personally. It basically said “we’ve been looking at the PAYE you paid in 2010/11 and it looks like you’ve overpaid by [a surprisingly large number of pounds]”.

Now 2010/11 was the year that I was having some difficulties with my accountants. The difficulties eventually got so bad that I switched to my new accountants (who I’m still very happy with). So it doesn’t really surprise me that something went wrong that year, although the amount (it’s about 25% of the PAYE/NI I paid that year) is impressive.

What really surprises me is the tone of this letter. Having told me that I’ve overpaid (and, helpfully, pointed out the exact extra payment that I made) the letter goes on to say:

Before I can agree to either a refund or a credit, please let me the reason the overpayment has arisen


Please complete the enclosed P35D giving a full explanation as to how the overpayment occurred.

Below are some example of reasons I cannot accept to justify an overpayment

  • Duplicate payments with no evidence to explain why
  • Statements such as ‘Payment(s) made in error’ with no further explanation
  • The overpayment is due to monthly payments which do not match our records
  • Any other explanation without evidence to support it

I’m finding it hard to read that in any way other than “we know we’ve got some of your money but you can’t have it back until you’ve explained in detail just how crap your record-keeping is”.

You’ve got my money. You know it’s my money. Either my accountants or I screwed up in some way. There’s no more detailed explanation than that. Just give it back to me, you bastards.


Ticket Refund Update

[There are two earlier posts that you might want to read before this one]

I mentioned yesterday that See Tickets customer support were trying to get hold of me. I spoke to them in the early afternoon. It was their customer services manager and she wanted to apologise for the way I had been treated over my ticket refund. She said that she would be having a word with the support rep who had threatened to ban me from the site if I tried to make a chargeback against them.

Most importantly, she said that she would be happy to give me a full refund for the cost of the ticket and all the extra fees.

So that’s nice. My immediate problem is solved I’m no longer going to be out of pocket for not going to a gig.

But the wider problem still remains. See Tickets haven’t changed their T&Cs. They still believe that it’s fair to retain booking fees in cases like mine. As far as I can see, they made an exception in my case because I caused a bit of a storm on Twitter on Wednesday. And that’s not a solution that scales well.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m no longer convinced that See Tickets are the main problem here. I think that they’re probably just a symptom. They are doing what they are doing because they can get away with it. And they get away with it because the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers has such a weak code of conduct. On the front page of their web site (and in an image, so I’ve had to retype this!) it says:

STAR members comply with a Code of Practice designed to help protect customers. You can be sure that a STAR member will always:

  • Clearly identify the face value of any tickets purchased and any additional booking fees
  • Refund at least the face value of the ticket if an event is cancelled and the promoter agrees to refunds
  • Handle bookings politely and courteously, giving the highest standards of professional service
  • Highlight any terms and conditions, including transferability, cancellation and viewing restrictions.

It’s the second of those items that is causing the problems here. A STAR member is only expected to refund the face value of a ticket. And even then, only when the promoter agrees. How is that designed to “protect customers”? Looks to me like it’s designed to protect the profits of STAR members.

So I think I’ll try to have a conversation with STAR. To see if I can get them to admit that their code of practice is, to say the least, disappointing. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get them to change their code of practice so that it does actually protect customers.

Of course, not all STAR members are determined to get away with as much as they can. Some of them go above and beyond STAR’s code of practice. TicketWeb, for example, say this in their T&Cs (point 18):

Occasionally, events are cancelled or postponed by the team, performer or Event Partner for a variety of reasons. Contact us for exact instructions. Unless indicated otherwise in relation to a particular event, if an event is cancelled, ticket holders will be offered seats at any rescheduled event (subject to availability) up to the face value of the tickets or, if the ticket holder is unable to attend the rescheduled event or the event is not rescheduled, a refund. Refunds for tickets purchased prior to the date of the original event will be given up to their face value plus the relevant per ticket booking fee. [Emphasis mine]

So what advice can I give for buying tickets? Well, read the T&Cs carefully. Try to avoid any company that wants to just refund the face value of the ticket. And if you get caught in the same situation that I was in, then my best advice is to write a blog post and kick up a stink on Twitter.



Five Pounds and Twenty Pence

[New readers should probably read the background before proceeding]

The figure of £5.20 has come up in some of the discussion of this issue. It’s the difference between what I paid for the tickets and what See Tickets want to refund me. It’s come up in two ways.

Firstly a couple of people have said to me “It’s £5.20, why bother?” Actually it’s not £5.20, remember they want me to pay to send the ticket back to them by recorded delivery too. That’s going to cost another £1.50. But, yes, there’s a point here. The amount of time I’ve spend on this is completely disproportionate to the amount of money involved. I can afford to lose a fiver. Why do I bother?

I bother for two reasons. Firstly, it might only be a fiver, but it’s about 25% of the money I paid out. That’s a large chunk. If that happened whenever I got refunded for stuff, I’d soon start to notice the impact. And secondly, I bother because (as far as I can see) no-one else has. These people get away with it because people say “oh well, it’s only a fiver” and don’t do anything about it. I don’t think that’s right. It’s become a matter of principle.

Then people have said “I hope See Tickets think that £5.20 was worth all this bad publicity”. Of course, the numbers aren’t right there either. The Union Chapel seats about 500 people. If 10% of them can’t get to the postponed show and need a refund then See Tickets pocket £250. And how many gigs get postponed every week? Some in far larger venues. This is quite a nice little earner for See Tickets. When they resell the ticket they’ve made the booking fees twice over.

Let’s be clear here. I’m not saying for a second that ticket agencies shouldn’t make money. I like the convenience of being able to buy tickets online and I’m happy to pay for that service. I just think that when shows are rearranged, the fans shouldn’t end up out of pocket. The ticket agencies would say that they have printed and posted the tickets therefore they are entitled to be paid for that service. But when fans end up paying because they aren’t able to go to a show then something is wrong with the system.

Someone took the choice to rearrange the dates and they should be the people who pay the ticket agents costs. The ticket agencies should be chasing the promoters for this money, not taking it from the fans. I suspect they’re just taking the path of least resistance here – they’ve already got the money from the fans, it’s easier to just keep that rather than trying to get it from the promoters.

Unfortunately it seems that See Tickets business practices are endemic in the industry and even supported by the industry’s major organisation. See Tickets are a member of STAR (the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers) so I contacted them this morning to see if they would like to censure See Tickets in any way. I was told that as See Tickets were acting in accordance with both their own terms and conditions and the society’s code of conduct then they would be taking no action. I pointed out the unfairness in this system and the reply told me in no uncertain terms that they considered the matter closed.

I’m still considering applying for a chargeback from Visa for the amount. In fact that looks like my best chance of actually getting my money back. But I’m starting to see this as a wider issue. The whole ticketing industry needs a shake-up. It can’t be right that fans can potentially be left out of pocket as I have been. Perhaps we need a change in the law to force ticket agencies to treat fans fairly. Perhaps we need an organised campaign.

p.s. See Tickets customer support have been trying to get in touch with me today. I picked up a voice mail where a customer service manager wanted to apologise for the way I was treated yesterday. Which is a start.

[The story continues in the next post]


See Tickets

Anyone who buys tickets for gigs, plays or sporting events will have horror stories about how a reasonably priced ticket suddenly became a lot less reasonably priced once booking fees, transaction fees and postage fees had been added on. I’ve often wondered why the face value of tickets doesn’t just include a fixed amount that goes to the ticket agency as their cut rather than them being left to make up figures themselves.

Today I found out why the booking agencies like things how they are.

A month ago I bought a ticket for a Kathryn Williams gig at the Union Chapel. I bought it from See Tickets. It cost me £24.70. That figure was apparently made up of the following:

  • £19.50 – Ticket price
  • £1.95 – Booking fee
  • £2.25 – Transaction fee
  • £1.00 – Insurance (I think I forgot to uncheck a check box there)

The show was supposed to take place next Tuesday. But today I got an email from See telling me that the show had been postponed until 8th October. That’s a slight problem as I already have a ticket to see Radiohead that night. So, reluctantly I am going to have to return the Kathryn Williams ticket for a refund.

The email contained details of how to claim my refund. I had to post the ticket back to them (“by secure mail”) and they would refund the face value of the ticket.

Yes, just the face value. That’s £19.50. The rest of it – their fees – they want to hold on to. And they want me to post it using recorded delivery. That’s going to cost about £1.50.

I emailed their customer service to confirm this. It seemed really unlikely that I would lose about 25% of the money I’d paid just because I couldn’t get to the rearranged date. But their customer support confirmed that as they had done their part (by sending me the ticket) they had earned their money and weren’t going to give it back to me.

I discussed this a bit on Twitter and someone pointed out that I could probably get the money back from the Visa card that I used to buy the tickets (as I understand it, Visa can then claw the money back from the vendor). I’ve sent a message to First Direct to see how that might work. I also asked See Tickets to confirm exactly how much they planned to refund me and mentioned that I planned to see if I could get the rest back from Visa.

I got an email back from the confirming that they plan to refund me £19.50 and that they wouldn’t refund the postage. The email then finished with this:

If you proceed to claim the money back from your card provider you’ll be banned from using See or any of our affiliates in the future.

Up to that point I was happy to debate the finer points of the transaction and try to persuade them that their T&Cs were unfair. But I can’t really see the point now. They obviously aren’t reasonable people. I tell them that I’m planning to use legal methods to recover as much of the money as possible and they respond with threats.

It’s not much of a threat to be honest. After what has happened today, I’m not planning to use the company again. I’m sure my gig-going won’t be hampered too much if I stop buying tickets from See.

Perhaps you’d consider doing the same.

Update: Here’s are the details of the insurance that I inadvertently bought. Notice that there’s a list headed “we will not provide a refund where” which includes the item “the booked event is cancelled, abandoned, postponed, curtailed or relocated”.

Update: One nice thing to come out of this. Kathryn Williams heard about it on Twitter and was as appalled as any reasonable person would be. She has offered to send me a copy of her new CD to make amends (even though none of this is even slightly her fault). What a lovely person. You should all buy The Pond when it comes out next week.

[There are two follow-ups to this post. You might find those interesting too]



Earlier this week, I was stopped by a chugger in Richmond. We see a lot of chuggers in Richmond. I suppose that the charities see it as an area that still has a lot of disposable income. Usually I have my earphones in so they ignore me, but this was at lunch when I’d just popped out for a sandwich so I was easy prey.

She bounced up to me in that overenthusiastic way that many of them have and started talking to me as thought we were old friends. I asked her which charity she represented, told her that I never support charities that stop me in the street and walked off. Even as I made my exit she was saying “but we can still have a chat…”

From talking to friends I know that I’m not the only person who hates being stopped by chuggers. I don’t know anyone who claims to enjoy it. So I started to wonder about the economics of it. Surely so few people sign up on the street that’s it can only just be worthwhile for the charites. And if that’s the case, then perhaps it would only take a small change in public attitudes to make it completely uneconomical.

Denny pointed me at this report from Newnight last August which goes into some of the details. I was astonished at how much it costs the charities. The first thing to realise is that the chuggers don’t work directly for the charities. They work for fundraising companies who will work for many different charities. So there are a lot of people who need to be paid out of the donations you sign up for,

It turns out that many charities pay around £100 for each person who signs up on the street. If we assume that most people pay a tenner a month, then it’s nearly a year before the charity makes any money at all out of the deal. And, of course, if you stop the direct debit before you’ve donated £100, the poor charity will be out of pocket.

I accept, of course, that times are hard and charities are as short of money as the rest of us. So, of course, they will try any means at their disposal to make money. But to use this method, which has a pretty good chance of them losing money shows just ho desperate they are. But perhaps we can use this to our advantage and send the charities a message telling them how unwelcome chugging is.

Depending on my mood, I tell chuggers one of three things when they stop me. If I’m in a hurry I’ll just say what I said this week – that I never give money to people who stop me on the street. If I have more time or am feeling a little more evil I’ll explain that because I have been stopped I will never support that charity financially in the future. If I’m feeling really bad and want to ruin the chuggers day then I’ll say that I currently support that charity with a monthly payment of £20 a month. but that because they’re using this rude tactics I now intend to cancel the direct debit. Feel free to use those if you think they’re useful.

But, of course, there will be charities who you see chugging that you want to support. One common excuse for chugging that I hear is that they remind people that a charity still exists. And, of course, if you want to support a charity then you should support them. However, if you’re going to sign a direct debit to make regular payments to support a charity, then it is really important that you don’t sign the chugger’s form. If you sign that form then most of your first year’s payments will go to pay for the chugger and their company. No, if you really want to support a charity, then go to their web site and fill in a form their. That way the charity gets all of your money.

Actually, that might just trump all of the other things that I tell chuggers. Next time I’m stopped I’ll tell them that I intend to visit the charity’s web site as soon as I get back to my desk. Surely they can’t object to me taking action which gives the charity more money. I wonder what they would say?

Now I want to be stopped next week so I can try it out.

P.S. One important point that I missed. If you ever decide that you aren’t going to support a charity because of their use of chuggers or if you just get annoyed by chuggers and want to complain to someone, then please use the ‘contact us’ form on the charity’s web site to let them know. If enough people tell the charities what we think of chuggers then perhaps they’ll realise how many people they are alienating.