They're called canvassers. But when I asked my friends on Facebook a couple of days ago what the young people are called who try to stop you on the street to chat about one of a variety of charities, these are some of the answers I got:
"Exploited child labor."
"Extortiolescents." (Thanks Neil Corbilla.)
"A pain in the fucking ass."
I quickly realized that I wasn't the only person who cringes every time I turn the corner and find a teenager with a clipboard trying his best to strike up a conversation with me, ostensibly about my biceps or the shoes I'm wearing, but really about World Vision or Doctors Without Borders.
Which begs the question: Do the organizations that hire these kids really believe that accosting people on the street with the promise of fake conversation is an effective way to (a) raise money or (b) raise awareness?
I'm going with (b) since I've never actually seen anyone give money to these canvassers. Still (b) doesn't seem too likely to me either because, based on my visceral reaction and the reaction of many people I know, the only awareness these organizations are raising is negative.
One of my friends reports that canvassers are popular with the under 25 crowd but I'm thinking if you're under 25 you'd rather talk to Drake on the street or someone offering you Starbucks Refreshers™ than some stranger, a couple of rungs higher than a homeless person, pretending to be your friend so they can hit you up for a contribution.
I have nothing against these kids. They're probably making crap money doing this work and it probably beats working at Walmart. And I feel bad when some girl asks if I can stop to talk or give her a high-five and I just shake my head, look down and rush off as if she had leprosy. But to the organizations using them, are you really getting the benefit you think you're getting? Because it seems to me a fair percentage of the public, maybe the majority, now connects your name with cold sweats and used car salesmen in training.
Is this really what you have in mind?