How to avoid talking to canvassers without being an ass

I didn't think it was possible, and then I met David

May 26, 2016

By Nick Zarzycki

Most people treat street canvassers the same way they would a full-screen pop-up ad or someone who just escaped from prison. Politicians hate them too: in 2012, a Victoria city councillor named Shellie Gudgeon tried to ban canvassers (sometimes referred to as “charity muggers”) because, as she put it, her “personal enjoyment of the city was being disrupted.”

She’s not necessarily wrong—not completely, anyways. I myself have walked off sidewalks into traffic, told elaborate lies, and role-played fake phone calls to avoid interacting with canvassers. “The worst is when someone makes eye contact with us but walks by without saying a word,” says David, a street canvasser of seven months. “It’s dehumanizing.” In truth, I had walked past David in exactly this way a week before. It hadn’t occurred to me that David might be a regular human being—with thoughts and feelings of his own—just doing his job.

“We always laugh because people think they’re being clever, taking their phone out or putting their headphones in,” David says. “But it’s so obvious that they’re faking it.” The best rejections he gets are when someone acknowledges his existence for a split second and gives him a simple no-thank-you. “Or, just tell me, ‘I don’t want to.’ Being honest is completely fine, as long as you treat me like a person.”

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