Sunday, 16 October 2005

Please ask someone else

I’ve already slapped my flat for refusing to grow; I could slap it today for refusing to get clean by itself, but I won’t because I have another slappee in mind.

In the past three days, I’ve been tidying up and dusting, etc. with the TV on. I find most boring tasks become less boring with an afternoon film on the box. Actually, sometimes watching daytime TV leads to witnessing more important things, like on a certain afternoon in September 2001, when, waiting for something to start on TV, I went to the kitchen to make myself some lunch and halfway through turned around to see if the programme had started and instead saw two towers, one of which was sprouting smoke. Puzzled (the sound was off), I got closer and never left that spot again for the next two hours.

Television has always played a big part in my life: I remember the Coronation of our Queenie in 1953; the Hungarian uprising in 1956, etc. When I say to people that I was watching TV when I was two, they shrug “so what”: they were watching it in the womb. Ah, but I was born in 1948 and the number of TV sets in France in 1950 could be counted on the fingers of one hand, more or less. My father was mad about gadgets: he bought one of the first Polaroid cameras available in France; the first transistor; the first portable tape-recorder, etc. He would love all the new technology on offer these days.

Anyway, when I’m at home I often watch B-movies in the afternoon, mostly on Channel Five: I love stories about babies snatched at birth and reunited with their mothers twenty years later. I like a good cry. But yesterday I was suddenly struck by the kinds of adverts that are shown during those films. I understand the ones about health insurance; the ones about foods that no yuppie would ever eat; the ones about weird kitchen gadgets, but I don’t understand why there are so many ads for charities. Apart from me, who watches TV in the afternoon? The old, the unemployed, mothers with babies, i.e. people with not much money. Why are they the target audience of those ads? Ah, I know: an old person is more liable to be touched by a short film showing a poor little kid crying in its crib with a voice-over saying that no one will answer its cries, or a tiny puppy yelping as it's being thrown out with the rubbish, or an emaciated African baby gasping for air in its mother’s arms. They tug at your heart and it’s almost impossible to resist calling the phone number on the screen and donate your whole meagre pension there and then. It’s cynical and cruel.

So I’m slapping those charities and the programmers: they are targeting the wrong people. Well, obviously not the wrong people because it works, otherwise they wouldn’t carry on doing it, but those ads should be shown in the evening, when people in full-time employment are back from their offices, where they probably earned enough money to donate to others less fortunate, but probably don’t because they’re not given an easy phone number to call there and then. Slap!


  1. Oh, I had never thought of that. I think I assumed that perhaps the charities couldn't afford to advertise at peak time?

    I have another complaint about charities - I recently discovered that if you leave charities a percentage of your money in your will, they will hound the executors (who may be your partner or children) for it, impose conditions on the estate, send threatening letters and so on. They actually employ people to check the registry of deaths where wills are published, to look for legacies. There was one man whose aunt died. She left a tiny percentage - 2 per cent or something - to a big big charity. She also stipulated that her cottage in a village should be offered for sale to a young couple she knew, children of friends of hers, who couldn't afford to buy locally at the current prices, for whatever three times their joint salary happened to be. He had no problem with that; she was only his aunt and she had no children and he just wanted to do what she wanted. But the charity said no, their percentage would not then be high enough, and they insisted it go on the market with a reserve price £20,000 higher than the estate agent's valuation. 18 months later it hasn;t sold, no offers at all, but they won't let him lower the price. Meanwhile it is rotting away empty, lowering in value from disuse, risking squatters etc, and he has to employ someone to go there once a week to check on it because he doesn't live locally, and they are still sending him threatening letters. Two other charities that she had left percentages to, smaller ones who need any money they can get, have agreed to lower the price but the big one says no. But they won't speak to the estate agent or send anyone to look at it. He's busy working on London and is at his wits' end.

    The obvious answer is to leave them an exact sum of money, not a percentage. But that means redoing your will every few years to keep up with current inflation.

    I also hate those charity muggers that stop you in the street wanting £3 per month. I can and do give to charity, but I choose what and when and I don't see why I should have to explain a refusal. How do you explain to them that you theoretically 'don't care' about guide dogs, Age Concern, transport for disabled children and so on without sounding like a selfish bitch? When in reality maybe you just prefer, for all sorts of personal reasons, to give to Unicef, Marie Curie nurses, cancer research, the odd pound to a tramp and lump sums to disaster funds instead?

  2. dammit - i've just rewritten my will stating percentages for my chosen charities (and been stung a three figure sum by my lawyer for the privilege)

    and double dammit because now i've forgotten what i was going to say in this comment before i clicked on 'post a comment'

    sorry, B!

  3. What happened to my message? This is the second time today that one of my comments slipped under the wire.
    My soft side has now calloused to these charity organizations looking for donations. From Sally Struthers wandering through African villages surrounded by children looking for sponsors to the ASPCA photo commercials filled with animals on the brink of starvation, I refuse to be guilt tripped into anything.
    I choose when, how, where and if I will donate depending on where my money will be most beneficial.
    When I was working, my company would choose to donate to particular organizations or relief funds and it would make you feel guilt-ridden if you opted something different. So I would usually give my little percentage of paycheck regardless of how I felt about the particular organization being donated to.

    Nice little piece of information given regarding money left in wills for charities. I never knew this.

  4. Lulu, that horror story is something I never would have considered. How awful!

    The problem here is charity 'telemarketers' who call incessantly, asking for donations to worthy causes. My husband and I give a percentage of our income to predetermined charities each year. I really can't afford more - and even if I could, I've no interest in performing the research necessary for informed stewardship.

    Therefore, I've developed a standard response: "I'm sorry, I do not donate to organizations through phone solicitation. Please take me off your calling list." This is said in a firm tone, followed immediately by a hang-up. I refuse to engage in any form of persuasion, recrimination, or justification. It's none of their business why I won't give - I just don't want to, that's why. So there.

  5. TV advertising slots are priced according to demand on an auction basis so charities probably do advertise during the day because it's a lot cheaper. But as you say, the result is somewhat iniquitous.

  6. can i add to the slap-list "charity" days at work? there are charities that i support and donate to regularly and i resent some twat with a comedy ostrich costume and a bucket telling me i'm a bad person for refusing to donate to their charity of choice if it's not one i support. isn't it supposed to be personal choice? otherwise it would be compulsory...

  7. Here is the weirdest ever ad placement I had a misfortune to see. Law and Order Special Victims Unit (sex crimes, more often than not involving children) was "sponsored" by...Gerber baby food. I kid you not. Perhaps the Gerber people thought it admirable to sponsor the TV series that depict the war on pedophiles and such, but somehow it was too weird to see that chubby Gerber baby face in the middle of SVU's usual heartbreaking gruesomeness.

  8. So true! Asing for money from people that need it themselves, bah!

  9. Come to think of it, I get stopped everyday on my way from the subway to my lecture/seminar at the uni... there they are, hounding me for money I don't have, because I am a student relying soley on my student loan, and they never take no for an answer, always have a snide remark at hand when I say "no".

    Everyday, on campus, there they are... I am starting to feel like they are following me.

    I give money to charity, I don't need to be harrassed to give money to my charity of choice... Grrrr....

  10. I can live with the TV ads for charities, but the phone calls are too much. I don't give to anyone who calls. How do I know who they really are?

    I give through my church, or the Red Cross, or the Salvation Army. Those are the ones I trust.

  11. I’ve heard horror stories like that one too. I don’t care: I intend to “Die Broke” (if you have some German, you will find it nigh on impossible not to pronounce those two words as “Dee Brohkuh” and it will stick in your mind and you will never be able to say it the English way. It’s the title of a very interesting book that tells you how to achieve that, although it doesn’t say how you might find out when you’re going to die so you can budget until then and work out how to spend all your money in the meantime without being left indigent right at the end). That's how selfish I am. LOL!

    Charities turn into vultures when they smell a will.

    Apart from the harassment thing, there’s something else that bothers me about them, actually: they always seem to have the best-paid people working for them. I used to volunteer with Camden Age Concern (teaching computer and internet skills to the over-50s – and great fun it was too). The young guy who supervised me was on a huge salary; he had just bought a big house in France; he took enormously long holidays. I used to find it slightly obscene. I couldn’t help thinking he was being given an awfully big chunk of the money that should have been used to help the old people in the borough.

    Thanks for visiting, Jennie! :-)

  12. Exactly, Bela - you can't afford to give much money so you give your time instead. But do the ones who plague you in the street know that, when they make you feel guilty for not signing up?

    By the way, am bothered by 'Age Concern' equating to 'over-50s', as regards an earlier post of yours, LOL! At 51 you should surely still be working and still able to teach yourself computers if you don't already know! How old WERE the people you taught?

  13. The oldest person I taught was over 80; the youngest 53, if I'm not mistaken. The others were in between. And all eager to learn. They were a joy to teach. Mostly they wanted to be able to correspond by email with their children or grandchildren in Australia or elsewhere, and buy stuff on the Net. Everything was a delight: you should have seen their little eyes light up when we used to print their first document (usually just their own name). Considering how many younger people are still computer illiterate, I wouldn't necessarily expect a 51-year-old to be able to teach themselves.


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