There was a bit of lull in the rugby between England and Argentina – in fact, the whole thing was a bit of a lull – so I didn’t object too much to taking a call from a charity on a Saturday afternoon. And when the young woman said she was calling from “P&B on behalf of Save the Children”, the antennae twitched a bit: this must be none other than Pell & Bales, who have been on the naughty step a bit recently. Allegations of inappropriate remarks to cancer sufferers, ‘admin’ calls to people who don’t want to be called – you’ve probably read about it in the press. So I listened intently.
About a year ago I had a call from Save the Children that was pretty lame. The agent stumbled through a script in a monotone, sounding completely detached and uninspired. But this person was completely different: she talked in an animated, well-informed way about the new methods of feeding starving children in the east African drought. She answered questions well, paced it right, wasn’t too pushy about money. She even asked me if I was sure I could manage the direct debit increase I had agree to. It was an impeccable performance.
At the end I checked – did you say you were from Pell & Bales? “Yes,” she said. “We’re a fundraising agency in Kingston.” “Fantastic,” I said.
A bit later, when the warm glow had faded, the cynical reflex kicked in: that line about being sure you can afford it – was that that the latest way of subliminally suggesting to a man that his wallet’s not big enough, prompting him to demonstrate its hugeness to the nice female caller by offering yet more? Hmm. Maybe it’s possible to be too suspicious.