The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Next time you run into one of the do-gooder activists of PIRG, try laying this on them:

It seems worth mentioning that missing your weekly quota was a firing offense. Someone wanted to make damn sure I didn't make it to August 28th; I was, I believe, the third or fourth best canvasser in the state that summer*, and I had a big balloon payment coming.

Just around that time, my quota, and that of a few other high performers, was suddenly and inexplicably raised to $85 a night.

I made quota every. damn. night. I did it by never asking for $15, which would have earned a horrified laugh from anyone in that neighbourhood. I collected quarters, nickels, dollar bills, occasionally $5. I had an unprecedented 98% response rate. During the entire week, I think I might have spoken to three people who were employed.

Now, of course, I think of myself getting money from those poor people for PIRG, and I writhe in shame. Because of course, the whole thing is a massive scam. All the money from the canvass goes, not to the cause, but to the canvass: you are paying them to collect your name so that they can sic telemarketers on you several times a year. The canvassers don't believe in what they're saying, at least not in any reasonably creditable way; they are told what to say and exactly how to say it, about issues they know nothing more about than you do. Many of them shamelessly lie; others repeat untruths they picked up somewhere with the best of intentions and the worst of results. Even after the telemarketers are through with it, at almost no point does the money ever get used for the things that are stressed in the pitches, like research, preservation, rescuing human rights victims, and so forth; administrative costs for most of these operations are, as a percentage of total revenues, in the high double digits. Their idea of a really effective use of the money is lobbying the government to take more out of you in tax dollars, and spend it.


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