APART from them being filled with screaming children, suspicious-looking sushi shops and glary neon lighting that makes you look jaundiced, shopping centres are generally not very hazardous places. They’re certainly not scary places (unless you actually eat some of that sushi).

But few things strike fear into a heart more quickly than the sight of the shopping centre’s native inhabitant: the clipboard-wielding 20-something.

Typically roaming in herds of two or three and wearing name tags like “Taneesha” and “Brooklyn”, these overly cheerful denizens of the suburban shopping mall like to position themselves in unhelpful places like the middle of the walkway, or directly in front of the supermarket so you can’t get in without them badgering you about sponsoring an underprivileged giraffe in South Africa, or donating to the Meth Addicted Wallabies Fund.

Oh, you’ll try.

You’ll get out your phone and pretend to text someone some very important news. You may even fake a phone call (and that’s seriously desperate — no one uses their mobile for calls anymore).

But even as you sprint past, trying desperately not to catch their eye, you will succumb to their poisonous siren call — “Excuuuuse meeee, can I just have a minute of your tiiiime?” – and 10 minutes later find yourself subscribed to a 12-month plan to support the National Bed Wetting Foundation.

Not me, though. The clipboard creeps’ smiley, shiny, fresh-out-of-school-and-not-worn-down-by-the-world-yet attitude has no effect on me and my stony heart.

I just stare straight ahead, say “NO!” and keep walking. I think there are similar rules for dealing with a bear attack.

This tactic is all well and good when you’re out and about and can pretend you have places to go and people to see and no time to chat. But it’s not quite as easy when the clipboard creeps come to your door. And if you work from home like I do, you’ll know that this can happen several times a day.

Here’s how a typical work day for me goes:

11am: *Ding dong* “Hi I’m Stacey from the Obese Shark Rescue Centre and we’re asking people in your neighbourhood today to ...”.

1pm: *Ding dong* “Hi I’m Kacey from the Disadvantaged Seagull Support Group and we’re asking people to ...”.

2.20pm: *Ding dong* “Hi I’m Lacey from Australians Against Trans Fats and ...”.

Given I am a notorious procrastinator (honestly, it’s amazing how much laundry I can get done when a deadline is looming), you’d think these interruptions might be welcome, but no.

There is nothing more annoying than stopping what you’re doing to answer the door to an advertisement.

You have to wonder: does this door-to-door tactic ever work? And when it does, are people donating or signing up to services because they really believe in the cause, or because they feel too awkward to say no? And is that OK? Do the ends justify the highly irritating means?

A few months ago we installed a doorbell on our fence post, chiefly to help the pizza man who could never seem to get the hang of our gate and would stand on the street for ages trying to work out how to get in.

The doorbell worked perfectly in aiding pizza delivery. Unfortunately, it also worked rather too well in aiding door knockers to bother me for donations or to switch my electricity plan multiple times a day.

And so I installed something else on my fence post: a Do Not Knock sticker. These official consumer affairs logos (which you can get for free, by the way, (from www.donotknock.org.au) work like a magic talisman, warding off clipboard creeps before they even raise a finger to your doorbell.

Now if only they could make them in T-shirt form, we could all visit shopping centres in peace too.


First published in The Advertiser, October 29, 2015. CLICK HERE to read the original article