I got this glossy A5 leaflet though my door the other day. Make sure you're logged in and you'll see a picture of it. The text reads as follows ...
WE URGENTLY NEED CLOTHING
THAT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY MAY NEVER WEAR AGAIN
MAYBE IT'S NO LONGER YOUR SIZE, OUT OF FASHION OR STYLE
ALSO OF GREAT HELP
BLANKETS, SHEETS, SHOES, HANDBAGS, CURTAINS, BELTS, BATH AND HAND TOWELS, UNDERWEAR, COSMETICS, CD'S, TOILETRIES, PERFUMES
We will recycle your unwanted goods. A chance to empty your wardrobes of unwanted clutter and create space.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR UNWANTED CLOTHES
[Photo of miserable-looking children]
Please put these items into plastic bags, stick this leaflet on the bag and leave visible outside your front door before 8.00am on the day indicated below.
Come rain or shine, we will collect from 8am.
[in very very small letters] Cotrado Ltd is a collection company who provide people in third world countries, sorting the clothes for distribution.
It provides business for UK export, for transport companies.
It provides employment in the UK factories grading the clotes.
It provides employment for people collecting the bags door to door.
Cotrado Ltd Company Reg No. 5545502 Tel No. 07792 270755
Here's what it should say ...
We reckon that by making this leaflet look like a charity appeal, we can con you into giving us stuff that we can make a profit by selling on. Given that charities regularly ask for donations of old stuff, this makes the con even more plausible.
But in case that's not enough, we reckon that a judicious mention of the words 'recycling' and 'third world' will help. And if that doesn't quite do the trick, the sad-looking little urchins should do it.
Brilliant. You give us free stuff. We make profits. Ha ha - mugs.
Ps. Very small print - we're a company. We say that to stay just about within the law but we hope you won't notice that it actually means we're not a charity. We're in it for ourselves, not for any starving, unclothed brats in poor countries. Third World? Object of pity? Nah mate - a market for us. With your (unknowing) help.
This particular company is mentioned on this website dedicated to exposing junk mailers and scammers. At least one local newspaper has reported on similar scams by similar companies - in this case one with a different name but some identical wording!
Apparently, the Association of Charity Shops estimates that more than £1m a year is lost to genuine charities through bogus collections, and the Advertising Standards Authority has warned that such leaflets "gave the impression that the advertisers were involved in charitable activities".
I'm not the biggest fan of charity - prefer the alternative plan of changing the world - but abusing the humanity and generosity of ordinary people who want to help those worse off (and working-class people consistently give a significantly higher-than-average proportion of their income to charity) absolutely stinks.
Now who do I complain to? Hackney Council's Trading Standards, perhaps? Or maybe Trading Standards nationally? I know, I'll try the Advertising Standards Authority, and I'll post a reply here if I get one.
The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled on my complaint. Apparently, there is sufficient information on the leaflet to make it clear it is not a charity. Case dismissed.
Feel free to carry on preying on people's humanity and trying to deceive them, then.
Mind you, that's the quickest response I've had from a public regulatory body in a long long time. The Local Government Ombudsman is still pondering a complaint I made against Hackney Council on behalf of our TRA two and a half years ago.