Getting Paid to Ring the Bell

shirley temple bellringer

shirley temple bellringer

Yup, it’s almost Christmas time again. Where has the year gone? I’ve already started thinking about ringing the bell for the Salvation Army again this holiday season.  This makes the sixth year I’ll be doing so I believe.

And, yes, I get paid for doing so.  Before you get upset about that, I’ll point out that what I make gets used to keep me going and afloat.  I don’t make much during the year and most of the other bellringers, many of them area homeless, don’t either.

Not sure where I’ll be this year.  I’m shooting for the Macy’s again since there’s a library near by and it’s a location I can walk to without much issue.

What got me thinking about this, besides some of my local clients asking about it, is this recent post about bellringers.  The following is the comment I left about my experiences.  I copy it below since it appears to be a WordPress blog and I don’t want to lose the comment due to any Akismet censoring.

Just to clarify, some of the bellringers do get paid for their time.  I’m one of them.  Being a three time stroke survivor, my doctors will allow me to do little physical labor.  While I do a little webhosting and consulting that pays the rent and medical bills, this barely covers my expenses during the year.  I actually look forward to the 6 weeks with the Salvation Army every year as 1) it gets me out of the house and in the public interacting with folks and 2) what I earn myself helps me out greatly.  Most of the rest of the bellringers are area homeless men and what they earn helps them out as well.  New clothes and shoes, leasing a storage locker for a year, a new radio, bus passes for a few months, presents for their own children, etc. are some of the things that these men buy with their money.

Not every market is like this.  They do it like this way here in Charlotte every year because there aren’t enough volunteers to cover.  One a typical day, we have 60-100 spots with buckets with maybe 1 or 2 manned by volunteers.  Saturdays are better but still there’s less than a half dozen groups.

Most folks assume that I’m a volunteer.  Many of the bellringers fool folks into believing so but if asked, I tell the truth, explain why I do so and mention the lack of volunteer coverage.  There’s usually some shock when I first mention that I’m paid.  Either that or an assumption that I’m actually a Salvation Army officer who’s just out of uniform.  After taking the time to explain, I’ve yet have a single person get mad at me though.

I have two beefs though.  The first is the Target situation.  I’m assuming that the company you discuss in your post is Target.  Most folks praise WalMart for allowing the Salvation Army to contain to ring in front of their stores but this isn’t cut and dry.  Five years ago, they were allowed to ring each and every day during the season.  Last year, we had a total of 5 days.  I’m not privy to numbers but this is thousands of dollars lost in their fund raising.  Next time you visit a local WalMart and notice there no one is ringing, please take the time to mention your displeasure that they days have been reduced.

The other beef I have is with folks who brag about their bellringing.  I’ve lost count how many times I’ve had to listen to “I had to ring for two hours three weeks ago in front of a supermarket.” from folks and how they expect me to kiss up to them.  I ring for 9 to 10 hours every day for 31 days.  For my normal spot, I have to go into the mall about through half of it to reach a bathroom.  They come prepared with coffee but mine gets cold after a bit and I have to pull myself away from the kettle to go get another cup.  They spend most of their time talking on their cellphone while I keep mine off so I can do what I’m there for.  They don’t show up while I’ve missed only a single day in the 6 years I’ve done this.  They’re standing next to the kettle having a smoke where a homeless man would be fired if an army officer caught them doing that.  It’s really sad that I have a supermarket across the street from where I’m usually stationed and, when they have volunteers, they don’t put any real effort into doing the best that they can.  The homeless men who normally get that spot outdistance themselves and pull in a lot more money then those volunteers, even after pulling out their pay.


I rambled for a bit.  Please excuse any typos.

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