Remember my story about the elderly ladies who loved to gate-crash a launch? Since writing that, I’ve had several PR’s contact me to say they too had a bit of bother with the crusty couple pitching up uninvited! Turns out that one of them wrote for a parish magazine and the other was her friend – unless of course, that pair are entirely unrelated to the others, in which case, there’s a veritable gang of freeloading pensioners. However, in an odd quirk of fate, I’ve also discovered another breed of ligger and they’re not nearly so genteel.

I’ve been at two press launches recently where I’ve seen with my own eyes some liggers trying to pull a fast one – on both occasions they were men of let’s say, senior years. Apparantly, this is a well-known ruse where the gents turn up uninvited – if the PR is on the ball, they’ll quickly recognise them and say that the event is invitation only and that the appointments are all full. If not, the chancers eat and drink for free. And, boy, do they pack it away. Now, the event I was at this week where one of the said gents looked incongruous to say the least (I mean, a 60 year old bloke with a belly hanging over his trousers downing cheese-straws like he hasn’t eaten for a year at a beauty launch – it’s always going to look odd, folks) and when I questioned the PR on who he actually was, she didn’t know. Her colleague had established something vague like he was from a council magazine, but these guys are pro’s at freeloading and masters of evasion and have always, always ‘forgotten’ their business cards. They don’t talk to anyone, they avoid the hosts like the plague and they literally stand right next to the booze and load up.

At that particular event, three uninvited guests turned up – and they were the only three to directly ask for champagne, and plenty of it. When it turned out that the PRs had genuinely run out of goodie bags and asked for details so they could forward on press samples, who made a fuss? The liggers of course, not the journalists. When asked directly for her business card, one ancient ligger, who for the purposes of this feature, we’ll call Doris, actually took out a card that was not her own, scribbled out the name, scribbled out the address and added in her own details, such was the temptation of free stuff. But, at least the PRs have her number now! You have to realise that it is a PR nightmare to have a show-down at your carefully planned and beautifully executed launch, so taking a stand against someone who is likely to make a fuss isn’t something you’d undertake lightly.

Doris, thought to be in her eighties, is something of a ligging legend with the PRs. One PR friend says, “She stays for hours, never writes anything, feigns deafness if questioned on anything too specific or pretends to be confused, and absolutely will not leave.” She says, “It’s got to the point that if you don’t get her you feel slightly miffed that she didn’t deem your event freeload worthy; and if she leaves early, you know you’re hosting a shocker.” One PR who did actually confront Doris when she demanded two goody bags and refused her any goody bag at all was greeted with utter outrage and told she was a ‘very rude woman’. The PR says, “I actually felt quite shaky confronting her, but she isn’t a sweet old lady who just wants a free sandwich; she’s in effect stealing and gets nasty if confronted.”

Another PR says, “We do an event each year – names have to be on the invite list, but somehow one particular woman (a ‘friend’ of a journalist) manages to blag her way in. She always gets a front row seat with legitimate journalists and eats her way through the entire event. Oddly, she always draws attention to herself by ‘losing’ something, such as the goody bag, in the hopes that we’ll replace it. She is always the last to leave, and because of the amount of alcohol she helps herself to, she literally falls out of the door.” Worse still, one notorious ligger helped herself to a whole bundle of goody bags which contained vouchers, and then threatened legal action when the brand would only redeem one voucher!
And, it goes on. As I’ve been writing, I’ve also been talking with PRs about their experiences. It turns out that our fat friend with a penchant for cheese straws is also a regular on the ligging circuit and always wears a lanyard with some spurious press accreditation around his neck. His modus operandi is to eat and eat and eat. Which will account for the belly, I guess, but not the chutzpah. As one PR says, “The door is almost always manned by young female PRs who are trained to be nice to our guests. It makes things very awkward for them and actually it could be dangerous. He could be stealing products along the way, too, for all we know, and we can’t expect our junior staff to confront a stranger.”

The big question is, how do they know these events are taking place? If you ask the liggers, they’ll always say they were sent an invitation, and yet, the PRs know they were not. If you know how they do it, do tell!

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