Corporate Charity Giving
Radley Balko writes about “a minor irritation” we both share.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed more and more retail outlets who instruct cashiers to ask me for donations to various causes when I’m making a purchase. I was hit up a couple of times two donate a dollar or two to breast cancer awareness last week, today at Costco for children’s hospitals, and for a panoply of causes pretty much every time I’ve gone to Whole Foods for the last year. My favorites are the two big pet supply retailers, Petco and PetSmart, where they ask you to donate to various homeless pet charities. You’re presumably standing there because you’ve just bought something for your own pet. How cold do you have to be to refuse an extra dollar for pets without homes? You bastard.
It’s usually only a dollar or two, but I’m starting to find all of this a bit irritating. I have no quarrels with companies that put out a display or collection bucket, or let workers from the charity come and ask for donations on the premises. (To give one example, I think IHOP’s “free pancake day” fundraiser is brilliant. And delicious.) But the popular tactic of late seems to be to put the customer on the spot. Customer then looks like an asshole if he declines to toss in an extra dollar or two for whatever cause the company happens to be pushing. I mean, you can’t spare a buck? What, are you pro breast cancer?
At the end of the campaign, the company then gets to present a big check to the given cause and get “corporate citizen” points, when all it’s really done is charge its customers a couple bucks per visit to feel free of guilt for the rest of the day.
Radley suggests asking the cashier if the company will be making matching contributions and “politely reply that you have your own causes and charities you support.”
My own stance is to simply say “No.” And, frankly, I no longer even feel guilty about it. I consider the companies’ practice rude and don’t feel the slightest compunction in treating the intrusion as such, much less explain myself.