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Retailers strong-arming customer to support charities
Old 02-05-2010, 12:38 AM   #1
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Retailers strong-arming customer to support charities

This is sort of a spin-off from Ziggy's thread on FOP phone solicitations.

Most of you have probably noticed that you frequently get solicited to make a charitable contribution to some allegedly worthwhile cause when you're checking out at many retailers. For years it seemed to be limited to a display at the register using small coupon like slips with a dollar amount and a bar code. If you tossed one down the cashier rang it up with your bill and supposedly $2, $3 or $5 went to feed the poor, buy poor kids some school supplies, support animal rescue, etc. Or there was a shopping bag full of food, school supplies or whatever that you bought and then dropped in a barrel as a donation.

We're pretty charitable (regular donations from credit card for some things, and annual contributions for others), but it's all planned, thoroughly researched, budgeted for and receipts tucked away in this year's tax folder. So, other than tossing money in the Salvation Army kettle every year, I don't make donations anyplace else. All those little coupon thingies and bags of goodies go unbought by me and that has never been a problem.

But recently I've been getting aggressively solicited when I go shopping at certain places. A few years ago the grocery store cashiers started pointing out some charity solicitation of the moment and asking if I wanted to "help the poor" or whatever. That bothered me a little, "I'm not stupid, the display is stuck in my face right here next to the credit card reader - If I want to give I would have already grabbed one of those things and slapped it down." But it was just a minor thing. A "no thank you" was required before I could finish my shopping.

Within the last year it has started to get aggressive. At Christmas I had to explain myself at the freaking pet store to some twenty-something wanker running the cash register as I paid for a new dog collar and leash.
Quote:
"Would you like add $5 to your total to support the something-or-another animal rescue shelter?"

"No thanks"

"Well, would you like to round up the total to the next dollar and give your change to the something-or-another animal rescue shelter?"

"Thank you, but no"
But the real grabber is that Dweezil was giving me a look. He was sending me these vibes that I was obviously some kind of bizarre miser thoroughly lacking in either the Spirit of Christmas or Christian Charity.

And the transaction seemed to be stopped as he looked at me.
Quote:
"I give plenty from home and almost never at any place else. That way I know my money is not being wasted and I make sure I get the records for a tax break."
That got me a smile and "Oh, I understand" and he continued to ring up the purchase.
Quote:
"So, does that mean you don't think I'm the Grinch now?"
He seemed unsure how to answer that.

Ziggy's thread reminded me of an incident that happened at the local grocery store today. This particular location must be managed by a bunch of non-coffee drinkers because the selection has dwindled to almost nothing. So, I was standing in the aisle in front of this miserable selection and wondering if they had a better choice across the street at the Texaco Quickee Mart when my thoughts were interrupted by a store employee.
Quote:
"Sir, would you like to make a contribution to feed the insert identity of some-poor-starving-people here?"
I turn to look as she is talking, cute girl, probably a high school senior with a pretty smile; and, she's wheeling a basket full of those already selected and bagged food items that somehow make it to the hungry. (Maybe they send them to the food bank, or just exchange it for a cash donation, or shoot the damn thing out of a cannon in the general direction of Haiti or Indonesia).

She's polite and smiling (and cute) so she deserves the same in return. I smile and say "No thank you, not today."

And she gave me the freaking look! As if she was thinking, "Holy cow, Scrooge lives!"

It's like I was back at the pet store all over again. My first thought was to explain how I prefer to do charity, and then I considered lying, "I just bought one Tuesday!" But then I decided I don't really have to explain myself to a 18-year-old register-jockey and just turned back to the shelves trying to find my Melitta Colombian Supremo.

Our charitable giving is our business, and while we're not as philanthropic as the Rockefellers' guilt scrubbing giving, we definitely come closer to the post-spirt-intervention Scrooge than his former self. I'm getting miffed at some of these retailers putting the strong-arm on me so they can appear charitable. And the cashiers Dweezil and Muffy are really starting to tick me off.
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Old 02-05-2010, 12:55 AM   #2
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My guess is that those cashiers were probably told that they had to hit on customers for donations to the charities. It probably wasn't their idea.

So, I usually just say, "No thanks!" and then "Isn't is a beautiful day out there?" or "Wow, have you ever seen so much rain?" to change the subject.

I'm sure the cashiers would rather be doing something else anyway.
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Old 02-05-2010, 12:59 AM   #3
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Well I was going answer that the checkout extortion opportunity to give is yet another reason that I love do-it-yourself checkout. But it sounds like they've got you surrounded!
Can't get self-service at the pet store, and roving contribution guerrillas ladies are new to me (I hope this doesn't catch on!).
My generic answer is 'already did that, thanks'. My definition of 'that' is charitable giving, not specific to their cause of the minute.

I spend a fair bit of time figuring out if a charity is going about things the right way, and I'm not about to give to something I know nothing about.

I guess I'm cranky tonight.

Steve
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Old 02-05-2010, 01:06 AM   #4
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All my charitable giving is done from my charitable gift fund and I seldomly give money to charities without first thoroughly researching them. I especially hate being strong-armed or guilt-tripped into giving to a cause I don't really believe in or I don't know anything about. Lately, I haven't been able to go to my local supermarket without being solicited for one cause or another. I usually reply "not today", but it's really starting to bug me.
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Old 02-05-2010, 01:12 AM   #5
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Next time they ask me, I'm going to tell them I just finished donating my time to record the new Haitian version of "We Are the World" and I hope they'll buy the CD to do their part.
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Old 02-05-2010, 01:19 AM   #6
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But recently I've been getting aggressively solicited when I go shopping at certain places.
I've had the same experience at the local supermarket. Now I just say, "I have to research a charity very carefully before I give to it," which is the truth.
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Old 02-05-2010, 05:42 AM   #7
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I know it's an old joke but evidently not everyone has heard it as I tried it out on a door-to-door solicitor last summer, trying to get cash to aid somebody-or-other-in-need. The look on his face was priceless when I told him:

"I have a mother who is about to lose her house to foreclosure because the bills for her cancer treatments are so high, my sister is about to lose custody of her three small children to an ex-husband living in Bosnia, and my brother is living in a tent because he didn't have insurance when his house burned down."

"Gee, that's terrible!"

"Yes. And I didn't give them any money so why should I give you any?"

I do think he actually believed me.
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Old 02-05-2010, 05:59 AM   #8
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I don't care for having retailers solicit me at check out for donations to this and that. I am sure the cashiers are told they must do this and quite possibly the store has secret shoppers to make sure they comply. Practically every grocery store has week-end cadres of "causes" selling stuff and begging for donations. I feel like I am in a Middle Eastern bazaar. Also common are people at traffic lights fanning out and approaching stopped cars for donations...reminds me of the window washers staked out at the Midtown tunnel in Manhattan. My place of employment has special "dress down" days where we are told we can come in business casual if we make donations to various things...not just charitable organizations but someone's relative (not an employee) who has fallen on hard times. I prefer to write checks to organizations of my choice or help out someone I know in small ways personally.
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Old 02-05-2010, 06:25 AM   #9
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In store solicitations are annoying and seem to be designed to make you feel like a heel when you do not contribute. The good news is a few well placed comments to the store manager at my local grocer seems to have stopped the aggressive part and they have returned to coupon slips at the checkout. I know several people who complained. It probably did not hurt that the owner is a local person who is open to suggestion and who does not always follow the directives of corporate. The cashiers are grateful. Oh yeah I know the owner and a quarter of his employees.
Now to work on the hardware store.
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Old 02-05-2010, 06:47 AM   #10
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I feel bad for the cashiers here. I doubt many of them are too comfortable doing this, and they probably have to put up with a lot of grief for it when all they are doing is what they are being forced to do.

Just the same, yeah -- giving at the checkout counter is right up there with telephone solicitations in terms of what I don't do. And it's even more awkward face to face than over the phone.
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Old 02-05-2010, 07:55 AM   #11
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I feel bad for the cashiers here. I doubt many of them are too comfortable doing this,
Yes, if it is getting out of hand, one really needs to speak to the manager. Some of these stories might push me to do that. Esp the one about donating at work in order to go casual. So then, everyone will know you didn't donate - it's imposing their personal beliefs on you, which really shouldn't happen in the workplace.

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Old 02-05-2010, 07:56 AM   #12
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I feel bad for the cashiers here. I doubt many of them are too comfortable doing this, and they probably have to put up with a lot of grief for it when all they are doing is what they are being forced to do.
Doing as you're told is one thing, but I draw the line at the attitudes...
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Old 02-05-2010, 07:59 AM   #13
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Doing as you're told is one thing, but I draw the line at the attitudes...
Yeah, I partially agree. But I can understand it if they get a little snippy after being shot down and perhaps even verbally abused by customers for it after a while. And I blame the retailers for that one. It's hard enough to try to remain relatively pleasant with some customers, and this makes it that much harder.

(Note that "understanding" it does not mean condoning or accepting it.)
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Old 02-05-2010, 08:09 AM   #14
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Walt - lol!

This solicitation approach has not made it to NYC yet. Most of the retailers here are still local independents. I hope it stays that way.
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Old 02-05-2010, 08:10 AM   #15
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I do sympathize with the checkers. It can't be an easy job. But there's no excuse for rudeness to strangers, IMO. On the other hand, I wonder how much of the "attitude" we are imagining, due to the uncomfortable situation?

Do you think they get bonuses based on how much they collect for charity?
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Old 02-05-2010, 08:12 AM   #16
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Do the stores get to make the deduction for the charitable donation? If so, this is pretty slimy.
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Old 02-05-2010, 10:10 AM   #17
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I used to feel somewhat embarrassed and obligated to give an appropriate response. Now this has gone on so long that, when asked if I want to donate to X, I just say, "nope." Seems to settle it.
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Old 02-05-2010, 10:14 AM   #18
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Its like 'flair' in Office Space. Its a corporate and local management issue that employees would probably like to avoid. Talk to the manager be nice to the cashier.
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Old 02-05-2010, 10:48 AM   #19
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When I'm at PetSmart and they ask if I want to donate to the homeless animals I tell them that I already did my part, I adopted a wonderful cat from their own adoption center.
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Old 02-05-2010, 11:11 AM   #20
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Most get some sort of bonus for making sales goals I think. Sort of like the extended warranty pitch you get at BestBuy.
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