Checkout charity: Grumpy pushback

Checkout charity is big business — more than $380 million a year, according to one group that tracks campaigns by big retailers.

But how do you feel when the clerk asks you to donate as you check out? Do you think aw, that’s nice, they’re collecting for a good cause? Or do you think, hold on here: the store can give to this cause if it wants, but there’s no way I can check out this plea in a split second and I resent being put on the spot?

This exchange happened in Royal Palm Beach after a clerk asked a customer to donate.

Customer to clerk: “All right, I’ll match whatever you give right now.”

Clerk (confused): “I’m sorry. I don’t understand . . .”

Customer: “You felt uncomfortable when I asked you  face to face to donate here in the checkout line, didn’t you? Tell your manager that’s how I feel.”

who-givesThe video above features a grumpy guy with hair problems exploring these issues.

One of America’s great impulses is giving to charity. There’s nothing wrong with sticking out a bucket with a sign by the register.

But requiring employees to ask customers to their faces arguably imposes on this generous spirit and veers uncomfortably close to corporate panhandling — an upscale version of the person holding up a sign at the roadway intersection. It intrudes into the welcoming, community atmosphere stores want to cultivate, where folks are friendly and professional and want to help you find the pickles on Aisle 5, and gets awkwardly close to shaming customers into donations in front of others they may know from work, school or the neighborhood.

Remember the calls a few years ago from folks claiming to represent firefighters and police? Between 70 percent and 90 percent of the money went to telemarketers with no connection to working firefighters or police, The Palm Beach Post found. Yet the telemarketers often led people to believe police or fire might not respond to an emergency if the person did not give.

Maybe all the causes in these retailer campaigns are wonderful, but the question here is the tactics. Here’s another take from the grumpy camp on reasons not to give this way.


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