Charitable donation or extortion?

“That will be $9.85 please, and would you like to donate a dollar to “Kitten Rescue?” There’s been a remarkable increase in the number and frequency of these charity requests by cashiers at an increasing number of retail businesses point of sale.

The cashier takes the opportunity while you are paying for your purchase, to try to put the arm on you to donate to some worthy sounding charity.

This unsavory practice is in fact nothing more elegant than psychological extortion. You are enjoined, ambushed in fact, to donate to one or another wholesome sounding charitable cause, while in full view of other patrons in line and in the presence of the cashier, so the natural human instinct is to wish not to look like a cheapskate or to appear cold to the charity, and you’ll more likely comply and give, where in a neutral situation you likely might not.

Besides, your wallet or purse is already open. How handy, for them!

The charities obviously do it because it works, but what about the store? I have to wonder why any retail business would get into bed with some charity and agree to task its cashier staff with this additional duty, which slows the point of sale transaction and the lineup, and insults its own customer base.

Does the business get a cut?

If it doesn’t benefit in some way, then why on Earth are ever increasing numbers of retail businesses stampeding to jump on board and participate in this new money pump?

It isn’t a swollen sense of public duty. There has to be a benefit to them, and any benefit to the business from donating means that the request to donate to a charity is at least a partial lie, no matter how wonderful the charity’s name sounds.

Whatever has motivated some retailers to insult their own customers by badgering them for charitable donations at the opportune moment their billfold or purse is out, if it isn’t stopped now it will not stop at all, it will only expand.

To this end I have begun a new practice of my own: Whenever possible when a cashier asks me if I also want to donate money to X Y or Z, my response will be, “No, and this sale is cancelled. I’m leaving without the merchandise.” Be sure to tell your manager that you lost a sale because the customer was asked for that charity donation.”

Because until businesses understand that being an accomplice to this petty form of quasi-extortion actually results in a net loss. It won’t end, and an underhanded practice like this one needs to end.

Mike Stuart

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