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Charity begins at … the grocery store?

Posted by on Jul 15th, 2010 and filed under Viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

My thoughts, Exactly

By Jim Chase

I used to look forward to grocery shopping and have always found it enjoyable to shop for our family. In fact, my wife and I often joke about turning trips to the grocery store into a “date” that allows us to spend time together. Are we fun, or what?

Unfortunately, my attitude about grocery shopping is changing. It’s due to all the increased pressure put on shoppers to donate to charities. I mean, it’s one thing to have a container for Jerry’s Kids or Make-A-Wish or the National Bladder Buddies strategically placed near the coin change dispenser. You get a handful of change, see the container with an appeal to donate and drop in the money for a good cause.

As the cost of feeding a family skyrockets along with the dangers of carrying large amounts of cash, I suppose it was only a matter of time before you could pay for groceries and donate to a charity with only a swipe of a credit or debit card. (I saw a Salvation Army bell ringer last Christmas with one of those wireless credit card readers attached to his red kettle – how progressive.)

However, now I check out at the grocery store and the little digital screen on the card reader asks whether or not I want to contribute money to this or that charity and (the economy being what it is) I often need to tell it “no.” That’s when the pressure really begins. No sooner do I push the NO button, then the cashier clears her throat and asks in her loudest stage voice, “Would you care to make a donation to Prostate Pals today, Mr. Chase?” Seriously? The machine didn’t just tell you that I declined to give today? I’ll bet it did. Why else would you say my name so loudly that anyone walking by on Foothill Boulevard can hear you? Even now, some scared little child is probably looking up to her mommy and asking who that terrible man is who cares nothing about orphans or prostates, women’s breasts, kidneys, marching dimes, whales, beaches, trees, wildlife, air quality, melting ice caps, penguins postures or other needy groups. Why not just build a stockade out in the parking lot and let me hang my head in shame as my frozen peas thaw? I mean, sheez-a-loo, people. Are you on commission?

Go ahead and ask me once. Privately. Digitally. But please don’t ask again. I shouldn’t have to explain that I’m already buying ground beef that expires within hours along with one-ply toilet tissue and plain wrap mayonnaise. I just don’t have any extra money to play with today. Okay? Get it? I write for a living. I have two kids in college. I live in California. What part of “flat broke” don’t you understand?

And it’s not just the incessant appeal for donations that dials up the pressure. Our supermarket of choice also has a small bank branch in-store. When the bank employees decide to forage for new customers out in the supermarket aisles, I find myself playing hide-and-seek amongst the mac n’cheese just to avoid their pitch for a higher-yield CD. They always find me so easily, however, I think they must tag me with some sort of electronic dart as I walk through the door. It’s gotten so that I need a script of turn downs and ready excuses just to go grocery shopping; “No thank you,” “Not today,” “Not interested,” “You already asked me over near the toilet paper,” and such.

Recently there was even an aggressively amiable salesperson for the Los Angeles Times in our grocery store pushing new subscriptions. I watched in abject horror as he shadowed shoppers down the aisles if they somehow managed to evade him at his station. I had to bypass four entire aisles just to avoid the man.

Maybe it’s just me, but grocery shopping is starting to feel more like used car shopping every day.

I’ll see you ‘round town.

Jim Chase is an award-winning advertising copywriter and lifetime CV resident. Find him online at www.wordchaser.com.

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2 Responses for “Charity begins at … the grocery store?”

  1. Rob Forgette says:

    While I totally understand where you’re coming from Jim, the lack of funds, the never ending bombardment with requests to donate to this or that. Try to understand people aren’t willing to simply donate in other situations. These days, it takes the placement of donation boxes and the like where people actually have their change in hand. This is why you notice such a presence in your local grocery store. Other places like liquor stores, water marts, donut shops and so on, are also places with similar attributes. The customer wont dig into pocket to donate, but is inclined to do so PRIOR to putting the spare change into pocket. These days, people just won’t go out of their way to support charity. Some do (the well to do’s) but others (the rest of us) have to be given the forum to do it. The fact is, these charitys need your help badly. I happen to be co founder of a charity called Help 4 The Hopeless. We support only Non Profits. We have to be stratigic with placement of our donation boxes. If we didn’t exist, the actual charity we collect for wouldn’t be effective. Did you know, grocery stores are the best place to collect donations? In comparison to let’s say, a donut shop, grocery stores clients generate about 1,600.00 on average per month with cans placed at 8 registers. A donut shops clients in that same month will generate maybe 20.00 if we’re lucky and other times no more than maybe 5.00. Our mission is to support the Non Profits the best way we know how and there’s a serious need for our services. I ask you to consider this… Put yourself in the shoes of the truly needy and realize, you may be broke or near it all month, but can you really say you don’t have even .50 cents to help out? You call yourself broke and I respect that, but you’re not needy as the ones we support are you? Perhaps you re-evaluate your position as someone who’s broke, as if that’s the worst thing you could be and consider the fact that you can help those less fortunate. You’re not needy, nor are you suffering the way these people whom are our brothers and sisters on this earth. Consider the fact that we pay nearly $20.00 per box you see posted at each register, we spend 6-8 hours a day walking business to business asking if we may have a space near their registers. We spend countless gallons of gas driving place to place. No one pays us for our efforts, but we do collect a percentage for the work we do. It’s not much. In fact, we too are broke at the end of the day just like you. So, if being asked to donate when you’re broke bothers you, try to spend a month in our shoes as the ones who make that 30 second annoyance to get people just like yourself to make a difference. You have the easy part and your complaining? I just don’t get it. I respect your opinion, but I think you’re not thinking outside your little box. Seems it would be easier to help others when you can, than sit and write about how annoying it is. Wouldn’t you agree? That’s all. Thanks for your time and consideration.
    Rob Forgette
    Co-Founder: Help 4 the Hopeless

    • Charles Anderson says:

      Being the cynic I am, I have often asked myself what the grocery stores get out of this. Maybe I am wrong but there must be some financial advantage for the business in terms of write-offs or deductions for all the money they collect for donations. It would be interesting to see an investigative reporter look into this and “follow the money trail”. In my particular store, not only do I have the same experience as you but whenever someone makes a donation, one of the cashiers announces it to everyone in line and asks everyone to applaud. We already donate to several charities via mail every year at home and no one applauds us or calls to say “thanks”.

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