Charity pushes at checkout: Convenient or annoying?on October 26, 2011 @ 5:23 am (Updated: 8:24 am - 10/26/11 )
"Embedded giving" is a growing practice that's hard to escape but there's also a growing backlash.
"It annoys me when they not only have a sign at the checkout stand, but then the checker also asks you if you want to give money. It's just too much," says Dana Roberson, a University of Washington student who was buying groceries at the University District Safeway.
She says it's really uncomfortable because she's already pressed "No" on the card swiping machine, and now she has to tell the checker she doesn't want to fight breast cancer in front of other shoppers in line.
Roberson's not alone with her sentiments. There are blogs and message boards with complaints from shoppers all over the country, overwhelmed by the constant requests for their money. They say a simple trip to the grocery store to buy bread and milk ends up being a guilt trip if you don't say, 'Yes.'
Embedded giving now makes up a large chunk of the $300 billion in charitable giving in the U.S. each year. Why do retailers do it?
"It has worked well for us and for our customers because they're part of the solution," says Safeway spokeswoman Cherie Myers.
She says the company realized years ago that many customers just want to get rid of their change so why not use it to make real change in their community? She says Safeway now raises money for four major charities each year, including the fight against breast cancer in October.
That's why you might have noticed an even stronger push for your dollars this month.
"It's not easy for our employees to ask every customer, but there's pain to cancer and it doesn't take a break," Myers says. "We are the voice for those suffering from breast cancer and we take that very seriously."
She says 100 percent of the money donated goes directly to charity. Since 2001, Safeway has raised more than $80 million for breast cancer research and programs.
Myers believes the vast majority of their customers like the convenience of being able to donate at the checkout stand. But if it makes you angry, she says it's perfectly fine to say, 'No.' Just don't take it out on the checker.
"What's offensive is when someone yells at our employees and says they don't want to do this. That's their right but our checkers are just trying to fight the fight that someone else can't do for themselves," she says.
Some shoppers have become so annoyed, that they've taken their business elsewhere. But experts say embedded giving is only going to become more prevalent, so that strategy may not work for long.
"Let's face it, we live in a society where our publicly funded safety net has been shredded. At some point, you're going to have very few choices to shop if you avoid places that ask you for donations," says Mike Bisesi, the director for the Non-Profit Leadership Program at Seattle University. He says there are 50,000 non-profit organizations in this state competing for your money at a time when the economy is bad and more people are suffering.
If you don't like getting hit up for charity at the checkout stand, he says the solution is simple. "If you feel like it's a bad thing, quit giving. I think you can buy your Cheetos and not make a donation and nobody's going to stop you," he says.
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