POS Giving

Brand Building & Public Relations #03

Image by Roslan Tangah (aka Rasso) via Flickr

I don’t want to go all Scrooge on you, but I have to comment about something I wish would go away:  Point of sale soliciting for charity.

More and more often when I am at the check out getting lunch or a cup of coffee or even buying a shirt, I’m asked if I want to give a dollar or two to charity.  Today it happened three times.  I’m done.  I am just saying no.

Why?  Well, I don’t mind the idea of giving…In fact I like it and support it, but let me muse on this for a bit.  I stopped in at McDonald’s today for the first time in weeks maybe months and I wasn’t asked to super size, I was asked if I wanted to give a dollar to charity.

What charity?  Why are you asking?  How much of my dollar will go to whatever charity you’re promoting?  Are you going to turn my donation into a PR campaign down the road?  (“McDonald’s’ customers gave over $1 million to charity in November!”)  You know what…I am there to buy one of your cheap factory-produced hamburgers.  I am not at McDonald’s to support some unknown charity.

I Like This Poster

I also don’t like the social context of this ask.  For my part, I don’t have trouble saying no.  I work in sales.  I understand no.  But I would not be surprised if I learned that people feel some pressure “to give” such an “insignificant” amount with long lines of people there to judge your decision.  After a while these little asks start to add up  And I don’t like it.

It is bad enough that tip jars are everywhere, which definitely should not be charity jars.  But sometimes it feels that way.  (Should I be tipping kids working at convenience store?)  A tip earned is a tip deserved.  No problem with that. 

However I am getting a little fed up with the point of sale ask. 

I don’t mind the little coupons that some grocery stores have at their check outs that allow you to add $1, $5, or $10 to the local food shelf.  I can — and do — pull a coupon and include it with my groceries from time to time.  Discreet and no ask.  No expectation.  No pressure.  I give because I want to, but perhaps most importantly, I give when I can.

Which brings up another concern…a sort of Free Rider concern…that all of this emphasis on private giving creates.  As a country we are heading more toward an ethic of self-sufficiency and private charity.  Even our public schools rely increasingly more on private charity.  As taxpayers vote to cut public support for social services, we will rely more on private charity.  At least that is the theory.  Instead what I think happens is the burden of supporting public goods, like schools, which benefit everyone will fall more on those most directly seen to benefit.  Even then you could have a parent opt out of the local fundraiser and the school will go on in some form. 

Who wants bored kids with poor educations in our society one day becoming poorly prepared and unengaged adults?  We all benefit from strong social programs.  Does shifting the focus on support for these programs onto private philanthropy make the most sense?

Perhaps when I close my next deal I should try asking.  “Excuse me, but would you like to add $20 to your total today to cover my educational fund?”  (Me.)  Who knows, perhaps I would score some decent returns.

I Will Use This One Again!

I won’t do it, however…of course I won’t.  I also will not give to a point of sale ask for money either.  If I don’t have a relationship with the merchant and his charity, I’ll polity and firmly decline.  It is not good to encourage bad behavior and I put POS asks in the category of bad behavior.

Give and give generously within your means.  You will feel good doing good.  And if you do this you have no need to feel the pressure of a misguided ask at the check out counter.

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