Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pressured Giving

In line at Dick's today I overheard the cash register clerk ask the customer in front of me if she wished to donate to "St Jude Children's Research Hospital" during the checkout process.  It was asked in a very loud, matter of fact voice.  The store was crowded and all the lines were stacked five deep.  The woman sort of paused, almost blushed,  mumbled something about "having donated last week" while shaking her head, and the clerk ran her card without missing a beat. 

I loathe this on so many levels.  I hate the enforced  public display of philanthropy.  I hate the commingling of pure profit-seeking commerce with generosity.  I hate the disengaged, rote way it is asked by minimum wage-earning employees.  I hate that reluctance to donate on the spot can be perceived by others as a sign of miserliness and general sociopathy.  Typically those who are asked respond in one of several ways:

  • Unproven claims to have "just donated last week"
  • Avowals that one has "already given plenty to other charities"
  • Embarassedly shaking one's head, blushing, a timid "no thank you", furtively looking around to see if anyone is watching the encounter
  • They assent (in order to avoid the above), and agree to give the lowest denomination available, secretly pissed off at the unexpected check out tax incurred
When it was my turn I said "No, I do not wish to give any money to sick, suffering children in Memphis" in an overly loud voice.  I figure that drawing negative attention to oneself is a better form of penitence than overt, phony displays of philanthropy.  Later that evening, my daughter and I were at Walgreen's getting some cards.  I always give her the change from purchases at drug stores.  Outside was one of those Salvation Army ladies ringing her bell.  I asked my daughter if she wanted to keep the money or put it in the bucket for people who are needy.  She looked at her motley assortment of pennies and dimes and said "put it in bucket". 

The lady kneeled close to her, God Bless you, she said.  Merry Christmas.  My daughter grabbed my hand and pulled us away from her.  We got in the car and went home.  


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have no problem saying simply "no". No explanation given.