Hijacked at the Checkout

by Samantha on October 4, 2011

“That’ll be $57.24, please. And would you like to donate to [INSERT CHARITY HERE]“

Has this ever happened to you?

If you are a regular grocery shopper, the answer is likely “yes.” Increasingly, stores have taken to “guerrilla collection tactics” with regards to the charity of the hour. Fundraising at the checkout is now par for the course for an increasing number of charities.

Ambushed is how I feel, quite frankly.

It’s enough to count your pennies and stay within a reasonable budget when going through the checkout line. Furthermore, there is often the distraction/anxiety-producing reality of having one, two, three or more kids with you when you’re shopping. Do you really need to have to deal with this?

This latest solicitation has me, well, angry. I resent being put on the spot when

a) I’m not in the mindset to be “pitched” for money;

b) I’m put in the position of feeling cheap and being embarrassed in front of everyone else in line if i say   “no;” and

c) The person asking usually doesn’t explain the details of who or what the money is for, how it will be used/allocated, and related topics;

checkout counter

Stores are more frequently using this tactic for what appears to be the express purpose of “contribution via embarrassment.” It appears that the strategy behind this type of tactic is to shame the purchaser into saying “yes” because they are put on the spot and caught off guard. With other shoppers in the grocery line behind them, all within earshot of the purchaser’s response, it takes a strong person to say “no” and not feel embarrassed, cheap or ashamed of their decision.It has been found that it is a lot more difficult to reject a request for money when you are looking at a person face to face, than it is to be solicited over the phone, or via email/regular mail. The confrontational nature of the request and basic human psychology dictates that most of us are uncomfortable with saying “no” and disappointing the person asking. And this is exactly what marketers and charities using this tactic are counting on. For this reason alone, I will purposely decline the request for funds solicited in this manner. Charities and corporations working together need to stop these types of ambush techniques if they really want to keep the respect and loyalty of their customers. Because at the end of the day, customers will make their dismay at these tactics known by taking themselves – and their dollars – elsewhere.

Has this ever happened to you? What do you think of this type of solicitation? Do you donate to charities via requests at the checkout line?
Image courtesy of www.madamenoire.com

 

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Tamara October 4, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I know what you mean. I feel cheap saying no. But I realized that I don't judge people in front of me when I hear them decline, and people probably aren't judging me either.

I've noticed hough that I don't care as much as I used to – embarrassment has been replaced with annoyance. I wonder that as this practice grows, if people will just get more and more annoyed with the constant bombardment and be less inclined to give to other charities too? They may feel like they give all the time because of the constant $1 donations, or they may just get used to saying no…

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Samantha October 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm

@TamaraTamara- I'm in agreement with you about the embarrassment being replaced by annoyance. This tactic is getting more and more popular and is, I think, having the opposite effect with potential donations. I personally will not donate via this type of "ambush" and I know I'm not alone in this feeling. Many of us resent being set up like this and the backlash is already happening. Let's see if the marketers and charities will change their strategies when they find that the money via this method just isn't flowing.

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Heather October 4, 2011 at 7:36 pm

I have never felt guilty about saying no and would never be embarrassed or ashamed of it. If I have the money, I will donate if it is something I feel like donating to, otherwise, it's no different to me than when the cashier at any department store tries to get me to open a card with them. THAT is what annoys me more!

I don't think of it as an ambush, I think it's employing one more technique to try to raise money for a worthy cause. Do you feel ambushed and offended by the scouts selling popcorn outside the store or by the Salvation Army collectors at Christmas? Both of those are much more ambush feeling to me!

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Rick October 4, 2011 at 7:51 pm

I dislike this very much too. I think that the stores report what they give to charity without saying that they collected it directly from customers as well, rather than out of their profits. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
I have no problem saying no because I'm irritated with this practice. It's a cheap trick. Also, it's a good idea to check out where your money goes. I looked at one charity and and they were supporting causes I didn't agree with along with some that I did agree with.
I feel bad for the cashiers that have to parrot the correct, legally agreed upon phrase.

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WeeMasonMan's Mom October 4, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I don't mind this type of solicitation at all. I don't feel embarrassed or put on the spot even though I always decline. In my area, I very rarely see/hear anyone agree, so maybe that's part of the reason I don't feel pressured. That and I give my time/money in other ways and fully accept that I can't help every charity, nor do I want to.

I think raising money this way is a great idea. Having both worked for a retail and a non-profit, to me, it just makes sense. People don't think twice about buying a $1.29 candy bar at the checkout, so harnessing that "Just $1 more" power raises thousands and thousands of dollars for charities in a very simple manner – when people are already prepared to be spending money.

Now if I was seeing aggressively sales techniques "But are you sure? Your money would REALLY help….." maybe I would feel differently, but two thumbs up to all the Children's Miracle Network and "Pennies for the Pound" charities that stores are willing to do. I think more stores should be proactive in helping charities in this simple manner.

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WeeMasonMan's Mom October 4, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I don't mind this type of solicitation at all. I don't feel embarrassed or put on the spot even though I always decline. In my area, I very rarely see/hear anyone agree, so maybe that's part of the reason I don't feel pressured. That and I give my time/money in other ways and fully accept that I can't help every charity, nor do I want to.

I think raising money this way is a great idea. Having both worked for a retail and a non-profit, to me, it just makes sense. People don't think twice about buying a $1.29 candy bar at the checkout, so harnessing that “Just $1 more” power raises thousands and thousands of dollars for charities in a very simple manner – when people are already prepared to be spending money.

Now if I was seeing aggressively sales techniques “But are you sure? Your money would REALLY help…..” maybe I would feel differently, but two thumbs up to all the Children's Miracle Network and “Pennies for the Pound” charities that stores are willing to do. I think more stores should be proactive in helping charities in this simple manner.

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Samantha October 4, 2011 at 11:33 pm

@Heather
Hi Heather,
Thanks for commenting.
I personally don't feel as offended by the "ambush" of the Scouts or Salvation Army as I guess it's expected and they've been part of the Christmas landscape for so long, it's not surprising when I see them. I think the "stealth" behind this particular technique at the grocery store is what really bothers me. You're not expecting it then all of a sudden you're confronted and asked for money. I think it's inappropriate and an inopportune time. For the most part I say "no" for this reason alone.

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Samantha October 4, 2011 at 11:35 pm

@Rick
I agree Rick, especially the part about where the money goes. I find that when they are asking for money, there is very little information given out about who it's going to, how it will be allocated and what portion of your donation will actually do good. This is another reason why I don't agree and provide the money at this point.
Thanks for your comment.

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Samantha October 4, 2011 at 11:38 pm

@WeeMasonMan's MomI definitely agree that giving to deserving charities is a good thing, it's the method at how it's being solicited that I have an issue with. Being accosted at the checkout unexpectedly doesn't work well for me, especially when I've got cranky kids and little patience at the time. As well, I find that not a lot of information about where and what I'm donating to is provided, only a request for funds. When I do donate to charities, I like to have a good understanding of what I'm providing support for. At the checkout, this is usually not given, so I usually don't donate there.

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Anna October 6, 2011 at 3:35 am

A lot of the cashiers are required to ask by upper management; it's just part of their job. They aren't judging you, and I'm willing to bet neither are the people behind you!

I always reply that we give to the March of Dimes and the Humane Society as they are the organizations that most resonate with our lifestyle. It makes me feel less guilty, and it drives home a small point about giving where *I* feel led to give and not where MegaMart would like me to donate on their behalf.

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Hannah October 6, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I know what you mean…I've had that thought before…

At least the person checking you out could probably care less. It is really awkward, though. It seems like the soliciting has been really over the top lately, maybe it's the economy, but I'm with you…I've got to make it work for my own family! Most people have their own charities to donate to without someone having to call you out it public.

Brace yourself…Christmas shopping season is coming, so there will probably be even more of this soon!

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Samantha October 6, 2011 at 1:46 pm

@Anna
Thanks Anna. Do you find that they back off once you tell them that you give to other charities? I guess I don't feel that we should have to explain why we're not donating at the checkout – that's what I have issues with. Thanks for commenting!

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Samantha October 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm

@Hannah Hannah – you're absolutely right: I find that often, the checkout people are just as uncomfortable but obviously they have been told that it's part of their job to ask customers for donations. For this reason alone, the supermarkets or stores that employ these tactics should be accountable about how they are making their customers feel. Thanks for your comment.

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Alyssa March 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I just tell them I donate online and leave it at that

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Samantha March 31, 2012 at 6:32 pm

And hopefully they will leave you alone after that, one would think. I’ve done something similar – said that I’ve already donated and still get pestered. It can be quite frustrating but I think the key is standing your ground.
Thanks for commenting.

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Naylahknee February 9, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Yes I have been asked and my question to the checkout person is, “for what”?

I usually say no. I just spent money in groceries that I really didn’t have and now, they want money for charity? I just give online or to my local church or charity. Done.
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Samantha February 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I like your style, Naylahknee! Better to be straightforward and firm with them when they put you in that type of situation, right? Thanks for commenting!

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Karen February 10, 2013 at 2:03 am

I always decline them now, although I used to donate. It gets old and I no longer feel put on the spot about it. I have my chosen charities that I donate to, and it’s not a choice a store needs to make for me. Another reason I don’t like stores collecting for charities is because the customers get no credit for it… the charity receives money from the company as if that $ came from the company’s generosity.
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Samantha February 10, 2013 at 4:53 am

I agree, Karen. My perspective is that if I really felt strongly about a charity, that I would have donated to them already, on my own. I just don’t like the sneakiness factor of hitting someone unsuspecting while they are about to pay for their groceries. I think it’s the wrong tact if you really want to get people’s attention. Embarrassing them is not in their best interest. Better that people come to their own conclusions about whether or not they want to donate.

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Suzanne Smith August 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Thank you for writing this…I ALWAYS say ‘no’ and I mean ‘no’! I don’t care if I have three cancer stricken people who are my blood shopping with me and I myself have a masectomy scheduled that day at 2 pm – you’re not gonna get my dolla cuz you holla about such and such needing a donation. And I proudly look them in the eye and at those behind me and say ‘no’ I am here to shop and not choose my charities.

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Samantha August 7, 2013 at 4:35 pm

I like your style, Suzanne! The crux of the problem is the “ambush mode” that many of these businesses adopt, that is, trying to “shame” customers into donating. For this reason alone, I ALWAYS say no, on principal. If they don’t like it, too bad and perhaps they should consider another method of soliciting funds. If more people said “no” the practice would stop outright. Here’s hoping.

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Colin Kemp-Jackson September 26, 2013 at 2:51 am

This is based on humiliation. When I get flyers in the mail they hit the ash can in five seconds. The idea behind the checkout attack is that the people around you get to see how cheap you are. That is fine with me – charity should be a private decision, not something that you are publicly pressured to do. 20 years ago I was talking to a woman, and somebody came up to me, waved a bushel of roses in my face, and said, “Would you like to buy some roses for the lady?”. Being young and unsophisticated, I said to the lady, “Would you like some roses?”. Fortunately, she was smarter than I was, and she said “No thanks”. The psychological manipulation at the cash register is part of the same con job. Stay strong Sam, and don’t give in to this crap.

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Samantha September 29, 2013 at 10:17 am

Thanks, Colin. I don’t do well with intimidation tactics – as a matter of fact, it just makes me stand my ground even harder. Let’s all say “no” to checkout line extortion!

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