“Would you like to help end childhood hunger?” The checker smiles sweetly as she drops a loaf of bread into the last bag.
I am distracted and straining to hold my patience. Guy, sitting in the cart, has managed to undo the safety buckle and is crouched on the seat, threatening to leap. And Bug is fingering every candy bar, begging in her most whinny voice for a treat she knows I’ll never buy.
I glance at the checker, “What did you say?”
She smiles again, “Would you like to end childhood hunger?” I stare at her stiffly. I actually already answered this question. The card reader asked me too, when I swiped my credit card. Did I want to round-up my total as a donation for such n’such foundation, it asked. I’d quietly pressed the “no” button, but now, now this lady is asking me again. And I need to answer her. Out Loud.
Do I want to end childhood hunger?
Yes or no.
The implications of my answer flush my cheeks crimson. Of course I want to end childhood hunger, but wanting kids to have enough food is not the same thing as wanting to donate to some organization the grocery store has arbitrarily selected for me to support. But what am I supposed to do? At this point the only way to avoid a donation is to literally say,”No I don’t want to end childhood hunger.” And seriously, who the hell is going to say that?
I glance at the total shining on the register, $137.32. I glance at my children, their well-fed, dimpled hands working to fish a quart of blueberries out of a bag.
The checker breaks in to my thoughts with a cheerful, “It’s just $.68!”
“Right,” I say, “Sure, why not.” Like I had a choice.
I leave the store in a rush of frustration I don’t totally understand. Because what’s the big deal? I mean, come on, it is only $.68, and here I stand with a cart full of food, much of which, like blueberries, are not essential to basic survival, and I do, in fact, want to stop child hunger. I care about that. A lot. So why wouldn’t I donate?
But you know what I don’t care for? I don’t care for being railroaded into a guilt laden donation at the super market.
What I don’t care for is the manipulative quality of the grocery store interaction– the card reader asked me to donate; I said no, and that should have been it. But then checker asked again , and with a contrived, scripted question designed to shame me into giving.
Look, I believe in charitable giving. My husband and I give as generously as we can to organizations and causes we believe in– and TRUST.
I don’t mind being asked for donations– even at the store– that’s how charities raise money, but I do object to having my emotions exploited. I have a right to say no, and exercising that right doesn’t make me stingy or selfish, yet every aspect of this type of interaction is orchestrated to make the potential giver feel exactly that. “Do you want to end childhood hunger?” is a much different question than, “Do you want to donate to Bla-Bla Foundation?”
When I give I like to give freely and from my heart. But in this case, I only said yes because I didn’t want to say no.
Every time I go to the grocery store (so like 500x a week) I’m asked for a donation for some organization or other, this week it was hungry kids, next week it will be to find the cure for cancer, or to save beaten puppies, or for clean drinking water in developing nations– all worthy causes. All causes I support.
But I will likely say no.
I will say no for the same reason I walk out of high pressure car dealerships, away from pushy “shop girls”, and hang-up on telemarketers.
I simply don’t like supporting groups who employ calculated coercion to make money.
It’s the principle of the thing.
What do you think? Is this an issue worth being principled about?