Donation Requests at the Checkout Counter Annoy Me – Do You Give In?

by Darwin on December 8, 2010

Am I a Scrooge?

I was at the mall the other day doing some Christmas shopping and at store after store, I was confronted with the same question at the register – “Would you like to make a donation to St. Jude’s Hospital to Help Children?”.  I mean, who doesn’t want to help kids, right?  But should I just tack on a dollar to my bill each time I checkout based on a single question?

  • I don’t know much about St. Jude’s other than that it’s “for the kids”.  Well, so are teachers’ unions and we see where that gets us.  It sounds like a nice organization but I just don’t know much about them.  I probably should before I donate to charity, right?
  • I don’t know how efficiently this organization distributes my dollars.  Is 75% of my donation eaten up by administrative costs?  Some non-profits pay their executives hefty 6-figure salaries.  Do I want to contribute to that?
  • Am I supposed to feel embarrassed or ashamed in declining this request at the register?  It’s the holiday season after all and multiple people around me put on a smug smile and proclaimed “Yes”.  Should they “No” crowd be subjected to this judgment at the checkout counter?
  • I have my own charities I contribute to after fully vetting them.  They have some sort of impact on my life or people I know.  Should drive-by donation requests be this common?
  • Most stores have a no solicitation policy, yet they’re subjecting customers to donation requests at checkout.  Is that appropriate?

Aside from the fact that we’re now bombarded with new annoying tipping expectations everywhere we go, now I’m seeing a lot more donation requests at checkout.  While I can’t fault the organizations for trying to raise money for their noble cause, similar to Len Penzo’s Bah! Humbug Moment, I do contribute plenty to society already through the disproportionate tax burden I have and my own personal donations tied to causes that have impacted our family personally.  Need I be subjected to multiple propositions to donate at retail outlets as well?

So, as you can tell, I find it a bit annoying to have to be confronted with this at the checkout counter – especially at every store in an entire mall.

And no, I don’t blindly give at the register.  Do you?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Roger Wohlner December 8, 2010 at 11:39 pm

I agree that some of the charitable solicitations at the checkout counter are a bit much. A better model is our local grocery store chain that has pre-made up bags for their food drive that you can pay for at checkout or they also have donation slips in various denominations for cash.

I disagree with both you and the blogger at Len Penzo’s blog that paying taxes is in any way shape or form a charitable contribution. I believe in charity and as a family we practice this via donations of food, cash, and our time. Our young adult children have thankfully all followed out lead and give generously of their time and enormous talents. We are not rich by any measure, but as a family we have been very fortunate and we do and should give back!


Darwin December 8, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Roger, thanks for your comment. The notion of tax dollars being a pseudo-charitable donation could be a blog post all on it’s own! But if you look at it a bit deeper, it’s tough to argue that federal tax dollars don’t get used for charitable causes. I mean, tsunamis, earthquakes, just about any natural disaster where the US supplies aid – that comes from federal tax dollars. Then there are numerous causes funded by US dollars too that some Americans voluntarily give to themselves…while they are simultaneously supported by federal dollars.

So, I did qualify my statement that I give to other organizations of my choosing, but since only 47% of Americans even pay a federal tax and since federal funds are directed to charitable causes, it’s tough to argue that taxes are distinctly NOT related to any form of charity, no?


Invest It Wisely December 10, 2010 at 10:11 pm

What I find more annoying is when you have those guys come out with their kids into the middle of the road and stop every car that comes. Maybe you already donated, but it would seem pretty rude to go into the lane of opposing traffic to pass by the stopped cars, wouldn’t it? 😉


Darwin December 10, 2010 at 10:14 pm

That reminds me – I was hit with that on the WAY IN to the same mall that day. It was firefighters collecting. I already give our local firefighters money, I’m not donating to the crew a town over! It’s effective…but annoying.


Wenchypoo December 11, 2010 at 8:41 am

I get this at grocery stores–I tell them I already did yesterday. With so many different clerks working different shifts at different registers, they can’t possibly keep track of you unless they know you personally.

I give to kid-related groups: Boy/Girl Scouts, little league, peewee football, soccer groups, etc. because without them, these kids would be roaming the streets bored, and would be prone to commit mischief of some sort–I DON’T WANT THAT! When they peddle food products, it’s usually stuff I’m allergic to, so I just give them money and say that I can’t eat what they’re selling, so here’s $5 anyway.


Jennifer Barry December 11, 2010 at 3:02 pm

I agree this is annoying for all the reasons you mention. It feels like a tax for leaving the house sometimes! I do believe in donating to charity but I may or may not be interested in the random cause I get asked about in a store.

Taxes are definitely part charity. For example, I pay indirectly in property taxes to send other people’s kids to school, although I have zero myself. Then I go to the grocery store and they ask me to donate for better school lunches. Didn’t I already contribute to that?


Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey December 11, 2010 at 3:48 pm

This is something that sort of bothers me too! Well, maybe not so much bothers me, but makes me feel bad for refusing them. I always refuse the giving requests at the checkout counter because I have my own charities that I donate to that are for causes that support my set of values.


Amanda L Grossman December 11, 2010 at 8:19 pm


I also don’t like to be asked. Honestly, it’s at every cash register at every store now! I also notice that people in front of me sometimes give because they feel pressured. I never feel pressured, but get tired of saying No. I have my own charities that I give to, and prefer to keep my dollars going to them.


retirebyforty December 12, 2010 at 3:51 am

I don’t like donation requests at the cash register at all. I’ve been asked at Safeway, Petco and some other places lately. I just say no, I guess I’m use to saying no to all the homeless downtown. I give to my own charities, but not a lot. Hopefully I can give more in the future.


Lisa @ Cents To Save December 13, 2010 at 11:17 am

I do donate at Petco…. but that is about it. Grocery stores and Big Box stores… I don’t donate. On the upside, I only go to Petco about once a month or so.


Wiseguy January 3, 2011 at 5:21 pm

These outfits soliciting money for charity are crooks. They rely on the naivity of their employees and the public to make a fourtun in easy profits. Here’s how they do it. Suppose I want to deduct from what I owe the IRS. If I deduct the $1 I give to charity my deduction doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. But suppose I find a way to get you to give me a $1 for charity and also 1,000,000 other people to give me a $1 to give to charity. Now I’ve bundeled $1,000,0001 dollars to give to charity. I haven’t lied to you I am giving the money to charity. But by lumping all those $1’s the IRS allows me that much deduction against what the corporation owes in taxes…directly off the bottom line. It’s all aboutt profits. It’s all about money. Do you really think that all these fast food companies suddenly found love for the undernurished?
No wonder we all seem to get bombarded to give a $1 everywhere we buy someting, to ‘give to the poor’? The smart people that drive around in Mercedes and refuse to give, don’t give because thy know it’s all a scam.


Bill June 25, 2013 at 12:34 am

I think it is more than annoying, I think it is rude to put someone on the spot when all I want to do is get something to eat. I think it should be illegal to ask anywhere money is transacted. can you imagine if the bank teller were to ask you for a contribution just after you made a withdrawal or cashed your paycheck? There is probably a law against that, and there should be at the checkout stand as well.


Lisa June 8, 2014 at 9:08 am

I loved Bill’s comment, agree completely. It is worse than annoying, and whenever a cashier asks me to donate to a charity my immediate response, in a calm and polite tone, is to ask them ‘Would you like to donate to my children’s college education fund?’ which always makes the cashier’s jaw drop but it accomplishes my purpose, which is to make them stop and think if they haven’t already. They then either meekly tell me that they are ‘forced’ by their employer to ask for the donations, or sometimes get rude like one overfed cashier who got annoyed with me saying ‘It’s a simple yes or no question ma’am’ to which I told her ‘So is mine.’ It should be ILLEGAL to harass consumers in this way; it’s worse than cold-calling at my door. LEAVE CUSTOMERS ALONE and if they choose to donate, let them do it at a corner donation box without any pressure. I couldn’t care less what ‘incentives’ companies may get for pressuring people to donate; bring back good manners into society!


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