Checkout Donations

Discussion
Nov 19, 2010
Bernice Hurst

By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire

As cash and loose change
disappear from pockets, they are also disappearing from charity boxes. But
the needy can’t wait out the recession, and retailers are doing
their bit to try and achieve a reasonable level of charitable donations. One
simple approach is to program card machines at checkout to invite shoppers
to "round up" their payments.

The Daily Telegraph describes technology that can be used at bricks & mortar
checkouts as well as those on websites. Rounding up means donations "will
never exceed more than 99 pence."

Pioneered by The Pennies Foundation,
whose own administration costs are currently being paid by various other charities,
it will ensure "every donation
in full to the nominated charity."

Although the program is new, Pennies "estimates
that just eight pence a week from half the UK’s cardholders would generate
up to £89m for charities
every year." Its representative, Hilary McVitty, reportedly said, "Many
retailers had stopped placing coin collecting tins by their tills because the
majority of their customers now used debit or credit cards to pay … research
suggested consumers would not find it annoying to be asked if they wanted to
donate."

Ms. McVitty told the Telegraph, "It is not an opt
out option; no shopkeeper will ask you any questions. It is simply a little
message that flashes up on the screen and if you ignore it, it will disappear
without you needing to press a button."

A note of caution, perhaps, comes
from a story in The New York Times about
a similar Safeway project. Following a request from the card machine, which
was declined, one customer cited a repeat by the cashier who explained, "We’re
required to ask." Brian Dowling, the company’s vice president of public
affairs, later said this was against company policy. "We don’t
want to bug anybody." He also claimed they have had few complaints.

Although
Safeway’s most recent efforts raised $16.1 million in just one month for breast
cancer research and "a survey by Cone Inc. earlier this year
showed that 85 percent of American consumers had a more positive image of companies
that support worthy causes," the Times still managed to find and
quote a number of disgruntled customers.

Discussion Questions: Do you think consumers will find an opt-out donation
method such as the one described acceptable? What do think about requests
for charity donations at checkout stations in general? Do such efforts help
retailers’ images or irritate customers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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14 Comments on "Checkout Donations"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

This is an intriguing way to raise funds for charities, as long as the request is discreet and the decision to participate rests entirely with the consumer. Would the donation show up on the register receipt? That would reinforce the decision to donate and provide proof for a tax deduction. Will retailers incent consumers to make a donation by giving loyalty card points or points towards another reward? This would demonstrate the retailer’s commitment to the cause and build goodwill.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 5 months ago

This is a difficult subject to comment on. We all want to be charitable but many prefer to do so in our own fashion.

Is there no end to the vicissitudes occurring when you go shopping? Today I got asked for a donation at McDonald’s while getting a cup of coffee and aslo at another store, and the Salvation Army bell ringers are already at the front doors of stores. I send my checks to my supported charities regularly but I still feel a bit of intimidation by what seems like an increasing occurance of such appeals at retail stores. I believe the increasing number of needed causes need to be served but such appeal processes while shopping haven’t completely entered my comfort zone.

Liz Crawford
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

I think this season may mark the tipping point of charitable donations at retail. Sure, most shoppers feel more positively disposed toward a company that supports a cause. But my hunch is that they won’t feel too happy after holiday shopping where they are pummeled with requests to donate.

The happier solicitation method I believe, is to give a portion of purchase proceeds to charity. This way, a shopper can feel good about purchasing the item, without having to make a separate decision & dip into the wallet twice.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
10 years 5 months ago

Perhaps this is just me, but I’ve never felt that these campaigns were a plus for retailers, whether it’s a Salvation Army bell ringer outside the store, or a question asked at checkout. Perhaps a silent appeal when I’m entering my debit or credit info will feel less intrusive. Still, while they obviously raise a lot of money, from a business perspective they may make a retailer feel better about themselves, but I’m not sold that customers feel better about the retailer.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Wow, what a number on that Safeway program! I don’t mind a discreet prompt on a checkout screen one bit and in fact, I often respond. I don’t care for the verbal call-out approach, however, particularly when paired with silly write-your-name on-construction-paper follow-ons. Checkout giving is a great way for retailers to leverage their scale for good. If you don’t like it, just push “no,” or even better, watch the offer disappear (as per the article)!

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

This is an interesting and good method to ask for donations. Hopefully, the retailers will have a way to assure they get to the proper charity. I like it better than having to say “I gave on the way in” as I am leaving the store.

Robert Straub
Guest
Robert Straub
10 years 5 months ago

I’ve had the verbal call out after declining on the card machine multiple times at Safeway so I must believe it’s at least somebody’s policy at Safeway and while it is annoying, on at least a few occasions I have acquiesced, so I guess it works.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Interesting that this really only happens in the US, with few exceptions. We are indeed a giving culture. Most of us donate to charities of our choice on our own. It does give a good sense of goodwill to the marketplace when a retailer or CPGer donates to a worthy cause, however, most people do feel intimidated at the POS with a request for donations, whether or not they actually contribute.

Perhaps more retailers can offer the customer to sign up the charity of their own choosing online so these donations can go to the one they chose and connect that choice to their frequent shopper card.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

The final seconds of a sale are about gratitude and positive memories. Any behavior that risks disrupting a positive experience or interferes with expressing thanks is unacceptable.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
10 years 5 months ago

Having been involved in professional fund-raising I can definitely say that POS request produce powerful results. To keep this going I would suggest one of two alternatives. 1. Pick a local cause and stay with it or 2. Only use POS every other month and tie to a well advertised cause (retailer may do the advertising or piggy back a national campaign). If handled properly either tack will benefit the retailer and the charity/cause. Those of you in areas with Military bases should make a special effort to support Military causes. Those who replied that they would like to be asked less aren’t saying they won’t give but ARE SAYING they feel ambushed. A good PR/Advertising campaign will cure this problem.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
10 years 5 months ago

I had precisely the same experience at Safeway that was reported in The New York Times: In addition to the request on the card machine, the checker asked me about the charity-of-the-month and then apologized by saying, “We’re required to ask.” And that’s here in NorCal, near Safeway’s corporate HQ. You’d think that if this were against Safeway’s policy, it would be executed properly so near the home office.

Another peeve I have with Safeway’s charity collections is their lack of financial participation. As reported in Bernice’s comments, their main charity is the fight against breast cancer, a worthy program. But, after being constantly asked to contribute, I finally began asking the checkers if Safeway were matching the donations. The answer is always “no.” I find that off-putting.

Tony Orlando
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Being in a small town, our store uses the Salvation Army kettle, and it does very well. Small towns I believe convey the charity in a positive light, and a higher perceived level of trust is built into the community, because we can see the results of our efforts more readily than a big city.

I hope people will leave their change in the kettle, as most do.

We also have a lot of Vets (God Bless them) who run the kettles, and it makes a huge difference in the giving.

Happy giving to all!

Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Regarding Safeway’s policy of not asking–I wonder if they track how much money is raised by each clerk, shift, etc. If so, then regardless of corporate policy, someone in the store organization is going to apply pressure on the clerks to get donations.

Joe Waters
Guest
Joe Waters
10 years 5 months ago

I just posted about my experiences with a register program at Williams-Sonoma for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

A few things I concluded were:

The ask is everything! Can’t rely on machines or signage to get people to give.

Retail is retail. If folks like WS and Brooks Brothers can do register programs, any retailer can.

With upscale retail stores, leave the ask amount open. You’ll raise more money! Trained staff give you a huge edge! This can be especially important in lower traffic stores that are concerned about how much money they can raise.

Brand, brand, brand. Consumers respond best to brand name causes.

You can check out the whole post at http://selfishgiving.com.

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