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
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.
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?
- Checking Out, and Donating, Too – The New York
- Chip and pin to replace charity collection tin – The Daily Telegraph
- Ringing up sale is also time to ask for donation – The Columbus