Forced Donations

Grocery stores, drug stores, and clothing stores ask too much of the consumer. Literally. No transaction is complete, no discount applied unless the cashier procures some deep, dark information from the customer like favorite Meg Ryan movie (obviously “When Harry Met Sally”) or what Golden Girl with whom you’d prefer to share an outhouse.

The questions/information requests are beyond intrusive. However, anyone with even the slightest ounce of confrontational nuance can skirt the questions. The most trusted method is to supply the employee with a load of bullshit and submit phone numbers and email addresses of individuals who’ve fallen out of favor with you. If the retrieval of the personal information becomes too mundane, feel free to dress up your response. Hell, make it a game. Give the cashier a series of sixes and nines if they ask for your phone number. If they request your address ask them for their address, the size of their family, their favorite militant group, and the one ethnic group that irritates them the most. It’s a subtle way to garner retribution from the constant interrogation process we undergo when all we’re looking for is a box of Mike & Ike’s.

The requests are easy enough to shake, right? You feel comfortable with the elementary skill set to diffuse any questions, especially if a terse “no” just doesn’t garner the type of excitement you yearn for. We’re allowed to have a little fun with the questioner, aren’t we? What does our zip code have to do with a pack of Big Red?

How foolish to assume the questions would stop at personal information. Much like a villain who only grows stronger and more aggressive in a sequel, stores are bolder in their requests, even going so far as to solicit donations for charity in their store.

Is the pan-handling done simply through the Pay-Pad where a customer swipes their credit or debit card? Kind of. If I refuse to donate via the Pay-Pad, the cashier asks me in a volume that nearly breaks Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound so that fellow customers waiting on-line hear exactly whether or not I decide to donate. No one wants to disappoint strangers. Who doesn’t want to see the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation nip every case of the sugars in the bud? We’re all in this together, waiting on-line with the unspoken pact to get through the check-out as quickly as possible. After all, strangers are not family.  Family can cope with your failures and a bunch of unchecked accomplishments next to your name. But strangers? You can’t let your reputation suffer in front of them. How dare you not donate a dollar, a single dollar to a charity? They’ve intuited so many ideas about you from your backwards baseball cap and faded jeans, why disappoint the unacquainted?

So in a way, the confines of the check-out line strong-arm one into a donation. It’s no different than the passive-aggressive manner a neighborhood association suggests a donation to their street fest, only to wish a poor NPR signal and broken sandals to those who decline their suggestions and tell them, “I appreciate your suggestion, but I care little about your neighborhood. Suggestion denied.”

What’s changed with the ideas of a donation? Aren’t they supposed to be made to help out those you deem fit to assist and not by the bully tactics of a cashier whose performance grid is partially evaluated on the by-proxy solicitations they do for their employer for the good of a charity?

Donating only appeals to me when I’m not asked to contribute. I see something that triggers a willingness to help others, then a few coins go in this pot, some singles in that basket. Charity loses all its appeal if someone throws a hand in my face to collect for someone or something. It cheapens the good intentions. My action doesn’t seem as pure, as genuine if someone asks me to donate. I’m even fine with subtle clues and signs as friendly reminders that charity exists, but please tame the red-vested carnival barkers who by their line of questioning, equate me to an arsonist (merely by tone) if I decide not to give. Charity only exists if it’s unsolicited.

It’s what I’m banking on to drastically cut down on time in purgatory.


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