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Should cashiers be asking for charitable donations?

Categories: Canada, Community

Check-out-line charity: yay or nay? (iStock photo)

It's now a familiar situation: The cashier smiles after ringing through your items and asks if you would like to make a small donation to charity.

For many, it's a gentle reminder to be generous, especially during the holiday season. Indeed, it may even be a pleasure to pitch in and sign one's name on a donor card for display.

But for others, the operative G-word isn't generosity, but guilt. It may be difficult or uncomfortable to say no, or one may feel fatigued if asked too often.

The practice - variously known as embedded giving, point of purchase fundraising or checkout-line charity - happens at grocery stores, bookstores, liquor stores and drugstores, to name a few retailers.

The funds are said to benefit a wide range of charities, from food banks and hospitals, to children's charities and international aid organizations.

National Post columnist Jonathan Kay recounts a distinctly hostile encounter between a cashier soliciting for Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children and a gentleman who did not look like he had much to spare.

"Are you the type of person who is rich enough to casually dispose of $2 to avoid the appearance of being cheap?" Kay writes, proposing some possible subtext.

"When he has to say 'no' to that question time after time, it must feel very much like a public shaming."

Kay does not fail to note that he always donates, but argues that it may not always be fair to ask.

"It's a small humiliation, but it must wear on someone to endure it week after week."

Globe and Mail writer Shelley White adds that many of the stores she frequents ask her to spare a buck, which seems like a trivial amount - but that those contributions add up.

"Let's say I reply 'yes' to every cashier who asks me for a $1 donation, and let's say I hit those retail establishments five or six times a week," she writes. "Six bucks times 52 weeks of the year - that's over $300 donated to charity, with nary a tax receipt in sight."

But White also says the nudging keeps charitable giving - in ways that she prefers - top of mind.

"Having cashiers repeatedly ask me whether I'll donate to a charity definitely reminds me to make those donations happen," she adds.

How do you feel when you're asked to donate to charity at a store's checkout? Does it depend on how the cashier asks, the amount, what causes they are supporting or how many stores ask?


(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on reader replies.)

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