You know what really grinds my gears?

As someone who has had to occasionally beg readers for money, perhaps I should keep my mouth shut about charity requests and incessant email from politicians I’ve bent over backwards to support who, especially over the last few months, are bugging me for more and more and more money. I guess emails aren’t so bad, we can delete them in private, but it struck me tonight that it now happens in Walmart or other grocery store or box retailor every single time I shop.

I actually stopped going to Whole Foods in part because I was tired of being hit up three or four times every trip, in the parking lot, aggressively where they follow you and keep badgering you, then in line at the register, then again in the walkway leading out, right to the same crew that hit you up on the way in. I’m not talking about homeless people at an intersection, or a passive collection box, or a girl scout table selling cookies at the entrance, or even someone ringing a bell outside. This is store sanctioned active solicitation from adults and often by store employees practically from the moment I step out of my car. directed at paying customers. and all the chains seem to be doing it now.

It happened again tonight, in and out and while ringing up, twice, by both cashier and assistant helping to bag, and I finally told the lady as nicely as possible, is there anyway I can get a store pin or something that says please don’t ask me for any more money at the cash register or in the parking lot? One thing that annoys me about it is the cashier probably makes just over minimum wage and you know they don’t see a dime of that money. Hell, if the cashier said instead, “This shitty store only pays me eight bucks an hour, can you spare a dollar to help my family eat?” I’d be way more likely to chip in.

That cashier is only doing it because his or her supervisor makes them, the supe is doing it because the store manager is bugging them, and the store manager is doing it because a regional exec who probably makes 250 grand a year is hassling them. One can almost hear the cheesy conversation there: “Now Jim, you guys didn’t deliver goal on your charity collections last week, are you gonna really let store #132 make you look bad again?”

The other reason I don’t like it: I’m somewhat captive when standing in line and I don’t want to be constantly reminded of how poor I’ve become and/or have that fact announced to everyone within earshot. Or made to look like a stingy asshole and feel guilty over not being able to afford it — if I gave a single dollar to half the people asking me for money in malls and parking lots and checkout lines and lining every interstection, I’d be broke real quick.

All so some asshole exec can look good to his boss, and the boss then gets to hand over a big fat check to grateful applause surrounded by Walmart logos and look like this great, generous humanitarian, and the corporation gets a tax deduction and all the credit. All this from a giant company making millions of dollars a week, a corporation that in all likelihood lobbies DC and statehouses every day against my economic interests and the interests of their own entry level employees, a company which I already, involuntarily support via sales and income tax because they won’t pay their employees a living wage, and which I directly support by shopping there.


  1. lochaber says

    I tend to avoid Whole Foods when I can.

    I’ve heard various accounts (to be honest, I haven’t thoroughly vetted them, so…) that the owner is a climate change denialist, and also at one point that employee discounts were based on the employee’s BMI.

    Every now and then I run into something else about that corporation a bit more unpleasant then what’s typical, but those are the two that stick out in my memory.

  2. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ ^ lochaber :

    Wikipedia entry for John Mackey the current Whole Foods CEO confirms what you wrote :

    Mackey does not identify as a skeptic of scientific opinion on climate change; rather, he believes that “climate change is perfectly natural and not necessarily bad.”[28]
    In a 2010 discussion of books on his reading stack with journalist Nick Paumgarten, Mackey explained his views on human-caused climate change were similar to those of author Ian Plimer:

    Source link :

    Note that Plimer’s book wiritten by someone with mining ties is utter rubbish which has been repeated and completely debunked by actual scientists.

    Mackey is also a libertarian and an opponent of Obamacare who has apparently aided the Tea party.

    So he’s problematic ethically and / or scientifically.

  3. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Debunkings of Plimer’s book colelcted and made available online here :

    Another article on Whole Foods CEO’s comments and the upset they’ve caused here :

    Plus another here :

    which notes that among other things “.. Mackey has been a leading opponent of the Employee Free Choice Act and compared unionization to “herpes.”

    Yeah, what a charmer. Surprising how extreme he is.

  4. says

    I’ve met the guy, he doesn’t come off like a raving maniac or right-wing fanatic by any means. In fact he comes off more as an earth-y dude. I think what happens is twofold: 1) you get a bunch of money and any stray thought you have is suddenly taken as Gospel by aides and toadies, 2) the media is always looking for a local story so that thought, if it’s published in a high school news pamphlet, gets noticed more.

    None of this is helped by people who simply failed to pick up the basics of healthy skeptical thinking. I know plenty of people in Austin who are bright, naturally inquisitive, even latently analytical, but they never developed a reservoir of technical data and used it to strike a balance between common sense and wonder. They can end up easy money for whatever conspiracy theory or pseudoscientic crap is presented to them by someone they trust, or they get to where they can’t assess plausibility at all and distrust everything equally including credible sources and reasonable inferences.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    A former McDonald’s manager told me of another reason to beware of charity pitches from retail businesses.

    Those who frequent McD’s (not me) have seen a box on every counter soliciting money for the “Ronald McDonald House” charity (which I have no reason, other than the name, to doubt does good and worthy work). And yes, the money customers drop into said boxes does go to benefit that charity. But not until it has made a detour through the corporate ledgers and come out as a donation by McD’s, with all possible tax deductions taken.

    Do other businesses do this? I haven’t heard any inside stories from those, but what I’ve observed and read of corporate behavior – particularly regarding taxes – doesn’t leave much room for doubts to give them any hypothetical benefit of.

    Write those charities a check, if you can & want to, and claim your own damn deductions.

  6. OpenMindedNotCredulous says

    Well said. Retail businesses soliciting charitable donations from customers are doing it primarily to make themselves look good as far as I can tell. It’s more than a little obnoxious. Almost as bad is the practice by corporations like IBM (who I worked for in the recent past) to require their employees to formally state whether they would or would not donate to the United Way annual campaign via a payroll deduction. If too many employees failed to affirm one way or the other their management hierarchy was held accountable.

    As someone who donates between 5% and 10% of my net income to charities every year I resent the coercion.

  7. says

    Also, political campaigns are not charities. They are mostly well-off to extremely wealthy people who don’t pay for their own self-promotion to get a job with a little to a lot of power and the opportunity to do a piss-poor job of governance.

  8. Granny Sue says

    Wow! Very well written piece. I’m retired so I think carefully about my donations. I don’t automatically hand over a dollar at the cash register anymore either.

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