Canada’s customers feeling the pressure to donate at cash registers

Global Business

A common occurrence during a holiday season: an employee asks if a customer would like to donate to charity while they’re being rung up. In Canada, shoppers were getting annoyed by the so-called prompted donations. CCTV America’s Kristiaan Yeo reported this story from Toronto.

Canada’s customers feeling the pressure to donate at cash registers

It's something that happened to many shoppers. Employees ask for a charitable donation while customers are checking out. In Canada, shoppers are getting now annoyed by the so-called 'prompted donations'. CCTV America's Kristiaan Yeo reported this story from Toronto.

For many Canadians, it’s the season of goodwill and generosity and that’s an excuse to spend on food, drinks, and gifts. But not everyone appreciates when retailers ask customers to pledge a few extra dollars at the checkout to help a good cause.

“That’s a negative experience. It reminds me of going to church and they’re like, ‘Put something in there, put something in there,'” a customer said.

“You don’t always have that extra dollar to give, but you feel like you have to,” another shopper said. “I can definitely see how some people feel pressured and uncomfortable with the situation.”

It’s a tactic increasingly deployed by charities and retailers to generate more contributions and, analysts say, it’s proven incredibly effective. Shoppers might agree to a donation but there’s growing resentment to the practice. A survey on Canadian public radio found that more than 80 percent of shoppers felt ambushed into donating.

“With this happening all the time, more and more, people are going to begin to feel a little resentful as everyone jumps on the bandwagon and everybody starts doing it with great frequency, it kills the golden goose that lays the egg,” York University professor Alan Middleton said.

However, 10 percent of shoppers said was a convenient way to donate.

“I think that giving is so important and if anything I think it would enhance the shopping experience because not only are you consuming for yourself but you’re giving to someone else as well,” a customer said.

One of the biggest proponents of the so-called prompted donations are Ontario’s government-run liquor stores, the LCBO. The in-store gifts helped raise more than $7 million last year.

“Customers don’t always appreciate being asked, and so we really train our staff very well to make sure they’re asking where it’s appropriate and to use their discretion,” Genevieve Tomney of the Liquor Control Board in Ontario said. “And certainly, if a customer declines that invitation to donate they won’t be asked again.”

Analysts said Canadians are likely to spend less this holiday season. Some estimates point to an average 19 percent cut in spending — which could impact donations as well.


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