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Whole Foods and "donations"

Was this an aberration or do they try this on everyone?

Went to Whole Foods after the gym. Get to the checker with my basket + reusable bag. I say, "there's a bag at the bottom." He starts to ask me if I want to buy a bag, but catches himself.

Checker: "do you want to donate your bag fee or deduct it?"
Me: "Deduct."
Checker: "Total is $37.19 - should I just round it up to $38 or $39 for a donation?"
Me: "No." delivered with my signature look.

I donate to the charities I want to donate to. I've never heard of any store doing this. How do you know what happens to that money?

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  1. We shop at Safeway and they regularly are seeking donations but for specific charities. And the receipt shows the donation. I do it occasionally. It's a cheap way to make a difference.

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      Safeway does this routinely, I've also encountered it at Whole Foods.

    2. That would annoy me. He didn't say what you were supposed to be donating to? I also don't appreciate when people are pushy like that.

      1. This donation at checkout thing is everywhere, unfortunately.
        "It's x month, then next month, disease x is up.
        I'm sick of it. I particularly loathe being asked directly and having to turn them down. It's just so inappropriate.
        I'm there to buy my damn groceries, not donate.
        I also see the donation requests on the screen when I go to sign- another opportunity to pressure me to donate.
        I donate plenty- I have my charities and am proud to support them.
        I DO donate occasionally. Just a buck is no big deal when the mood strikes me, but it's the invasiveness that bugs me.
        The constant barrage and begging for donations at every checkout is getting old.

        1 Reply
        1. re: monavano

          It's funny that it doesn't bother me. But I've learned as I've aged to say "no" comfortably.

          1. It's usually for a local charity.

            When it's happened to me at Whole Foods, the teller has told me what charity it was (last time, if I recall correctly, it was for a reading program for underserved youths or something along those lines).

            It's not a big deal for me. If I don't want to do it, I just politely decline. If I'm cool withe charity, then rounding up some spare change, or a the price of a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee is really nothing I'm going to think too much about.

            1. "I donate to the charities I want to donate to." Me too. When confronted with a donation request at the grocery store, I just say "not today." Every time I'm asked.

              1. Wegmans is taking donations for the food bank. I almost always have them round up (recently from an 86.xx bill to 90).

                With all the recent cuts of federal support, I try to do my little part.

                16 Replies
                1. re: linguafood

                  As an aside, we have a quite small monthly debit from our checking account to our local food bank.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    I have a number of charities billing my credit card monthly, for charities I know well and have vetted for low overhead and high program funds and transparency in fiscal reporting, etc.

                    I send larger gifts to a few several times a year.

                    I care too much to donate to the charity du jour without having all that background info.

                  2. re: linguafood

                    Yeah, I'm a sucker for a request coupled with an open palm. Checkout counter, out front dressed as Santa and ringing a bell, kids in little league uniforms, whatever, I always wind up giving something. I'd rather assume it's for a good cause than that someone's going through that much trouble to steal nickels.

                    At the end of the day, it's only money, right?

                    1. re: MGZ

                      Well, I don't give to the Salvation Army or other random folks -- DEFinitely not a Santa (are you kidding? Those guys are all frauds!! The guy can't possibly be everywhere at the same time!)

                      However, in this case, it's just a very easy way of contributing something to society, plus I don't mind at all being reminded of those less fortunate than myself and helping out just a little bit.

                      1. re: linguafood

                        I just can't really help it. Probably some weird side effect from years of abusing LSD. Which reminds me, someday buy me a drink and I'll explain what Santa told me about how he does the "everywhere at once thing".

                        1. re: linguafood

                          What's wrong with Salvation Army? That's one of the few I never refuse, I know the money is used for the right purpose. Almost all of it goes to "the less fortunate".

                          1. re: coll

                            For a lot of folks, this is a deal breaker. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zinnia-... does a lot of excellent work.

                            I just prefer to donate to others who do as well, without discriminatory policies or history.

                              1. re: linguafood

                                Okie dookie, thanks for the info.

                              2. re: coll

                                I, too, resent being asked for donations at the check out counter; probably the checker doesn't like being forced to ask each customer that.

                                Re: Salvation Army: An ex boyfriend, who was a cop for 10 years, told me he really respected the Salvation Army because they never refused the very worst drunks the cops had to pick up.

                                1. re: walker

                                  Their aniti-gay policy lost them MY donations.

                                  I LIKE being asked. It's so easy to round up by less than a dollar and know it makes a difference. And if it's an organization I don't support then I just say "not today."

                                  1. re: walker

                                    Exactly why I favor them, my father was a NYC cop and that was exactly what he told me too. He never passed a kettle without throwing in a dollar or two, and all the family continues to follow the tradition in his name.

                                    I've also done business with them and never saw a wrong move myself.

                                    1. re: coll

                                      You favor them for their anti-gay stance? Wow.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I was responding to walker, in case you didn't notice. I really hadn't noticed your post.

                                        1. re: coll

                                          Oh, sorry, I didn't see that. But WITH their anti-gay stance, I could just never support them. I'm sure they do good work but I put my money with those who espouse equal rights for all.

                          2. They usually have a small sign/poster near the register which says the charity they're pushing for each month. Sometimes the cashier will ask and include the name of the charity at that time. It doesn't really bother me to be honest, I just say "no thanks" and move on.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Erika RollerGirl

                              Maybe I'm too sensitive. I've been asked at many stores if I wanted to donate $1 to whatever cause, but I've never encountered the rounding up request.

                              I make most of my charitable donations through payroll deductions. I'm pretty darn sure that the charity gets the money that way.

                              1. re: 512window

                                I really don't think that corporations like WF are stealing anyone's money. Offtopic but the adminstration costs can prove so high that I won't donate to even worthy causes.

                                I actually like the rounding up. It's under a dollar (unless you do more like lingua) but if a lot of people do it, it can make a real difference.

                            2. It bugs me..... I always assume there's something in it for the store not done out of pure charity.

                              Does anyone know if Safeway, Wholefoods etc.... gets an "administration fee" or tax write off, for collecting for the charities?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: sparky403


                                According to this 100% of the money that Safeway collects goes to the charity. I don't see where a tax write off would come in except perhaps for their foundation that oversees this and other programs.

                                We used to work for a corporation who gave millions and millions to programs just because it was the right thing to do.

                              2. Our Whole Foods does this and I like it. There are a couple of boxes to put wooden nickels (heh) into to donate your bag refund. (They normally have a couple of different charities going at the same time and you can choose which.) The round up to donate thing has a charity specified on a sign next to the register.

                                Never had a problem when I've said "no" though I always donate the bag refund as they always have some organization I'm happy to support.

                                1. I definitely don't bring my bag for a 5c refund so I'm happy to donate it. My preference at whole foods is when they have the tickets for $1, $5, $10 and you just hand it to your cashier. I also like when they have cans of beans and tuna, etc up at the register you can add to your bill for them to donate. If I'm buying 3 cans of garbanzo beans for a recipe, chances are I'm not going to want to put one in the donation box, so having some items to choose from at the register is helpful.

                                  Why did you feel the need to deliver "your signature look?" I'm sure a simple no would have sufficed and there's no need to be rude. Oftentimes the checkers are required by management to ask.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: ohmyyum

                                    My late MIL, who was old and feeble, didn't like being asked "Do you need any help out today?" She wasn't consoled by our telling her that they're required to ask everyone that :)

                                  2. At my Whole Foods it's a ten cent bag refund, and I choose to always donate.

                                    There's usually a sign telling me the charity, but I miss it and sometimes it's not visible when I check out, so I ask which charity it's going to this month. Right now it's the Whole Planet Foundation, focused on micro-loans.

                                    Once I asked about the charity-du-jour and found out it was for dentistry for low income families in Minneapolis. The woman behind me said she was glad I asked because that was certainly not something for she wanted to donate money. I ponied up a couple extra bucks because I thought it was important and I could see it would be a tough sell for most people. I had just watched a documentary on elephants and it seems after their fourth set of teeth wear down they no longer can eat and therefor starve to death. I've been taking much better care of my teeth since I saw that, and I think dentistry is pretty important.

                                    Never had the rounded up total sprung on my but have been asked if I want to donate 1, 5 or 10 dollars for a charity. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't and feel fine either way.

                                    1. You don't HAVE to do it... asking people if they want to donate at the register is a way to make it easy for them to give because it's just a small amount added onto the regular grocery bill. The Petsmart pet stores have a donation screen as part of your purchase and I'll often kick in a couple of bucks to help buy food for needy animals when I'm buying food for my own menagerie. And Walgreens asks about the charity of the month every time you buy something. I almost always say 'no thanks, not today' at the grocery store though...

                                      1. I've actually never been asked to donate the bag fee but I would. Those pennies add up. The charities are always well targeted to the local community.

                                        If you don't like it, say no.

                                        1. Tuesday I was at Whole Food and there were several demo tables with plates of Mardi Gras (King?) cake, with slices cut up, plated and on display. Since I've never seen one of these in real life, I went over to check it out and the woman told me if I wanted a slice I had to donate to a charity, the name of which I didn't catch. At least you got a little reward for your kindness!

                                          They probably do donate to their favorite charities but I doubt it's the exact amount they collect from the customers.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: coll

                                            Wow that's interesting, donation for samples. I saw the king cakes yesterday, now on sale they weren't really trying to give them away at $10.

                                            1. re: coll

                                              Why would you think they wouldn't hand over the full amount. Safeway does. I can't find the exact info but considering all the other good things they do, I'd be surprised.

                                              1. re: coll

                                                Actually it a lot more. A local charity I volunteer with has been the benefit of their generosity a number of times both through direct support (allowing a cook to "shop the store" to set up a core kitchen) to receiving grants to receiving cash assistance.

                                              2. The bag thing at our Whole Foods works like this - they give you wooden nickels and you can drop them into a container that has the name of the charity. They usually have two charities at a time, and each for several months at a time. If you don't want to do this, then don't. Personally, I do it when the charities are doing things I want to support and I don't if they are charities I don't know much about or don't want to support. So not a big deal.

                                                The other charity thing that our local Whole Foods does is the microfinance thing. You can give whatever amount you want in $5 increments to support microfinance programs.

                                                It is called Whole Foods Foundation: https://www.wholeplanetfoundation.org/

                                                Personally, I think it is fantastic and I donate every week. If you don't want to, don't.

                                                To answer your question about what happens to the money, I use Charity Navigator and other internet resources.

                                                And yes, every grocery store around here has check-out counter donations. At Safeway, it is usually some disease - Jerry's kids, breast cancer, etc.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Just Visiting

                                                  Thanks for elaborating for people who didn't know. Think what you will of WF but they are doing lots of great work - all over the world and right in the communities where they have stores.

                                                2. WF used to have a list of about 3 charities that you could donate your bag fee to. I think the donation was about 5 cents. That was before the County passed a mandatory fee $.10 for each bag you needed, if you didn't bring your own bag. I don't know if WF actually donated the money they received, but I'm not sure it actually added up to much money at that time. And, the charities they listed were always local and in line with my personal and political beliefs....

                                                  1. Someone asked how the stores that ask for donations at their registers benefit. They benefit from the goodwill they create in the community by donating to local causes. In other words, the stores take credit for the generousity of their customers.

                                                    8 Replies
                                                    1. re: Tripper

                                                      That's why I won't donate at the checkout and also opted out of a utility company roundup thing. If they're going to take the credit for it let them dip into their own damn pocket.

                                                      1. re: miss_belle

                                                        Well, WF does tons of great charitable work all over the world aka dipping "into their own damn pocket." And those donations I'd think would be a particular promotion and the monies sent would be 'labeled' as such. This thread has been a real eye opener for me. I guess our society has created a lot of cynicism :(

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          My mistake posting here. I don't shop at WF but was referring to other stores and my utility company.

                                                          1. re: miss_belle

                                                            Oh, this thread is about the general policy. The Safeway in our area does the same thing...and also has a foundation that does much good work. What's a "utility company roundup"?

                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                              They round up your bill to the next dollar and donate to the charity of their choice. I think it's just one of those many charges on the bill they hope customers won't notice.

                                                              1. re: miss_belle

                                                                If they're hoping you won't notice, then it sounds like they do it without approval. Now THAT I wouldn't like. I would want to be able to support or not each of those charities.

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  Hope this is not too off topic, but the PG&E utility in California has had a program for years where you can make a donation each month that goes into a fund to help people who cannot pay their energy bills. You do have to sign up for it, but I don't notice the few extra bucks a month and I hope it helps to keep the the heat and lights on for someone who has fallen on hard times.

                                                                  1. re: pamf

                                                                    I would *gladly* have them round up my bill to heat the homes of folks in need.