I went to pay for $10 worth of merchandise with my debit card.
As I swiped it a prompt popped up that I had never seen before.
“What’s this? I asked the drug store clerk.
“Oh, that’s if you care about young people with diabetes you can make a $1, $5, or $10 donation.”
Excuse me. If I care about sick kids?
Chain stores — read that corporate America — have really gone over the top.
They are supposedly struggling to get people into brick and mortar stores yet they resort to what can best be described as mild forms of harassment or guilt to try and ply more money out of you that ultimately will make them look good and not you.
Even amazon.com doesn’t force you to feel a tad guilty by asking if you’d like to donate to the cause du jour as you go through the process of having them take money from you.
I don’t have a problem with non-profits soliciting. I often work to raise money on the behalf of non-profits and give a fairly sizable amount each year to various charities. What I do have a problem with is corporate America not simply becoming willing partners but often instructing their store managers to have employees ask you if you’d like to donate a dollar to “so and so” when you open your wallet to pay for a purchase.
It is especially galling when mega-corporations like Chevron do it.
Chevron, in case you’re wondering, had net profits of $4.52 billion in the first three months of this year. And when tax time rolls around they will make even more from the first quarter due to generous tax credits granted by the same people in Congress who ponder having to raise income taxes for working folks because they don’t have enough money to run the federal government.
Of course, Chevron gets all sorts of warm fuzzies and accolades when they present checks for the money donated by customers that they squeeze at the pump and then at the cash register. In short, they get the applause because of hundreds of thousands of people struggling to keep their heads above water gave a dollar.
To put this in perspective, for Chevron to match the generosity of the donation of one dollar from a customer who nets $40,000 a year and who likely has an annual pay of $51,000 a year before taxes, the oil giant would have to put up $113,000.
Chevron in 2011 gave $262 million to charity. That sounds like a lot until you realize that is 0.6 percent of their profits.
It would be the equivalent of the consumer whose household income is a net $40,000 a year donating $240 to charities. The median donation — which takes extremes out of the equation such as the very high donations from some rich households and no donations from some households so as not to skew the results — is $870 a year. The median American household income is $51,000 — or that fellow who nets $40,000 a year walking into Chevron and getting polite pressure to donate to charity.
To match Chervon’s generosity of 0.6 percent of its profits, that guy would have to slash his charity giving back to $52.50 a year.
The typical Chevron customer gives 16.5 percent more of their after tax income than the oil giant does from its profits.
Yet Chevron has the audacity to pinch its costumers, politely as it may be, to give money to select charities so the oil company can look good.
Individual Americans gave $298.3 billion to charity in 2011 or a 3.9 percent increase over the previous year. Meanwhile, corporation giving remained flat at $14.5 billion. At the same time household income dropped slightly while corporate profits saw a healthy increase.
Chevron, by corporate comparisons, is one of the good guys. The percentage of money the oil company funnels to charities is the third highest in the country topped only by Wells Fargo and then Wal-Mart.
Rest assured all those mom and pop businesses out there and franchise owners give significantly more of their bottom line than Wells Fargo, Wal-Mart, and Chevron.
Between small businesses and individuals, charities are being kept afloat in this country. If individuals and small businesses stopped giving they would see donations plunge by more than 90 percent.
And let’s not forget the fact its consumers that buy the products that allow corporations to make money.
Perhaps next time they succeed at making customers feel guilty that are already the backbone of charity giving in this country to part with another dollar, Chevron can match that donation with $113,000 out of their pocket.
Then when Chevron rolls out ads that stir up sentiments that we are all in this together they can put their money where their public relations mouth is.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.