Killing me softly with kindness
I get it that businesses want to keep their customers happy. But do they need to follow up every interaction with emails cluttering up my inbox asking me if I liked their service and urging me to rate them?
Usually the rating offered is a 1-5 star scale, but sometimes it’s a lengthy questionnaire that would take an entire lunch hour to complete.
Today I received not only a ranking quiz, but a full-on e-newsletter from my optometrist. I was, of course, thrilled to learn from an almost 300 word bio on a new optometrist that “…in his free time, you can find him with his wife, two young daughters, and large dog adventuring outdoors, dreaming up new house and yard projects, and honing his culinary and barista skills.”
Isn’t that special?
Please, just leave me alone.
The last straw
Banning plastic straws in the U.S. is more about virtue signaling than preventing plastic pollution.
The fact is, five Asian countries – China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand – account for up to 60 percent of the plastic waste leaking into the ocean, according the Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment.
More than 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean every year. Most of it is washed into the ocean by rivers, with 93% of it coming from just 10 of rivers, according to the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Germany. The Yangtze is the main culprit, pouring more plastic into the sea than the other nine rivers combined.
I’ve spent some wonderful time in the Philippines, one of the major plastic polluters, but you can’t miss the streams and coastal areas inundated with waste.
The waste got so bad on on Boracay, a stunningly beautiful small island I’ve visited in the center of the Philippine archipelago, that the government shut down tourism for six months in 2017 so a massive clean-up could take place.
So let’s get off the pointless plastic straw bans. As Angela Logomasini, a researcher at the Competitive Enterprise Institute said, while plastic buildup in waterways and oceans is a problem, it’s not one that will be affected by straw bans (emphasis in original).
“The problem is a disposal problem,” she said. “Most of it is in Asia and Africa because they have open dumps and they pour tons of trash into the ocean. They don’t have the proper disposal methods. If you dispose of something properly, it’s not a problem.”
Here’s a tip
Gone into a shop lately and found yourself confronting a tablet screen or phone-like device with various generous tip options? One option is “No tip”, but that requires a purposeful action the cashier and other customers in line behind you can see. So out of guilt, you hit one of the % options instead. The practice is particularly egregious at businesses where you didn’t used to tip at all, but now feel pressured to do so.
It’s plain and simple coercion.
And it gets worse. If you buy a $2.85 espresso and the screen offers 15%, 20% and 25% tip options, you are likely to hit 15%, generating a tip of 43 cents. If a business wants to jack that up, it can give you $1, $2, or $3 options on purchases below $10, instead of a percentage. If you pick $1, you have paid a 35% tip. Devious, but effective.
It might make some sense at businesses like restaurants where the waiters and waitresses are getting state-approved hourly pay less than the minimum wage, with the expectation they will make up the difference in tips. But everywhere?
Give me a break!
The store clerk ambushed me, asking if I wanted to round up my bill to the nearest dollar and contribute the difference to a non-profit of the store’s choice. Another case of checkout charity., which also includes direct requests for non-profit donations at the cash register.
More than $486 million was raised in the United States in 2018 by a group of 79 point-of-sale fundraising campaigns that each garnered in excess of $1 million in contributions, according to Engage for Good, a cause marketing organization. That was up from the $441.63 million raised by 73 checkout campaigns in 2016.
Even online shoppers are being hit up.
eBay for Charity has held the top spot on the online checkout charity list since its inception in 2012, Engage for Good reports. In 2018, the program raised $69 million in the United States and $101.6 million globally by allowing sellers to contribute a portion of their sales to charity and inviting buyers to make a voluntary donation to one of more than 66,000 charities.
My question – why should I contribute to an obvious effort by the company to burnish its corporate social responsibility (CSR) credentials? If the company cares, let it donate its own money.
Moreover, why should I donate to a cause with limited transparency, with no information in front of me on where all the money’s going, the past performance of the charity or its impact?
And what about transparency? The Better Business Bureau has asked: What role does the store play in supporting the charity besides your donation? Does the store receive a match for any of the donations? Does the store get a tax write off? Does the store charge the charity administrative fees? What percentage is donated directly to the charity?
Sure, my donation isn’t likely to be much, but it may well end up being part of a multi-million dollar campaign. Checkout charitable giving also tends to be done without thoughtful consideration, similar to often derided impulse buying.
My thinking? Better to skip the checkout donation appeals. Instead, sit down once a year, decide what you care about, research what non-profits do a good job of addressing your concerns, then give to them. That’ll do it right.