Forced Giving: Does Taking Without Asking Make You a Grinch?

Are you a grinch for taking a donation without asking first?

I took the family to New York City this past weekend for some holiday fun, and ran into this cause marketing promotion at Norma’s in The Parker Meridien.

When I opened the menu this announcement fell out (focus on the bottom part):

You can read it for yourself, but the hotel is teaming up with City Harvest again this year for a gingerbread house contest. To vote you have to donate a buck to City Harvest, which I’m fine with. City Harvest is a great organization.

Here’s the wrinkle: this is an opt-out fundraiser. Unless you tell the wait staff you don’t want to participate they’ll add a buck–per person–to your bill. In addition to having to read the fine print on this fundraiser, the waitstaff didn’t say anything to me . (This isn’t uncommon with restaurant staff as they generally think fundraisers like this one hurt tips. I don’t totally disagree with them.)

One Side of the Coin

It’s nice to collect money, but the goodwill is absent as people have no clue about the fundraiser. If you’ve ever been to Norma’s, you’ll know that your eyes are pretty focused on the food and menu items such as Irresistible Banana-Macadamia Nut Flap Jacks with Whipped Banana Brown Sugar Butter . . . and little else.

So, do we agree that not asking people to donate and just taking their money–unless they notice–is a bad thing, right?

The Other Side

Let’s look at it from another perspective. It wasn’t so long ago that I was working at a nonprofit and feeling the pressure to raise money. Despite what you feel about fundraising tactic, the amount that will be raised is pretty darn good.

Yeah, some people will get upset (I asked the hostess and she said some people complained and asked for the donation to be removed from their bill). But most people will let it slide. And who really wants to look like the jerk by asking that the donation be removed!

What Do You Think?

Does the downside outweigh the upside? If anyone can get away with this it will be a charity. Adding a donation is very different than slipping in an extra fee, which really makes people angry when they find it.

Is it okay to take without asking when it’s for charity? Is this a good or bad example of cause marketing?