Thursday, October 1, 2009

Charity Costs 49¢? And Mailbox Musings

I'm a big supporter of making donations to charitable causes. I'm not often able to make a big donation, but I donate what I can throughout the year, even if it's only a few dollars here and there. I have a special place in my heart for the March of Dimes (my daughter was a preemie, their research is one of the reasons she's healthy today) and The Make A Wish Foundation (who made a trip to Disney World possible for a dying friend), but I also give to many other charities.

So you would think that I would wholeheartedly approve of all of the companies that offer to make a charitable donation when you buy their products. In theory, I'm all for it. In practice, though, I can't help but wonder why they do things the way the do.

Food products are the biggest mystery to me. I'm sure you've seen the promotions where you buy the product, send in a portion of the packaging or the UPC code and they will make a donation to a designated charity, usually in the amount of about 10¢. If a stamp costs me 44¢ and an envelope costs about 5¢, it's costing me 49¢ to make a donation in the amount of a dime. I don't understand the logic here. Couldn't they just make a donation for each item sold? Or put a code on each product that you could enter on their website? It's also worth noting that some companies won't make the donation if the piece of packing (or UPC) is torn or missing a portion.

My issue isn't with the money, anyway. It's about the inefficiency of the money spent. Wouldn't any charity benefit more from a donation of 49¢ then a donation of 10¢? I could skip the stamp and the envelope and make a donation on the charity's website. Also, from a "green" perspective, is there a point in all of those envelopes when the same result could be accomplished with a few clicks of a mouse?

I'm not trying to persuade anyone against buying the products with the charity related packaging and I'm certainly not telling you not to send in the required packaging. I want the charities to get those donations, but I'd like to see the companies that make them come up with a more efficient way for consumers to make every cent count.

And on a lighter note, the idea of sending in portions of food packages had me thinking about the mail in general. In any post office sorting bin, what sort of things do you think you might find? There would probably be some magazines and catalogs as well as few newspapers. I would expect to see a few CDs and some DVDs, along with some small packages and postcards. Colorful envelopes containing greeting cards would account for a good portion, I would think. But the majority would most likely be standard sized envelopes. What's in the envelopes, do you suppose?

Most of them are probably computer generated letters, bills and statements. Some might be advertisements and a couple might be hand written letters (a dying art form). The rest could contain some semi-interesting things like the pieces of product packaging we talked about above, but you know there have to be some pretty weird and disgusting things mixed in, too. I mean, the number of envelopes that have been licked to activate the adhesive is enough to gross me out.

My dad and I once had a conversation about those cards they have at doctor's offices. You follow a specified diet and then send a "sample" to a lab for testing (I don't even want to know about the person who opens those envelopes). Yes, they do give you a special envelope to mail it in, and yes, it's a very small "sample", but mingles with the rest of the mail in the bin. Imagine accidentally finding one of those envelopes stuck between the pages of your latest issue of People magazine!

Everyone has heard the tale about Vincent Van Gogh sending his ear to the woman he loved. I'm hoping that was an isolated incident. I like to think that body parts account for less than .oo1% of the total mail processed on any given day.

The cocktail party will continue on Friday with a new guest blogger. It's not too late to RSVP if you haven't already. You can send your submission to me at I would appreciate it if you could send me your cocktail party post in html format. If you are submitting a new post, create it on Blogger as you would any post. Save, but don't publish it. From there you can click "edit html" and copy and paste your blog into the body of an email. If you are submitting a previously published post, go into "edit" and follow the same instructions. This makes it much easier for me to display your blog post the way you have written it and saves me a lot of editing. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me.


Lissaloo said...

I started out reading your post thinking hmmm that might be a fun job, Checking out all the mall wondering what everyone's sending to who. Then kept reading, got to the licking part and started to get a little grossed out, got to the lab part, ewwwww and the ear, double ewwwwww. lol, i agree with the mail in donation thing, there has to be a better way to go about that for sure, I wonder whom we would have to complain to?

Rook No. 17 said...

I really appreciate your insights on the corporate/product/charity issue. You raised some really good points and exposed the practice for what it really is: a PR stunt to make consumers buy a product because the company seems "charitable." I wonder how many of those UPCs acutally get redeemed. Thanks for making me, and others think about different types of waste and inefficiency.
Jenn @

Charisse and Holly said...

Wow...this is one of the reasons blogging is so cool. You never know what is on someones mind. I never thought of this. I will now. I'm with you 100% on making this process better. Insightful. Thanks for the post. Holly at

Tattoos and Teething Rings said...

I'm with you on the charity thing; I especially don't like the address labels and things like that that they send out hoping for a donation. Seems like a waste of money. The only donation solicitors I ever give money to are the VFW guys and Salvation Army bell ringers.

kyslp said...

I'm with you on the charity thing, too. My kids' school has us saving box tops and the company donates money to the school. It's a pain in the butt.

I think the address labels are a waste, too. I wonder how much it costs for them to be printed and mailed.

Chicago Mom said...

Just this morning I was wondering why Yoplait asks people to mail in the pink tops to their yogurt! I agree that for them to simply make a donation for each container purchased makes MUCH more sense. You are a genius!

kyslp said...

Leaving you something at Stir-Fry. I'm working on the post now. Should be up tonight - if I don't conk out first!

Holly said...

Good point...all of fit. Once upon a time, I was a Big Sister and we all worked so hard and asked for so much from companies that in the end if we would have just asked everyone to donate some cash, it would have probably been a bigger fundraiser. I must admit I feel the same way about selling wrapping paper and popcorn..I buy it and don't need any of it (maybe now I will blog about my wrapping paper issues)...I would rather someone just asked me for $20. On that note, I do, however, from a marketing/promotion standpoint "get it." And I do realize that for many people it seems more logical for them to buy a product that just donate money. Sorry I am just going on and on and on... Why does it all have to be so complicated?!

PurpleHoodieChick said...

Haha, that's sick! Who's idea was it to send "samples" through the mail? And who agreed to it?? That's funny though!

PurpleHoodieChick said...

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