The Grocery Checkout Donation Dilemma

There’s a grocery food chain called Tom Thumb on the other end of the block of my apartment complex. Until you live this close to a grocery store, you have no idea what convenience is. Should the milk ever run out mid-pour, I’m literally two minutes away from more. In fact, it takes longer to put on a more acceptable shirt and walk down to my truck than it does to get from my apartment complex to the sliding front doors.

Recently, Tom Thumb linked up with the Support for People with Disabilities fundraising campaign to benefit Easter Seals, Special Olympics and an array of organizations that help people with disabilities live fuller, more independent lives. At the end of each transaction, the cashier asks the customer if they’d like to donate money for the cause. On the customer transaction screen, there are donation options of $1, $5, $10 and $20. Any amount you donate is conveniently added to the total of the grocery amount.

“Would you like to make a donation to support people with disabilities?” The checkout lady asked.
“Sure!” I halfheartedly exclaimed, knowing it was the only real option I had to not walk away feeling like a jerk.

I scanned the options and thought about the long-term approach to giving. If I gave a large amount upfront, I knew I probably wouldn’t be as generous in future trips. I stared at the donation screen as if I was sitting on a stage and nervously chatting it up with Regis Philbin. I was the contestant who was about to exhaust all of his lifelines.

With an abundance of cheer and grace, I gladly gave…a dollar. I felt guilty for not contributing more but I really only went in to get a few things. Besides, with all the medical bills racking up, money isn’t exactly free-flowing around here. I completed the transaction and reached for my grocery bags. To my surprise, the cashier grabbed the mic, and like a boxing ring announcer before a heavyweight championship fight, proclaimed, “Thank you for your donation on aisle 9!”

As an introvert, my first thought was to barrel roll underneath the grocery conveyor belt, as if someone came in to rob the place. I wasn’t quite sure why a dollar warranted the attention of all the other customers and employees, but I wasn’t exactly begging for the attention. It would have been awkward enough if the lights dimmed, confetti sprayed from the rafters and they rolled in a new car, but unfortunately, this was the complete opposite of that. Shouldn’t the attention be saved for those donating more than a dollar? Somebody please tell me brain yes.

I began the long walk out of the store. I wasn’t sure if there were any eyes on me because I walked as if I was in a dark, smokey, lonely alley, followed by a giant silhouette. Like a prisoner walking towards the exit gates of prison, my focus was on reaching the doors to freedom. I no longer wanted to be known as the donation guy.

Ooooh, everyone look at the guy who donated.

Alright, I exaggerate a bit, but still.

A few days later, I walked into Tom Thumb, having forgotten everything about my previous experience. If you know me, you’re probably convinced the Men In Black memory eraser is real and that I stare into it on a daily basis. When I checked out, I was quickly reminded.

“Would you like to make a donation to support people with disabilities?”
“Sure,” I responded.

My answer was not as enthusiastic as the first time, but I once again donated. I braced for the public service announcement but this was a different cashier and an announcement never came. It felt much better to walk out as an anonymous giver.

You would think by the third time I walked into Tom Thumb, I would have known the procedure, but I’m serious about my memory. It wasn’t until I came back a fourth time that I realized the thought of exiting the store induced symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

“Would you like to make a donation to support people with disabilities?” I was asked.
With my head down and veins circulating shame, I responded, “Not today. I’ve donated the last three times I checked out.”

I’m not sure why I added the last sentence. Alright, yes I am. I wanted to make it known that I wasn’t a jerk. I’ve witnessed the antics of an old man with the last name of Scrooge and I didn’t want to give a stranger/cashier the perception that we’re somehow related. I wanted it to be known that my decision not to donate was based on my previous decisions to be a participant. My response was merely an attempt to make me feel better.

Feeling defeated, as if I had just lost a two-year-old goldfish, I grabbed my bags and dreamed of the days I was one step away from being carried to my car on the shoulders of Tom Thumb’s employees. I felt selfish and guilty for not giving.

Luckily, my last trip to Tom Thumb revealed that the donation drive is over. No longer do I have to decide between barrel rolls or cowers of shame. I can simply walk in, buy what I need and walk out, just as I had before. A part of me was relieved. I don’t have to feel like a jerk anymore and I won’t be pressured to add to the total of a bill that’s constantly on the rise.

Am I the only one that feels this way? Do any other introverts share the same feelings? Extroverts? Or does everyone just give freely? Am I the only human being on earth that occasionally says “no thanks”? It seems like if anyone would be immune to these experiences it would be the latter personality types. Am I wrong?

*On a side note: I think it’s wonderful Tom Thumb participates in this fundraising campaign. I wouldn’t suggest that they stop doing this every year. I realize this is a me problem and it would be foolish to stop something so beneficial to those who need it. It’s just that when you’re doing what you can to save money, it’s difficult to give as much as you’d like. Hopefully, I’ll be in a better position to give the next time the campaign comes around.

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