Thursday, November 18, 2004

Salvation Army

Hugh yesterday started the segment with just a short FYI type story that quickly snowballed into the issue of the show yesterday thanks to concerned listeners. Apparently Target has decided not to allow the Salvation Army bell-ringers to collect donations outside their stores this Christmas. The article cited by Hugh from the Boston Globe (couldn't find a link, sorry) stated Target's reason was that they could no longer afford to make the exception for the Salvation Army. They were having too many other groups asking to collect donations on their premises.

I admit I'm hugely disappointed by this. The Army's bell-ringers have been around for so long they've become part of the fabric of our society and a staple of the Christmas season. Based on the responses Hugh was getting this could be disasterous for Target. Being the devil's advocate she is, the fetching Mrs. Wookie commented that people shouldn't need to be reminded or "forced" to give to charity, they should proactively pursue charity. My reply was that's a good arguement if you're addressing a crowd of committed Christians because the Church does the active encouraging for them. But for everyday people this is an easy time to give despite all their excuses for not doing so during the rest of the year. And according to Hugh the Salvation Army made $9 million during Christmas from their Target locations alone. That's a huge dent in donations for a great chraity (they've got the lowest overhead costs and do some great work helping those who can't help themselves).

Now I wouldn't suggest a boycott of Target, but I know that if I can help it, I'll probably take my business elsewhere this holiday season. There's always Walmart, Smart & Final, and Costco.

UPDATE: Shot in the Dark had a great story on how Salvation Army personally helped him through tough times:

The Salvation Army bailed us out. They covered our heat bill, and helped work out a deal with our landlord that kept us in the place - a small blessing, but it beat the alternative.
I support the Salvation Army any way I can; I make a point of dropping something in the kettle every time I walk by, and usually manage a check of some sort once a year.

Mitch also posts a quote from Lileks who probably has the best solution to this out of all of them:

There’s always something to tick you off; the tentacles of business and the non-profits are intimately intertwined. Pick any big shop and you'll find they fund something you like, and something you don't. That said: if I find that Target kicked out the Salvation Army for religious reasons, I’ll be peeved. Doesn’t mean I won’t buy my soap there. But it would chip away at that ephemeral thing called good will, the stuff companies often spend too fast without heed...End result? I wrote out a check to the Salvation Army tonight. Figured out what I put in the kettles, and doubled it. They’re happy; Target’s happy; I don’t have to drive 20 miles to find a frickin’ Wal-Mart.