It happens at stores everywhere: a cashier asks you to donate a dollar or two to charity at the cash register. Some shoppers say "not today" and make a dash for the door. Others give either out of guilt or a benevolent heart.
So, you're about to buy forty dollars' worth of groceries or pick up a toothbrush from the pharmacy or pay 10 bucks to see a movie and then ..."Also, I'd like to know if you'd be interested in donating to ..." insert some legitimate and perfectly deserving charity. You pause. A line of customers behind you awaits your response.
"I think for a lot of people, it's like: 'Oh, my God. I've just been to so many stores and at every checkout line everybody is asking for something," said Beatty Cohan, a psychotherapist. She said she likes these situations because they force the rest of us to pull our selfish noses from our cell phones and actually interact with the world around us.
"If guilt is a motivating factor, then so be it. So be it," she said. "Because we are very very self-absorbed and we are living in a very narcissistic world."
It works even better than you might imagine. Checkout charity campaigns raise hundreds of millions of dollars every year. But we can't attribute all of that to guilt.
Here's what some folks told us:
"I don't think it makes me feel guilty. If you can afford to give, you give."
"Lots of us need help, lots of organizations need help and a dollar makes a difference."
"It's only a dollar, and if it's a good cause, I'll give."
"I think it's an excellent idea to ask people for the dollar."
Checkout charities probably raise as much money as they do because most who give actually want to give. Instead of panic, guilt, and discomfort they get a sticker on the wall.