Consumer Report: Shopping & Embedded Solicitation

NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. (CBS 2) — Has it happened to you? You’re shopping for groceries, but before you pay, you’re asked to donate money to this cause or that charity.

A CBS 2 undercover camera followed reporter Jennifer McLogan as she checked into where the money is going – and how shoppers feel about this kind of giving.

It’s called embedded giving, and it raises millions for charity – but is it something you want to be asked about every time you shop?

Shopper Kathy Karbiner said she feels intimidated.

“It does make me feel a little guilty when you’re on line, because you are put on the spot,” Karbiner said.

CBS 2 brought its camera into 15 random Long Island supermarkets, pizzerias, electronics stores, pet stores and coffee shops. All but two were collecting at the cash register, for various worthy causes, and before payment, several of the businesses asked for donations.

As holidays approach and budgets tighten, shoppers say the constant requests can become overwhelming.

“If the charity is important to me, I gladly give, painlessly,” Dr. Barry Berman, a professor of business at Hofstra University, said. “If it’s not important to me, or if it is slowing down my line, or if I am intimidated, I start getting much more angry.”

Berman said he tells his students that embedded solicitations are legal, but there is very little regulation – or disclosure. It’s up to the person giving the money to determine how much actually goes to the cause.

“We want the proof, we want to see that it’s a real deal, and this isn’t some fake thing,” shopper Robert Cerruti said.

“As a consumer, as somebody shopping, if you want to give, you have to do the homework,” shopper Gina Ristic said.

Experts say it’s great to give, but it’s also important to do research on where your money will be going. Some foundations keep up to 10 percent of donations for administrative overhead.

The first successful embedded solicitation appeared in the 1980s, when American Express pledged one penny for every customer transaction to help refurbish the Statue of Liberty.

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