My fortress of cynical introversion is constantly under siege by coworkers who want me to do “good things”. As a non-Christian, non-conforming, non-proselytizing young man, I am clearly only committing hate crimes in my free time and sewing my seeds of hate at every opportunity. Due to my rampant bad behavior, many of those I work with daily feel I should repent in some form or another, whether I actually want to or not. I am unswayed by mindless spiritual zeal and their persuasive logic is far inferior to mine, so they are forced to fall back on the tried and true way to win someone over: cookies.
Everyone loves cookies, even diabolical people like me.
Enter the fundraiser. We’ve all been witness to these poor attempts at entrepreneurship; whether for a church, a school, a youth sports club or some other sickeningly wholesome, suburban cause. They flout brand-name candy and cookies, overtly labeled with some contact information about the so-called charity you are supporting. The illusion of helping out a “good cause” allows a buyer to ignore the heinous inflation that is imposed onto otherwise cheap goods. People fall all over themselves to buy assorted crap from these cardboard boxes of deceit, in hopes that their indirect, incredibly minor contribution will somehow lead to salvation.
Despite this seemingly benign reasoning, there is a clear hypocrisy in the snack distribution world. If a box of random goods is put out for sale in an office on the honor system, there will be at least a 30% loss of inventory. I know this first hand from stocking the snack box at my office for 6 months. If the exact same box is put out with a fund-raising label, the pilfering all but completely stops. It is not that people want to feel good, it is that they don’t want to feel bad. Stealing from some guy who supplies snacks at no profit is no big deal, but stealing from kids or a church is just flat out wrong. I love double standards, especially where my own money is involved.
Using psychological tricks is not the only underhanded tactic these “good causes” employ to peddle their overpriced junk. They also pull the strings on more innate, primal responses, like hunger and sympathy.
Hunger and greed is the obvious one; have you ever seen a generic fundraiser that sells fresh fruit? Salads? Anything remotely healthy? No. Because people don’t want healthy. They want to justify their disgusting face-stuffing habits by misdirecting their gluttony onto their now inflated sense of charity. It’s OK if I eat this entire sleeve of Oreos™, the money I paid for them is going to help a youth basketball team from the derelict inner city. I’m such a good person, even though I think I can literally hear my heart and circulatory system crying out in tortured anguish. People in this country have horrendous diets anyway, but at least when they buy the overly processed sugar that they don’t need from a fundraiser, they can say they did it to support a good cause.
The one I really loathe, as I cannot personally control it like I can hunger, is sympathy. There is a niche group who has literally cornered their respective market with this tactic: the goddamn Girl Scouts. These little girls don’t even need to try to sell you their product, in fact most can be found twirling mindlessly in circles while their mothers try their hardest to collect the money that people are literally throwing at them. It does help that the cookies are very tasty, but the fundamental truth cannot be denied. Girl Scouts line up in the best of public places, showing off cute little girls whose innocence will be destroyed if you don’t financially fund their futures by purchasing an absurd number of boxes of cookies. The bottom line is it works; a Google result for “girl scouts of the usa” returns 322,000 results, which is impressive until you compare it to a search for “girl scout cookies” which yields a staggering 833,000 results. A well-played, sympathetic cause will have people “awwwing” as they open their wallets faster than you can say “Thin Mints”.
And even with these two powerful emotional strategies, some fundraisers are not satisfied. The main tool, especially of office related fundraisers is the ever present idea of guilt. If you don’t buy some expensive yet disgusting candy from us, the church might go under, and then all of the poor parishioners will have no one to guide their sheepish spirits. If that happens, my kids will grow up in a heathen world, never know god, and eventually writhe in the pits of hellish damnation. Is that what you want? You want my kids to go to hell? What kind of person are you? Never mind the scary irrationality, this is basically the main idea people put forth when presenting you with random goods to buy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want them, can’t afford them, don’t actually support whatever cause it is, or any combination. You must buy something, otherwise you are just a bad person.
Seriously, buy something. There are kids out there with diseases (deadly diseases) who desperately need the 13 cents profit we will make from you buying this candy bar. The same candy bar that will eventually put you into the hospital with advanced symptoms of diabetes. But rest easy, some one can have a fundraiser to raise the money to pay your medical bills.
Turning the “P” in “Please” into a little, concerned looking man does not sway me, candy demons.