Posted by: Mike | July 10, 2008

Charity at HyVee- A Social Experiment

For those of you who don’t live in the midwest, HyVee is a chain of grocery stores based in Des Moines, Iowa. I am a checker at one of their stores in Omaha. Recently, HyVee launched an admirable campaign aimed at raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Association. Checkers at stores across the midwest were encouraged to ask customers if they wished to donate a dollar to JDRF upon checking them out. This provided the perfect opportunity for me to observe the reactions of customers whom I solicited. Of course, the richest observations came from those customers who declined to donate a dollar- and the reactions of such customers were varied and interesting.

The most common reaction among customers who opted not to donate was for them to purse their lips, look somewhere in the distance, and shake their heads. Almost as common (and a bit more amusing) was for the customer to say no, then proceed to make an excuse for why they couldn’t spare a dollar. The most common (and the most legitimate) excuse was that the customer had already given money at a previous date. However, one man went so far as to say that he wouldn’t donate a dollar because he had his “own children to look after.” This particular man happened to be dressed in a polo shirt and nice khakis, and was wearing a nametag on his belt that suggested that he had a decent job. But, who am I to judge. Perhaps parting with a dollar would have jeopardized the wellbeing of his precious children (I typed that last line in a fit of sarcasm). Another man, upon refusing to donate, suggested that if children were to get more exercise and stop overeating, there would be no juvenile diabetes. Nevermind that most children who contract type 1 diabetes are of a normal weight and are perfectly healthy (the correlation between being overweight and diabetes occurs in type 2, or adult, diabetes). A third man actually tried to make a joke about the situation, suggesting that there was a connection between juvenile diabetes and juvey hall (the joke made no sense, and needless to say, the man did not donate).

Of those people who did part with a dollar, most did so out of the kindness of their hearts. However, I did take advantage of some situations in which couples went shopping together. For example, I found that the most effective way to get a couple to donate was to solicit money from the woman. Since the man is usually the one who pays, the woman will turn to the man and will often coerce him into being generous. This worked especially well with younger (presumably unmarried) couples, where the man probably felt the need to impress his girlfriend.

The charity drive at HyVee provided me with some interesting social observations that I thought I’d share with you. Hope you found them as interesting as I did- after all, they really helped to pass the time.



  1. It’s really none of your business what charity people choose to give to. We all have our reasons for not giving to one or another. And no checker making minimum wage at an all fake smile in every aisle grocery store will change that. Don’t forget, smile smile, show those teeth, even tho you think the customer is a jerk!

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