Every shopper can afford a little spare change

We’ve all been there. You stand in a long line to check out, throw your items on the counter and whip out your debit card, only to be asked at the end of the transaction: “Would you like to donate to (insert charity name here)?”

As a customer service associate at a rather large, well-known toy store, I understand the frustration at both ends of the spectrum. My customers got tired of being harassed for credit cards, batteries, extended warranties and nonprofits — you name it. And the cashiers got tired of asking.

In an economy in which nearly everyone is crunched for money, paying your own bills is hard enough without being asked to donate to other people. But if you weren’t asked, would you donate?

I experimented once on a shift. I worked eight hours without asking a single customer to donate to Toys for Tots, an organization that collects toys and raises funds to give toys to underprivileged kids during the holidays. Despite numerous signs around the store and at each register, and a rather large donation bin at the exit, not one person offered to give up even a dollar.

I’ve heard all the arguments, some of them blatantly expressed by rude customers. The most common one is that, despite spending $600 on a single purchase for their kids, they “just can’t afford to spend any more right now — sorry.” One woman even had the nerve to pompously say she taught autistic kids during our Autism Speaks program and had already spent too much of her time on “those kids.”

Instead of complaining about being asked to donate, as customers often do, or justifying it with an excuse, just say, “No, thank you.” If you’re not comfortable donating at the register, at least find an alternate way to be charitable to people in need and nonprofit organizations that rely on philanthropy. The holidays are quickly approaching and Salvation Army Santas will soon be posted around town, collecting pocket change.

I’m a college student surviving on a diet of ramen and generic soda and I donate a dollar every time I make even the smallest purchase at work. At the Hess station, I donated a dollar to St. Jude’s Hospital — at Walgreens, to support breast cancer research. The only question I ask the cashier is if 100 percent of the proceeds go to the organization. If the store asking for the donations profits in any way, I’d rather donate directly to the organization than help pad the pockets of corporate fat cats.

The least customers can do is donate. Even if you can’t afford to donate at every register, throw your pocket change in every donation jar, buy toys and canned goods for every collection bin or pick at least one organization to contribute funds to and help alleviate the struggles of those less fortunate than yourself.

There are those who are too impoverished to shop at your supermarket or buy toys for their children in toy stores, those who are too sick to leave their hospital beds or too weak to enjoy a normal life. And there are organizations out there sorely in need of support to help these people and not enough people willing to part with a dollar here and there.

So, as the holidays approach, add one more thing to your shopping list: donations.

Whether it’s at the register or in the change bucket, every dollar counts.

Daylina Miller is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.