Sometimes donating is a scam.

I decided to partake in a little Memorial Day tennis activity yesterday with a good college friend. After we established a time to play, I volunteered to purchase new tennis balls (we are kinda spoiled we only play with fresh balls each time). There is a Rite Aid awkwardly close to my house, and although it wouldn’t be my preffered sporting goods store, it does the job. I have bought tennis balls there before and they usually cost around $3.50 for a can (about a dollar more than if I went to Target or Sports Chalet). I don’t mind paying the extra dollar, for the convenience of walking across the street. I rolled in to the store and headed to the sports section. And wouldn’t ya know it, they were out of normal tennis balls.

All that remained, were some awkward pink balls that were $6 a can, a 171% mark up. I was pretty bummed about the expense, but I was in desperate need of new balls (get your mind out of the gutter). I justified the expensive purchase because the cannister advertised that the balls were pink because each purchase supported the fight against breast cancer. I’m always down to help noble causes. So I purchased the balls and cruised on over to the tennis courts. I took my first swing and blop…the ball was flat. I’m not talking like just a little flat, but beat up, dead, worthless. There was no bounce left in those pink balls, they were completely useless.

I was super pissed, considering I spent a ridiculous amount of money on them, but calmed myself by remembering I supported a good cause, or so I thought. I put the balls back in their canister and walked to the garbage can to throw them away. On my excursion to the garbage, I read the sticker that disclosed what amount of the proceeds went to breast cancer research. The result, $0.15 per can. Are you freakin’ kidding me?! That’s 2.5% of the total sale. It angers me to think that a company will nearly double the price of their product, but only contribute a fraction of that mark up to the charity in which they claim to support. It’s a bunch of bullpoo if you ask me. I would have been better off purchasing the regularly priced $3.50 balls and then donating $2.50 to the fight against breast cancer. I think this company dropped the “ball” (no pun intended) when it comes to operating ethically. This incident reminded me that, donating, when you don’t necessarily know how your money is being used, is not always the smart move.

Case study #2: Many of the grocery stores here ask “Would you like to donate a dollar to “blah, blah, blah” charity today?” I use to always feel guilty and would let them add the $1 to my grocery bill. After speaking with a wiser individual, I realized that’s kind of dumb. First, because I was only donating out of guilt, not because I necessarily wanted to. The second, and more important reason, I didn’t know how that dollar I donated was being used or even which organization I was donating too. There are a lot of legitimate charities out there, but there are four times as many sketchy ones. What if I was donating to a sketchy company? What if that dollar could have served more purpose with a different organization? Needless to say, I now politely decline each donation request from the local grocers.

Moral of the story, be knowledgeable of how your donated benjamins are being spent. Check out Charity Navigator to get a little background about the companies you donate too. It basically breaks down the organization and rates it between one to four stars…four stars is legit…one star is sketchy. After all, you wouldn’t invest in a companies stock without knowing a little about them first…right?

6 thoughts on “Sometimes donating is a scam.

  1. Good point there Ninja, it’s best to check to see how much of your purchase actually GOES to the charity being supported. 15 cents of $6 is stoopid.

    But what’s this about dropping the balls in the trash after one game of tennis? Seems a little wasteful man.

  2. @ Josh- The balls were flat right out of the can. I was super bummed because I paid a hefty price for them, but they were useless. They didn’t bounce at all so we couldn’t even play with them. I threw them away before we even played. Trust me, I would never throw a good tennis ball away 🙂

  3. You know those spoiled tennis kids “uhhem” that use a new can of balls each time they play? 😉 here’s a tip..

    My wife and I took up the sport and went to a nearby tennis court and after each group left, they left a few balls that were out of their way to pick up. We collected 12 balls in all, that play perfectly well for us beginners. How is that for frugal, booya!

  4. Yeah, my mom was telling me about the pink breast cancer proceeds being pathetic. It’s pretty whack if you ask me.

    When people at the till ask me if I want to donate a dollar to the “local food bank” I always ask which bank it would be given to. Not once has anyone every been able to tell me. They always say I’m the first to ask. Right. I never give out at the register. Choice of charity is personal.

  5. @ Jesse – Yeah, I can’t deny it, I’m a little snobby when it comes to tennis balls. I just don’t play as well if they are flat. I definitely utilize older balls when I am just playing for fun, but when it is competitive I gotta get a fresh can.

    @ Dolly- I’ll have to try that next time I am solicited for a donation. Sounds like the results are quite humorous.

  6. Isn’t that infuriating! And then to add insult to the injury, we get that patronizing “pink” motif…sorry, but I don’t donate to causes that pat me on my pretty little head.

    Actually, I’ll do the Walk for Cancer (heaven only knows how much of the cash actually goes to research, given the expensive hoopla that surrounds those events–though much of the hoopla is donated by radio stations and performers). But if my choice were between pink balls and no balls, I guess I’d have found something else to do with that Memorial Day.

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