Thursday, January 18, 2007


I know it's happened to you.

An envelope comes in the mail -- perhaps you're familiar with the organization that it's from, perhaps not -- you open it, and there is a plea for a contribution to said organization. Charitable, most likely. Not only do they want you to donate because they are a good organization, because they represent a good cause, but they want you donate because they have sent you something. Return address labels, most likely. They want you to pay for the return address labels with your charitable donation. They want you to donate out of guilt because they gave you a gift.

True, all the experts (and by experts I mean random people who talk about such things on TV and radio -- they could be oil tycoons and/or auto mechanics with no relation to such organizations or the legal profession, who knows?) say that you are, in actual fact, obligated in no way to donate just because they have sent you something. They are under no obligation to send you something in the first place and you are in no way obligated to reciprocate. But you feel a twinge of guilt every time you use those labels you didn't pay for, am I right?

Now, really, this is no huge controversy. But it sticks in my craw, regardless. I don't like the idea of being guilted into donating to any cause, even ones I deem eminently worthy. So I have a little mental blacklist. Call it spite. Call it Sus being contrary (No, I'm not!). When an organization sends me address labels, or Christmas cards, or a keychain, or anything, I will spend my donation money elsewhere. Just on principle. Like I said, call it what you will.

Also, ordinarily, these return address labels bear the logo of the organization which sent them. So, really, if you use them, you are advertising the organization to your friends, family, debtors and utilities whenever you use them. They get a benefit! They paid for advertising and you, like a good little bird, are pooping their mulberry seeds all around your abode (what a stellar metaphor! Screw science, I'm going into the metaphor writing business!). Because of this, they're also usually ugly. Or make you seem like you are way into them, since you have their logo printed right on your return address labels and all. Sometimes, I'll just write my return address out longhand rather than use the labels, they are that galdarned ugly.

But yesterday, I received an envelope from St. Jude's Children's Hospital. It had in it not one, but two sheets of return address labels. They were lovely. One sheet's labels contained a monogram with an elegant silver box around it. The other's labels held pictures created by the patients at St. Judes along with stickers that said things like "Thinking of You" and "Happy Anniversay". All quite charming. I was certainly charmed. I can't really explain why I was so charmed. They ask for $10.

I remember television ads for St. Jude's done by Danny Thomas. I've always had fairly warm and fuzzy feelings about St. Jude's. But would I have thought of St. Jude's when I was thinking of a place to send a donation? No. I think of the American Cancer Society and Alzheimer's research. But I think St. Jude's is definitely worth $10.

After all, they sent me such adorable return address labels.


Dorothy said...

If they ask for small amounts like $10, they must be a nicer organization than the ones that send me labels/cards/keychains... Most of them start at $50 and really want more. Then there are the phone calls that start at $269. Where did they get that number anyway? They try guilting you then and there in person. I really hate that.

Becky G said...

You know, I never feel guilty when I use the return address labels I receive free in the mail. If they are ugly, I toss them. If they aren't, I use them. That is their whole ploy, to try to guilt induce you into sending them money.

Even worse are the ones who send you the little packets of seeds with the message that if you don't pay $50 for the seeds, you will be starving a poverty stricken African family to death. If the seeds were that important, why didn't they send them to the starving African family instead of to me?

St Jude's is definitely a worthy cause. And they do have cute return address labels.