Monday, August 6, 2007

When Good Intentions Go Bad

Retailers and restaurants that align themselves with a worthy cause are becoming more the rule than the exception. And that’s mostly a good thing, but not always.

My family and I were driving through Concordia, Kan., earlier this week, returning home to Lincoln, Neb., from a visit to my home state of Louisiana. Hot and tired from nearly a full day on the road, we decided to pull into the town’s only Dairy Queen for a quick and cool treat.

The young male server was friendly enough during the drive-through order taking, but his demeanor quickly changed when my husband (politely) declined to donate a dollar to the area children’s hospital. After snatching the money from my husband’s hand, he made change without a word, then handed out our orders—undersized enough to arouse our suspicion that the fulfillment side of the business was just as aware of our donation refusal—in hostile silence. The worker then slammed the window shut, replacing the standard “thank you” with a shaking of the head.

We are not stingy people. Yet we are besieged with requests for assistance and long ago decided to pre-select our own charities and not feel obligated to grant every random request that comes our way. That we practiced our belief at Dairy Queen was our right. And Dairy Queen had no right to punish us for it.

I think there is a lesson to be learned here. Retailers and restaurateurs should implement their good-works programs with care. To elicit a negative customer reaction is to cancel out much of the positive benefit.

— Katherine Field

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