As I finished up a business breakfast the other day at J. Christopher’s in Atlanta, I handed over my credit card and waited for the bill to come over to the table. As I filled out the credit card receipt, I began to write down the tip I quickly calculated in my head and add up the numbers for the final bill. Then, something struck me. It looked like there was an extra line and I wasn’t sure that I had filled out the credit card receipt correctly. It dawned on me as I re-read the line items that there was a new line on this receipt titled “donation”. Donation? Since when did donation become a line item on a breakfast, lunch, or dinner bill?
I wrote an article several years ago http://bit.ly/1PaR5rB called Santa Clause at Five Below about the growing trend in department stores and supermarkets who ask you if you want to make a donation every single time you shop at the store. While I applaud the corporate efforts to be a good citizen, I thought that it was overkill to be asking your customers for a donation especially if they shop at your store several times a week. At least with the supermarkets and the grocery stores, you are given the benefit of doubt of knowing where your donation is going. The experience I encountered with having to give a donation at my breakfast the other day was altogether a different situation because you don’t even know where the donation is going even if you decided to make one at the completion of your meal.
What’s concerning to me as I help families plan their family finances is that companies are taking more and more advantage of our lack of time and also our attention to detail. We are moving so fast in our busy lives, that we may not read our bills for online bill pay, we may not read the fine print for contracts, and we certainly will bypass over small details like a nondescript donation line on a breakfast tab in the morning.
In this world of electronic transactions soon to be all on your phone within the next decade, it’s important to take time to read what you are signing. A swipe of your John Hancock in the wrong place and you could be donating to the George Constanza Human Fund or worse yet a cause that you truly have no interest in supporting. At least pay attention the next time you dine at J. Christopher’s.