Forced Charity

by admin on August 11, 2010

I went to a trade show recently with my friend who is a caterer. The trade show was dedicated to those in the food industry. I went with her because she was pregnant and didn’t want to go alone. This was a 3 day show. We went for 2 days total. Now outside the convention, there were companies giving out free samples. It was a good thing as it was hot outside, June weather and all.

Once inside there were long lines to get your badges so you could enter the actual convention. Once inside there were various vendors and exhibitors giving out free samples of food. Some gave us bags to hold our samples in. These were snack sized samples, think of those snack bags you get at the deli’s for a quarter and such. There were also lots of vitamin and flavored water bottles being handed out. We walked around the show, talked to people, made some contacts and were very satisfied.

Upon trying to show, we were stopped by a very rude employee. He stated we could not leave the show with a bag full of full sized samples. Clearly the samples we were given were snack sized and he knew it, but felt the need to harass us. He claimed that we had to give up our full sized samples to the food bank. Now I asked which food bank in question and he had no idea. Not a good sign. Rude employee and not knowledgeable. I put something into the box, and he goes you have to donate more than that. That was just incredible rude. He was not satisfied until I had put in 4 items into the box. And they were not full sized samples of anything.

Then he moves onto my pregnant friend. She opens her bag and realizes in her pregnant nature that she drank most of the bottles, which were empty or half full, and eaten most of her snack sized snacks. She had cravings throughout the show. This rude employee then has the nerve to touch her, and put his hands on her shoulders to move her out of the way so others may pass by! I was angry that he had singled us out and let others pass. He then made my pregnant friend stand there as he went through her bag to find something for her to donate. It was highly inappropriate of him to do that, and my friend was getting upset.

I was infuriated. Why were others allowed to walk by and not donate but we were forced to? I said something to him, mentioning that he did not ask the other people who walked by for donations. He ignored me and said we could go. I was going to press on because his behavior was just plain rude. My friend who was already upset wanted to get out of there, and I went with her not wanting to cause a scene.

We had gone to the other level, and upon leaving they said we could not leave with any full sized samples. This was getting ridiculous. I had already “donated 4 items upstairs. Now they wanted more. We were trying to leave, but the staff had blocked the only exit for that level, and we were desperately trying to catch the shuttle bus back to the train station to catch the train. They didn’t care. They reached into my bag and grabbed out the biggest item they could find. They did the same to my pregnant friend. I wondered if they were just taking these items for themselves, as they seemed pretty greedy about it.

My friend was so upset, and just wanted to go home. I didn’t want to start an argument at the exit. Several other people were angry and annoyed at their forced donations that they got off the line and went to find someone. I should have done the same. But my pregnant friend wanted to leave, and I went with her.

I am all for donating to charities. Of your choice. Being forced to donate something is just plain tacky. Its rather presumptuous of them to think everyone wants to donate to the same charity. Maybe I wanted to give it to my church, or a children’s hospital. The staff didn’t even know what charity they were donating to, a clear indication that they were most likely taking it for themselves.

I emailed the trade show to ask them exactly what charity/food bank they were allegedly donating these items to. And I told them about the rude staff and how they treated us. I received a short 2 sentence email response. It was very cookie cutter and they stated they picked a well known charity. I asked them why they just didn’t ask the vendors there to donate directly to the food bank rather than harassing each and every person. Or why certain people were selected to be forced to donate while others didn’t. And I asked if this was going to be an ongoing thing, where forced donations were going to forced at every trade show they hosted. I received no response.

All I can say is that I will not be going back there again. The vendors were very friendly, and making contacts was very helpful in the catering business. But does the food bank really need an orchid infused extract to infuse the flavor of their champagne? Whether they were racist, sexist, or judged me on my economical social class, I am telling everyone I know not to go to this horrid trade show.  0701-10

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

Dear! August 12, 2010 at 8:15 am

I don’t think this is an issue of forced charity, as it is a case of beastly employees. If there is a legit charity, and I can give, I’ll give. I dont care about its policies and the little details. Some of the comments are so focused on that aspect. If you have to sit down and question a person for 10 minutes who is probably volunteering about every detail of a charity you’re being petty and annoying. For a can or two of food or a dollar, just give it with a good heart and keep it moving. I experienced this first hand while volunteering for HS and College clubs. People would go on rants about why they didn’t want to give or quiz you endlessly about the cause. Just say no or give.

I think what made the OP fume was the manner in which the donations were requested. I dont care what the situation may be, you do not touch people nor do you put down or disrespect others. And, no one should have the right to search your personal bags without due cause of a suspected crime. These trade shows usually charge a fee to enter, so this is a case of theft more than anything.

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May Destroyer August 12, 2010 at 11:56 am

Rachel’s article quote: “The show management had decided that no samples were to leave the show floor…”
Why? I don’t get the reasoning. Was this announced? Did the vendors know and approve?

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RP August 12, 2010 at 1:58 pm

@Blufyor – Yes, seconded! This should definitely be sent to the Consumerist

@Rachel – Do you have a link to that article?

@All the supposed tough guys in the comments – Do none of you understand what the word “BLOCKED” means? Did none of you read that the OP and his friend needed to catch a shuttle? Everyone’s a tough guy on the Internet but would you have really gotten into a physical altercation and missed the shuttle over some food samples? Because you can’t just “walk by” someone blocking an exit. You’d have to move them out of the way and the second you push them it’s a fight.

The idea that the OP should have shoved these people out of his way and probably gotten arrested once the inevitable fight occurred is ridiculous, especially given he was with a friend (and a pregnant one at that).

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geekgirl August 12, 2010 at 4:45 pm

To Margaret – I have asked to be placed on no-solicitiation lists – but these ‘charity muggers’ stop you in the street – even follow you down the street shouting things like ‘don’t you care about dying kids!’

I used to give a lot to charity, until it stopped being an act performed out of the kindness of one’s heart, and became a demand from charities, sometimes a quite aggressive demand. The ‘pro-active techniques’ of people who solicit for charities these days, like the chuggers, and the man demanding samples all go in the food bin are putting so many people off charity giving – its doing more harm than good.

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Somebody August 12, 2010 at 5:59 pm

There have been many good points made already, but I just wanted to add this.

If somebody grabbed my bag and started to search it, the next thing they would be doing would be calling 911 to deal with my panic attack.

Not acceptable! Just, no! On so many levels.

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Yellow Rose August 12, 2010 at 9:40 pm

If someone not in law enforcement had grabbed my purse to rummage through it, they’d be looking down the barrel of a .38 while I dial 911 with my weak hand. I heartily subscribe to the adage about armed polite society, and the sanctity of a ladies purse.

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PrincessSimmi August 12, 2010 at 11:01 pm

This reminded me of two stories. I still can’t believe how rude charities can be.

My Cousin is in her late 70′s, and is on a tight budget due to her pension. Each month she donated $15 to her local SES (state emergency service) because she had been doing so all her life. She planned for this, and had a direct debit organised. One day she received a letter in the mail from the SES stating that ‘due to a recent drop in donations’ they would be increasing her donation. No, not ASKING, but TELLING HER. And it was going from $15 to $50 per month!! She called them and explained that $15 is all she can afford. The lady she spoke to was very understanding an assured her that the amount would remain at $15. Next month – you guessed it – they took $50. She called to canel the donation completely and they told her it had been cancelled. The next month they took another $50. She called the bank for a refund and called the SES and told them if they didn’t cancel it immediately, she’d be sending in her lawyer. The money was eventually refunded but they’ve lost that $15 each month through greed.

The second story was my Nan’s friend’s son, who works as a furniture salesman. He had two businessmen who ordered a boardroom table to seat 20 people, with matching chairs, and it had to be mahogany. As he was processing the order, which ran into the tens of thousands, he found out that these two gentlemen worked for a large international charity, let’s call them Earth Sight. At this stage he offered them another wood, that looks exactly like mahogany, but is much cheaper and would cut down their bill by half. No, they insisted it had to be mahogany. I had donated about $100 per month to this charity but when I heard about this I called them and explained that my money is supposed to help people who need it, not help some fatcat line his pockets, and cancelled my donation. Now every time I see a boardroom table all I can see is starving families.

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Acadianna August 13, 2010 at 12:38 am

* They detained you, preventing you from leaving the site, without legal cause.
* They searched your purse, without your permission.
* They laid hands on your friend, without her consent.
* They extorted “donations” of your property.

I’d have called the police. I’d certainly make sure that the trade show vendors knew about the outrageous behavior of the trade show staff.

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cayke August 13, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Do the vendors know what was going on? The point of samples is to get your product into the hands of someone who would use it and buy more. If I heard that my samples were being confiscated I would never return to that show or that hotel.

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Maryann August 15, 2010 at 2:40 am

This is just so wrong! I’m totally appalled.

Those are trade samples. The idea of a sample is to see if you enjoy it and find out whether you’d like to buy more. Taking them away and giving them to people who can’t buy food defeats the purpose completely. Did the companies giving them out know they were going to people who couldn’t afford to buy more, rather than people who might order large shipments for their businesses? Yes, food banks need food, and charity is good, but they were basically throwing away the money of the companies who paid to set up their booths at this trade show. How many customers did those companies lose because of this idiotic practice? How dare they?!

Worse, like you said, how much stuff that was virtually useless to someone suffering from hunger went to the food bank? Monetary donations so that the food bank could buy nutritious meals would have made much more sense then throwing packets of gourmet snacks into bins.

I would have made an almighty scene, quite frankly. They wouldn’t have put a single finger on the samples I was given to try and see if I’d like to buy more.

This is one of the worst business practices I can possibly imagine.

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BeBe August 21, 2010 at 7:46 am

It’s a given that the guards’ and organization’s behavior was reprehensible and an epic fail from start to finish.

The OP was also right that orchid infusion for champagne would not much help the food pantry!

I’m a regular volunteer at a food pantry. The people who have need of its services, and who must produce a letter from the local DSS or similar organization, cannot both eat and keep a roof over their heads and transport themselves to their jobs, if they haven’t been laid off. They need — and receive — items such as tuna, peanut butter, spaghetti, bread, powdered milk, dried beans, and rice. Sometimes individuals or organizations make welcome donations of cookies, cake mix, or Jell-O mix, which provides an occasional treat for these families, especially the ones with children.

We’re always glad for useful extras like olive oil, cranberry sauce, coffee, barbecue sauce, and the like. But occasionally it’s clear that someone picked what they wanted out of a foodie gift basket and gave the rest. And so there we are handing out tiny jars of ginger-key lime mustard to people who lose sleep nights wondering how to stretch six eggs over four people for two days.

If you’re clearing out your pantry, please take a minute to think about the usefulness of what you donate. It’s a dubious blessing to make a gift to the food pantry of a three-pack of anisette biscotti and a teensy can of slices olives-n-mushroom pieces.

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Len August 22, 2010 at 8:38 am

If someone grabbed my wife’s purse and started going through it, the next thing they’d be doing was heading to the hospital in an ambulance.

I hope you informed the trade show’s organiser – and maybe even let a few of the stall holders know what was being done.

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Cherry October 9, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Ok, first of all, when one is given samples, one expects that those are given in the hope of gaining extra business, not with any expectation of how they’re to be used.
Second, if he’s gotten so pushy, I’d have thrust the entire bag into his hands and gone “knock yourself out”.
Third, if he’d touched MY bag, or MY pregnant friend, he’d have been on the floor sucking air and counting his teeth.
What an jerk.

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kelly March 26, 2011 at 2:59 pm

I would say this was more theft and a threat of false imprisonment. If they had done this to me, I lik ot hink I would have refused, and threatened to call the police then and there if they touched me or refused to let me leave. I also would contact the charity and let them know what these people are doing as it will make the charity look bad if they keep doing it.

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Natashia February 1, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Disgusting. You should have said no and walked right past. If they had threatened to detain you then you could have asked them pleasantly to please call the police, and once they’re done with their nuisance call they should be prepared to pay your travel costs home as you willhave missed your transport home by then.

If only you’d remained cool and unflappable they wouldn’t have been able to do a damn thing to you. In regency England it was called ‘the cut direct’, a look that implies the offender is but a slimy and odiferous bug, a lift of the chin, and then move on. You would not believe how effective this is, I was almost never harassed in high school (despite being an plump red headed bookworm, a trifecta for taunting), because I learnt ‘the cut direct’ very early on.

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