Why I don’t donate at the supermarket checkout

You know how it goes when you’re paying at the supermarket and they ask if you want to throw in a buck for Harvest For Hunger and sort of feel like a bad person for saying no?


A lot of people don’t remember that local supermarkets used to make their own donations to food charities instead of asking you to pay at the register. And that didn’t start until they lost several high-profile price fixing lawsuits in the 1980s.

Here’s one, Rosen v. Fisher Foods (1982):

[T]he settlement further provides for a charitable food payment program. Under the provisions of this plan to the extent that Certificates are not redeemed in any given year, the settling defendants will make contributions of food or cash… to charitable organizations that give away food to the needy…. [I]n no year shall these food payments total less than $300,000.

That’s right. The major local supermarket chains colluded to jack up the price of food, got caught, and were forced to settle by handing out literally millions of dollars in dollar-off coupons and making donations to food charities in partial compensation for the harm they caused in so doing.

The amazing thing is that when the settlements were fulfilled, the stores kept making those “donations” but only by soliciting the very same customers they’d been cheating for years. And they have the gall to claim credit for it.

Unbelievably, the supermarket chains found a way to settle a huge liability, call it a public relations win, and get their customer base to pay for it all.

If you want to help, please do! But make your gift directly to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank instead of rewarding the crooked store chains.