Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Bah Humbug!

RHYS BOWEN: Tis the season of goodwill to all men. But am I allowed to have just a little gripe?

Like everyone else I am in the middle of buying presents, and like everyone else, I buy many of them online. Easy peasy right? Remember the little verse I wrote one year:

Dashing through the web, googling sites like mad
Cyber Monday's here again there's bargains to be had

Click click here, click click there, buy it all online
Amazon and Overstock, Christmas will be fine

Click click here, click click there, bought it all online
Christmas done and packed and shipped. Have a glass of wine!

Well, it's true it is easy buying things from websites, but then comes the kicker. Immediately after I have clicked PURCHASE I get an email thanking me for my purchase and then ASKING ME TO TAKE A BRIEF SURVEY!

From time to time I succumb to one of these that claim to be TWO QUESTION SURVEYS.
I answer the two questions. Yes, the website was easy to negotiate. Yes the item was just what I wanted. But before I can hit SEND I'm directed to another page with a gazillion questions on it.

Everyone sends me a survey. I book a hotel. Survey on how was my booking experience?
I stay at the hotel. How was my hotel experience?
I take my car in for service. Survey on how was my oil changing experience?

And if I don't answer they keep on sending the surveys.
What is next? I go into the baker's and after the assistant has handed me a loaf of freshly baked bread she says, "If I could just ask you a few questions about your experience here today."
Or I come out of church and the priest is waiting outside to ask whether he fulfilled all my expectations.
Will it come to spouse or partner handing one a survey after sex? And how was it for you on a scale of one to ten?  ( Just kidding!)
Or how about that I turn the tables and survey you? How was I at my book signing today? (on a scale of 1-10) Did I smile enough? Were my jokes funny? ..
So that's one gripe.

Another is the whole matter of giving at holiday time. I give very generously all year. But every time I'm at the grocer's or Target the assistant asks "Would you like to give a dollar to the save the whales/children/redwoods/etc etc.
And when I say No Thank You she looks at me as if I'm an evil person.
Today it was the food bank. I am a year round star donor to the food bank. I get invited to their fund raising parties. An extra dollar means nothing to me but it is the principle of the thing. I come to a grocery store to buy groceries. I do not want to be tricked into giving something.

And when I do give in to my better nature and send money for Christmas cards that come from some obscure convent in the back of beyond what happens? I am deluged with cards/calendars/stickers from every convent in the universe. These Christian ladies SELL MY ADDRESS without a qualm.
I get dream catchers from every Indian school in the country because I once gave to one of them. It never ends.

So have I struck a nerve here? Or am I the only one who wants to shout Bah Humbug?

74 comments:

  1. Well, I can’t say that I thought of it as “Bah Humbug” but now I’m sitting here nodding in agreement as I read your list, Rhys.
    Yes, the surveys drive me crazy, too. It’s almost enough to make me want to stop shopping online. When I get too annoyed, I just dump them out of my email; eventually, they seem to catch on and realize I have no intention of answering another survey. Happily, Barnes and Noble never sends me a survey, just boxes of books . . . .

    As for the “please give” at the check-out counter, I smile and say, “I already gave.” It may not have been their particular charity, but in truth I did give, so I feel no remorse at making this statement. I fill shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse, take angels off the tree and get gifts for children, and send donations everywhere, so I feel like I’ve helped . . . .

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  2. You hit a nerve with me, Rhys....I hate charities that send you stuff to guilt you into donating. All those cheap, made overseas socks, gloves, tote bags, manicure kits....they go straight into the donation box to give to the next charity. And the mailer goes into the recycling bin....why would I want to send them money so that they can buy more cheap junk to send out? And the ones that send the nickel or quarter....if they send a reply envelope, I send the nickel back to them....costing them the postage. I give to all sorts of charities, prefer the small local ones so I know where and how my money is being used, and since I’m lucky enough to have extra to give, I do give all year long. Happy Christmas or whatever you celebrate, Reds!

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    1. And here's the thing, M - charities that send you tons of useless tchotchkes tend to have very poor expense to outlay ratios. In other words, they spend far more of their donors' dollars on salaries, overhead and fundraising than they do on the actual recipients of the charity. If I'm approached by a charity with which I'm unfamiliar, I always check Charity Navigator.

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    2. Julia, thank you for the reminder! Diana

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  3. I hate those surveys! When I have a medical test or procedure done they send me a frickin’ survey. My grocery tape has a web address with a promise of a chance to win if I answer a survey. I get them in the mail from everyone who has performed a service I paid for. Enough already!
    As for the dollar donation when checking out I generally answer no thank you or not today. No cashier has given me the evil eye yet. The dream catchers from Indian schools are a hoot. They’re made in China.

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  4. I give this blog post a 10 because I agree with it so much. Both points are spot on and well argued.

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    1. Phew! We might have had to fire Rhys otherwise!

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    2. I was worried about that too!
      Survey says blog post okay

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    3. Now, MARKBAKER if you'll just answer these fifteen questions rating your Jungle Reds experience over the past six months...

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    4. Never answer a survey! Just use your delete button!😎

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  5. I have worked for a variety of non-profits for the past 28 years, and I absolutely agree with you, Rhys. When I was fostering dogs for a rescue group, I routinely said no to the pleas for money at the pet supply stores. Yes, I believe in rescue. Yes, I give generously in time, money, and chewed shoes to support my foster dogs. No, I don't feel any obligation to contribute additional dollars to groups I'm not affiliated with. Same with arts organizations. Same with political candidates. I pick a few, mostly local, groups I contribute to. I contribute as generously as I can afford. The rest of the folks with their mailing labels and their surveys and their continual spam can seek support elsewhere.

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    1. I so agree. Do something local and meaningful to you

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    2. Yes! I donate to a local cat rescue organization, which does a great job with their cat clients and their finances.

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    3. All year I donate books to the local library. And I volunteer at the library book sales.

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  6. I confess, I do give money at the pet supply stores. Guilt money, I call it, because I want to take all those adorable kittens home with me and can't. But that's where it ends. You want money from me, you'd better be cute and furry.

    As for the surveys, I HATE THEM. Sometimes I start one, thinking, as you say, it'll be two quick questions. Forty questions later, I realize well, there's ten minutes of my life I'll never get back! And I close the window, survey uncompleted.

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    1. Well, it would be up to you if I'm cute...but I've got the furry part down pat. :D

      Sorry Annette, I just couldn't resist the easy set up you provided!

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  7. I stand with you! I never do the surveys nor send money to the whining card-senders or the extra dollar at checkout. I take the nickel out of the envelope from whenever and recycle the plea. Yes, we give generously, especially locally, but please take me off your frickin list! SO much paper is wasted.

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  8. I am a grumpy cuss to begin with so the Bah Humbug nature of the excessive surveys and request for me to give away money does tend to annoy.

    I do answer some surveys, usually the ones that register me for a gift card in a monthly drawing. I haven't ever won one of these things but I'm cheap so anything that lets me get more stuff with such a minimal effort is A-OK by me. This is usually from the book store or the wholesale club.

    As for people requesting money, I think it might be nice if everyone realized that I am not actually made of money. It seems every one thinks I should give my money to anyone else but myself or my creditors. So here's the deal, if you ask you will not get.

    I go to the library book sales and give money to them that way. I usually give money to my local Barnes and Noble at Christmas when they have their "Give a book to a kid as a gift" program.

    Would I give more if I could? Maybe, but it is kind of a moot point. Look, no one needs to hold a telethon (or in more modern language) a GoFundMe benefit, but there's not a whole lot of extra money lying around House Jay either. And frankly, I can't help anyone if I'm not taking care of myself first.

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    1. Quite right, Jay. And all these pleading letters con people into giving more than they should

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    2. I like the point of a survey at least entering me into a chance to win something. Jay. Like, if you're asking me to give up ten minutes of my life, (per Annette, above) at least offer me the prospect of some reward. Why does my eye doctor send out a survey? You want to know what I think, how about you take a minute and ask me next time I'm in?

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  9. I give and give and give...but I choose my causes with care.

    I ignore all surveys except when I have a real problem like the VW-sized roach running around the motel breakfast room. The motel chain comped us a free night.

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    1. At a DIFFERENT location, right, Margaret?!?

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    2. Hope it was at a different location...

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  10. Took my mind off my driving for one minute this past summer and got a speeding ticket. If the officer had said, 'there's a survey at the bottom of your ticket, would you mind..." I probably would have been arrested! So tired of the constant request for my time, when I've already told you what great service I received in person. And requests for money--I give generously all year when and where I choose, as best I can. So don't jingle a bell in my face or send me a nickel or ask at the grocery check-out.

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  11. I am in complete agreement about the over-the-top survey trend. My feelings are a little more nuanced about the year-end-giving, though. I am fully opposed to the unsolicited mailings with address labels, coins, etc. inside. I NEVER send money on those. And like you, I do give money to causes of my choosing all year, so I mostly say no to the end-of-year appeals. But as a professional fundraiser, I add two caveats:
    1. There is a chunk of the population who does NOT give all year long in a considered way, and those people actually do tend to become much more generous at year-end. So charities taking the time to make an extra appeal at year-end usually brings in a nice addition to their other revenue sources.
    2. I think the trend toward asking grocery store customers (and sometimes shoppers in other types of stores) to "round up" is brilliant. My main grocery, for example, offers the opportunity to round up to the nearest dollar to benefit the food pantry all year long. Most people say yes because it is less than a dollar, and they know they won't miss it. But grocery stores do a huge volume of sales, so if the food pantry gets on average, say, $.50 per shopper, that is a substantial revenue stream.

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    1. You’re right. It’s a way of nudging non givers to give

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  12. I don't bother with surveys.
    Like many others here ,I have my causes and give all year round.
    At one point I was so tired to receive things I didn't want in exchange for a donation that I phoned many to ask to stop and to remove my name from their list. It worked.
    As for the Check-out line, I know workers who have to do that and they hate this as much as the customer but when their store is paired with a charity they have no choice.

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    1. Danielle, can you deduct money spent on charities from your taxes in Canada?

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  13. Yes, the surveys are bad but then so are the non-stop emails from the company you just ordered from: maybe you'd like this, maybe you'd like that. Seems I cannot get rid of them. And now companies are doing the survey thing when you call, before you ever get to talk to someone about your issue they want to know if you will take a short survey after the call. This doesn't seem very smart to me since if I am calling them I probably have a problem and I am in no mood to waste more time, just let me talk to someone!

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  14. And yet... I do feel for the poor employees whose employment depends on whether they get positive ratings. 100% positive ratings. And knowing that disgruntled customers are more likely to complete the darned survey. I never fill out surveys EXCEPT I did recently after a terrible experience on American Airlines.

    What I hate are the charities that send us mail virtually every few weeks. Demonstrating how much they are wasting on advertising rather than delivering service. Urging everyone to consult the charity navigator - particularly the financial rating -- before you give.

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    1. Yes! Charity Navigator. Don't write that check without doing the basic research - and they make it easy.

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    2. We never give without consulting Charity Navigator and have dropped some charities in favor of others because of it.

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    3. everyone, thank you for the reminder about charity navigator!

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  15. Two issues I see here. One is how to respond to requests for donations. I have a couple of pet charities, PBS and Lollypop Farm, and that is where my donations go. I have no trouble saying no to the others. And exception is a request for charitable donations instead of flowers when someone dies. I then donate to the requested charity.

    The other issue is surveys. I don't bother with them UNLESS they are from my doctor or hospital. Price-Ganey in particular. Much of reimbursement from Medicare is based on patient satisfaction. Hey, I didn't make the law nor do I agree with it. But it is how things are at present. So please answer them and return them asap. I score my doctor very high, because he is very good. Same with my hospital. If a have a complaint, I address it immediately and in person.

    Patient satisfaction has little to do with patient care. But Medicare reimbursement is based on that. I might be dissatisfied with the noise from the room from next door or a roommate who has loud and numerous visitors. I speak to the charge nurse about that right away, not two weeks later on a Medicare survey that might affect payment. Seriously.

    Climbing off soap box

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    1. Well nuts. I had outpatient surgery last week and was told a survey would be winging its way soon. From what you say I need to answer it.

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    2. Yes Pat, you do. As screwed up as our health care system is, Medicare is already paying less than 50 cents on the dollar, and poor surveys can bring that number down. Particularly this is important for your internist who already is making maybe a quarter of the salary of a surgeon, if that, and whose main source of income is CMS.

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    3. Thanks so much for enlightening us on the doctors' surveys, Ann. I've had one from a provider I haven't answered, and now will do so asap!

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    4. Okay, that then explains why my eye doctor (a cataract and glaucoma specialist) sent me a survey. I should have read all the comments before complaining above. Ann, is reimbursement based on all surveys, do you know? Or just those from patients covered by Medicare?

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    5. Julia, that's what I want to know. Because I don't use Medicare - yet.

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  16. Rhys, I am joining your choir. That said, unsolicited demands for giving has really hit a nerve this morning. Would that I were made of money; but I'm not so my philosophy is local, local and one or two international. 'No', in the grocery or any other store, I appreciate Susan's point of view but will stick to my guns. Junk mail by any other names is unlikely to be more enticing, though in my PO life I have had clients who keep it all. My approach was to have them fill garbage bags and weigh them creating a positive feeling. Our recycling is in the garage in the hopes that we dump before carrying it into the house. But life is all about algorithms now! 'Likes' on Yelp, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, surveys fall into this category too. Those who are authors, hasn't this changed since you first started publishing? Now you need a social media presence, advance orders on Amazon affect whether you make it on to the NYT books lists. It just goes on and on. For those of us who remember back even just ten years the landscape hasn't shifted, we are all down the rabbit hole and wondering which bottle to drink from.

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    1. Oh yes, my publishers watch my social media like hawks

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    2. Celia, I always recommend drinking from a bottle of Beefeater.

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  17. Well, at least they've finally stopped coming around the door.

    I must be doing something right, because I no longer get any cards, stickers, address labels, etc in the mail. And when I did, I got enough to last me forever. Yes, I still have plenty. I have no problem using them, if I am okay with their cause (some get junked) because I figure I'm paying them back by spreading their name through my (ever diminishing) mail.

    As for surveys, I sometimes go for them if I have something to tell them. BUT, I'll shut it down instantly if
    a) they force me to answer every question. That practice leads to unreliable data.
    b) they ask me to rate something on scale of 1-10. One to ten?? How can you analyze anything so stretched out and vague. My 9 may be your 7.
    Okay, done ranting.

    Now...
    How often do you read Junglereds?
    a) Never
    b) Once a year
    c) Once a month
    d) Every day

    D!!!

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    1. Pain scale in the emergency room! How do I know if my pain is a 6 or an 8?
      And how often do I think the shingle Red commenters are brilliant?

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    2. Re pain scale: have read that health care people think this scale is unhelpful and that "some one" is working on replacement. Seems to me that my 6 could be your 8, so how is this less subjective than us saying "It hurts something awful."

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    3. Our local hospital systems use the smiley face scale, which is a lot easier. Faces go from :-) to :-[ to 8-o

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    4. Smiley faces would be easier for children to negotiate, and for when patients are in a confused state, too. What a great idea.

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  18. My Bah Humbug nature gets triggered by things like Christmas decorations or, worse yet, Christmas music, before Thanksgiving -- or Halloween! I usually ignore surveys but will at least respond to the doctor's office ones now. Thanks for explaining what those are used for, Ann.

    I will occasionally give at the register in the store if it's clear which organization is getting the money and I'm comfortable with how they do business, but have no qualms about saying no otherwise. But my giving is local (the food pantry, the library, the no-kill cat shelter, etc.) and I'm rarely tempted to give elsewhere.

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  19. Rhys, I so agree! But, then, when you actually want to fill out a survey, you don't get one! An employee at my local Pottery Barn was so helpful the other day that I was actually looking forward to the usual survey so that I could compliment him--no survey!

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  20. Bah Humbug, indeed! As if life isn't stressful enough, now we are also responsible for the jobs of others? And the constant onslaught, barrage of emails, texts, and snail mail must waste actual weeks of our time, as well as natural resources. It makes me want to holler STOP.

    I never give at the register, for a couple of reasons: I don't trust the retailer to send on 100% of the money to the charity; it may not be a charity I personally support; and why should I help that retailer get a tax deductible line item? It's bad enough that the Trump tax cuts have limited tax deductions for low-dollar amount contributions (they benefit high-dollar ones, though, of course), and that corporations already pay nearly no federal income tax. Phooey on that.

    And at least around here, there have been Salvation Army bellringers in the middle of summer. Which is mighty fishy to me.

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    1. And to add to Debs' comment immediately above, a recent crazy experience with Home Depot left me wanting a survey to fill out! They would have gotten all extremely negative ratings, for sheer incompetence.

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    2. Karen, my feeling is, the Salvation Army is a church, and I support my own church, not someone else's. For services to the homeless, I donate to my local food bank/food kitchen/shelter organization, which is nondenominational, nonprofit and which has a great record for see the vast amount of money coming in goes to those in need.

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  21. Rhys, that happened to me too! I would be in the middle of looking for something online when the shop sends me a survey and I am like "Wait until I finish before you ask me questions!!!". It can be exasperating! I finished shopping before thanksgiving. I remembered the warnings about possible hacking on Cyber Monday after Black Friday. So this time, I decided to finish shopping before all of that hoopla!

    And I get many address stickers with my name and address from many different organizations as a thank you for donating money.

    However, to my surprise I got a nice Christmas postcard from an organization that I donated one dollar to! Go figure!

    Despite all this, I cannot imagine "Bah humbug". To me, Christmas is all about memories.

    This morning on Instagram, someone posted in their stories that they cannot remember what they got as Christmas gifts that year. "I remember the smell of Christmas cookies. I remember the marshmallows that my Dad put in my hot chocolate....Remember it is the memories that make the magic."

    Diana

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  22. Feeling terribly Bah-Humbuggy toward all this aggravation with survey requests. My response, that is what the delete key is for; that is why there is an X or a close button in the upper left of the request; if one gets to your email, click delete without opening. It really works. Gather your concentration and ignore it! Thank you for this space for my rant!

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  23. Mark me down as totally the grouch this morning: but if I have an awful experience or an excellent one, I don't wait for the survey to pop up. Depending on the business and its location and the time I have: an email to the manager, a letter or note to the manager and the employee. Please spare me this need for the "click" rating culture. I will now go crawl back in my cave and search for the Grinch.

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  24. Going to the fridge to check the brand Julia, I'm on it.

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  25. I hate the constant surveys. And EVERYONE has them. Stores, the car dealer, the people who delivered my bed, my doctor's office...yeesh. Enough.

    I do chip in the extra $2 when I go to Petco. But the rest of my donations I prefer to keep locally (i.e., money to my local food bank rather than a check to a national organization). The exception is big disasters, like hurricanes. But then I am very picky about who I send my money too.

    And NEVER do I give money to political campaigns or candidates or parties - even if I happen to agree with them.

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  26. Oh, Rhys, those surveys are indeed annoying, and tricking you by stating that it's a brief survey is especially aggravating. And, I appreciate that the Salvation Army volunteers often stand out ringing the bell in weather I wouldn't want to stand out in, but I have to admit that it annoys me to have them placed right between the two doors at the grocery ringing that bell in my face. I feel like they're trying to guilt me into giving, and I don't like being guilted into giving. Besides, my husband's aunt gave them $90,000 when she died, so there. Hahaha! I actually feel bad complaining about the bell ringers, but I give where I want to and don't have to be guilted into it. Oh, and the dream catchers, Rhys. My mother-in-law gets those every month from a place she donated to. How many dream catchers does one person need?

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  27. A few weeks after my mother-in-law died, her landline rang. It was a fundraising call from a local arts organization she regularly supported. I said, "I'm sorry to tell you that she passed away recently". The woman on the phone said, "Well, I'll have to have proof of that before I stop calling." Unbelievable. (I gave the caller the name of the funeral home we used.)

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    1. I find that unbelievable, too. And appalling. There actually is such a thing as a fundraising code of ethics (it's a formal thing, really!) and that certainly doesn't fall within it.

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  28. My mother-in-law got tons and tons of those charity requests in the mail. AND SHE WOULD ANSWER THEM. Declining them, but she gave them a response so she'd get more. And catalogues. Oy. She passed away three years ago. We had her mail forwarded to ours to deal with bills and so forth at the time. WE'RE STILL GETTING THEM. Though maybe not as many. And you can't tell them to stop because there's no phone number anywhere; you can't send them back marked "deceased" because the post office either won't take them or the sender ignores it. ARGH! And Bah Humbug.

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    1. wonder what will happen if you sent all the charity begging letters back ? If you wrote "Return to Sender"?

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  29. I often answer surveys and give at the grocery store. It depends on the cause and how much time and money I have. Susan, I live in my childhood home and still get requests in my parents' names. Sorry you're not getting anything from them anymore!

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  30. All of the above, and more. Those bloo-- sorry, Rhys -- those awful return address stickers! I have a distinctive first and last name (according to Google, probably the only combination in the universe), so I pretty much have to destroy them. Aftermath: I'm so tired of tweezing sticky bits from the blades of my shredder. AND. . . I'm still getting junk mail for a young woman who lived with us briefly a few years ago. Not only her, also her grown kids and her ex-husband, none of whom lived here at all. I've been wanting to sound off about this for a long time, so THANK YOU, RHYS!

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  31. I work in a medical home health care office that is reimbursed through Medicare and I know medical insurance companies often base their reimbursement on Medicare premiums, so those surveys are important. I will admit that it is weird to complete a survey for one's own parent company or one of its affiliates. As for requests for donations, it's easy to say no in person and I am always polite as I hang up on the solicitation.

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  32. We give to three charities every month year round. Yet, I still feel guilty saying no face to face with a request. And I despise all the unsolicited mail.

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