Thursday, February 08, 2007

Charity for Charity's Sake

The other day I got an email from my bank (a large national chain) asking me to take an on-line survey about their on-line banking services. The subject line of the email said: Share your opinions with **** Bank and help donate $12,000 to charity! I thought, well, hey, this could be an easy way to donate money. Intrigued, I opened the email and read:
If you qualify and complete the survey, we will make a $2 donation to charity up to a total of $12,000.
I wasn't sure what it meant to "qualify" and if I would do so, but again, how hard it is it to take a survey. And I'll be able to give free money to charity. But what charity? I read further. Nothing. Nowhere in the email did it indicate what charity, or even what kind of charity this money would be donated to. I clicked on the link to the survey thinking there might be more information there. Nope.

There was a phone number given for those who wanted to verify the validity of the survey. I doubled checked with the bank's webpage, and sure enough, it was their customer service number. So I called. I gave them the reference terms I was told to give in the email. The service rep pulled up the appropriate page on their computer. I asked them, "What charity would I essentially be donated to?" The guy had no idea. But he tried (I have to give him credit, he did seem to be as interested in the question as I was and seemed to really work at finding out the answer). Alas, he could not find anyone or anything that would give him the answer, other than "Charity."

I chose not to do the survey. I won't go so far as to suggest that this bank's charity of choice was "Help the Poor Millionaire Bankers Union." And I'd guess that they probably wouldn't go with something controversial (like Planned Parenthood or Operation Rescue). But do they really think that "charity" is all that matters? That the actual recipients of the charity make no difference?

It's possible that I would have found out at the end of the survey what the charity was. Or, maybe I would have even been given a choice. But, seeing as how no one in their customer service department (who was specifically listed as being a place to call to ask about the survey) could even tell me if I'd be given a choice or an answer at any point, I saw no reason to waste 10 minutes of my time on them.

It should also be noted that the bank in question is not the only (or possibly even primary) party responsible for this fiasco. The survey was administered by Rockbridge Associates, an "independent market research firm." They are the ones responsible for the wording of the email, the wording of the survey, and the implementation of the survey. I spent 10 years (off and on) working for my uncle's market research firm, and I know how much time is spent on every single word of these surveys, esp. the parts that are trying to solicit the responses. I don't believe for a second that leaving out exactly which (or what kind of) charity was just missed in editing. Which just makes me all that much more curious about the whole issue.

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