It’s often seen and experienced that retail stores, restaurants, and supermarkets ask for a donation to the cause of the season when you checkout. How often do you donate and agree to that $1-$5 on the pin pad? If you do donate, do you feel like an avid supporter of both the store you’re shopping at and the featured charity? Researchers and authors Michael Giebelhausen, Benjamin Lawrence, HaeEun Helen Chun, and Liwu Hsu go so far as to say people feel a “warm glow” when agreeing to donate on a whim.
They recently published an article in Cornell Hospitality Quarterly entitled, “The Warm Glow of Restaurant Checkout Charity,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. The abstract for this article is below:
Checkout charity is a phenomenon whereby frontline employees (or self-service technologies) solicit charitable donations from customers during the payment process. Despite its growing ubiquity, little is known about this salient aspect of the service experience. The present research examines checkout charity in the context of fast-food restaurants and finds that, when customers donate, they experience a “warm glow” that mediates a relationship between donating and store repatronage. Study 1 utilizes three scenario-based experiments to explore the phenomenon across different charities and different participant populations using both self-selection and random assignment designs. Study 2 replicates with a field study. Study 3 examines national store–level sales data from a fast-food chain and finds that checkout fund-raising, as a percentage of sales, predicts store revenue—a finding consistent with results of Studies 1 and 2. Managers often infer, quite correctly, that many consumers do not like being asked to donate. Paradoxically, our results suggest this ostensibly negative experience can increase service repatronage. For academics, these results add to a growing body of literature refuting the notion that small prosocial acts affect behavior by altering an individual’s self-concept.
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