I’m no angel. Provide me with toiletries in a hotel room and I’ll use them whilst there and, more than likely, for the next month at home or on my travels. There is always that philosophical argument going on in my head: is it a gift by the hotel chain, a write-off from the financial director or are they free facilities for use in the hotel bathroom during your stay only. I always lose the argument… but I take the toiletries anyway (those mini bottles are just about irresistible, aren’t they)?
However, even I draw the line at nicking stuff from a charity. I have been known to support them, in fact; as I did when I saw an advert to support the British Red Cross’ fund-raising efforts for war-torn Syria. I gave £10 – not a fortune but I like to give a little to those charities which I feel both do good work and which distribute funds fairly and efficiently. In my mind the British Red Cross couldn’t be more established, less gimmicky, probably less profligate.
Imagine then, my anger and frustration when, within a month, I received completely unsolicited and unwanted coasters in the post with a request to buy them. No – I don’t need or want coasters which, despite my admiration for the fine-art skills of the traumatised people who produced them, look completely tacky and tired. I wouldn’t even want coasters if they were Hockney originals. And I was determined that the emotional blackmail of sending these to me – at, presumably, considerable postage and packing costs – would not work. I didn’t buy them and I could only reflect that my £10 donation was now worth around £8.
Last week, two months after my initial and, I thought, small but meaningful donation a further bulky envelope dropped on to the hall floor. The initial ripple of excitement at the thought of something more than a letter from someone quickly became a flush of even greater anger than that I’d experienced one month previously. With British Red Cross plastered over the envelope, I wondered what seasonal specials lay in wait for me; sun-tan lotion, wristbands or a pair of cheap shades? No, of course not, three Christmas cards to buy, accompanied by a very cheap pen. Why would we want or be thinking of anything else? Mmmh… my donation’s probably down to a fiver!
There might be those who want Christmas cards in August. There may be those who are short of coasters. Certainly, I assume, I’m not the only recipient. I didn’t ask for them, didn’t want them and, yes, I feel as guilty as hell that they’re sitting on my mantelpiece, unpaid for.
While I’m at it, earlier this week, I watched Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches’ about unsolicited, nuisance charity telephone calls. They are good causes undoubtedly but the moral justification for duping an elderly or vulnerable adult into a regular and perhaps unaffordable subscription – and it does happen – does not exist.
Whilst my argument with The British Red Cross is a different one, the parallels are obvious – and unacceptable. Finally, should The British Red Cross ever see this blog and provide a response, please, please don’t let their argument be that I failed to tick (or untick) the relevant box which would have highlighted my wish to never be contacted again. I am careful but not forensic about looking for boxes. Where was the box that said, ‘Do you want Christmas Cards in August?’