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Jack Knox: Running the gauntlet of outstretched hands at Christmas

Some days, going shopping during the holidays is like running a gauntlet of outstretched beggar bowls.
MLAs, from left, Michael Lee (Vancouver-Langara), Nicholas Simons (Powell River-Sunshine Coast ), Lorne Doerkson (Cariboo-Chilcotin) and Teresa Wat (Richmond Centre) help kick off the Salvation Army's 132nd annual Christmas Kettle Campaign fundraiser at the B.C. legislature on Nov. 24. The charity can now keep its kettles outside government liquor outlets. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Never mind the liquor stores. If the Sally Ann really wants to rake in the Christmas coin, it should set up at the entrances to weed shops and swap little bags of Doritos for donations.

Or maybe the Salvation Army should just be grateful that the province relented this week and decided to let the charity keep its kettles outside government liquor outlets after all.

The kettles and their rain-soaked bellringers have been a familiar holiday sight at the liquor stores for decades. Except this year, B.C.’s Liquor Distribution Branch, apparently unconcerned about the whole eternal damnation thing, chased them away.

Look, the branch reasoned, there are already two donation campaigns inside the stores — for Food Banks B.C. and the liquor stores’ own Share-A-Bear program for local charities — and it didn’t want to overwhelm its customers with requests.

But then, saying it recognized the short-notice hardship the decision could cause the Salvation Army, it changed its mind and let the kettles stay.

OK, but you have to admit there’s something to that overwhelm-the-customers concern. Some days, going shopping during the holidays is like running a gauntlet of outstretched beggar bowls.

It’s not so bad when it’s just the passive-aggressive presence of a donation box at the till (though they have tended to disappear as Canadians go cashless), but is more uncomfortable when the sales clerk makes a direct ask: “Would you like to add $2 for the Abandoned Reindeer Fund?”

That’s when your inside voice says “no, what I’d like is to buy cauliflower without taking out a second mortgage,” but now the cashier is looking you in the eye — is it just your imagination, or do you see judgment there? — so you have to fake a medical emergency to avoid the question.

This week, a news release from Ontario’s Marc Gordon, who is described as a customer experience expert, cited a ­Harvard study as he addressed the discontent consumers feel when asked to donate in this manner.

“With current inflation, shopping is stressful as it is,” he said. “When customers are presented with the option to pay extra, it can often lead to negative feelings toward the retailer.”

So why do the stores risk alienation in this way? Because there’s a need. Here at the Times Colonist, we know there’s a point where some readers tire of us asking for donations to the Christmas Fund. We also know, though, that much good comes of providing a way for neighbours to help neighbours.

That’s why a lot of our Christmas Fund stories focus on where the money actually goes, not just to some abstract concept like “the needy” but to real people getting food on their plates, presents under the tree. (If you haven’t read them yet, go back and take a look at Darron Kloster’s Sunday piece on the way the fund has aided Ukrainian refugees, or Pedro Arrais’s Tuesday story on help for Transition House clients.)

Yesterday, I got to drop off Christmas Fund cheques at the Rainbow Kitchen and Esquimalt Neighbourhood house. I tried to convince them that the money was coming out of my wallet, but — alas — they knew it was from TC readers.

Actually, I wish I could have taken those readers with me, and given them a chance to feel as good as I did.

We all have our own causes to support, and our own capacity to give to them. Nobody should be guilted into giving, or feel awkward about saying no — but it’s also good to have the opportunity to say yes.

Speaking of fundraisers…

I was asked to take part in a reading of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol this coming Friday.

“Sure,” I replied, not realizing they meant “out loud.”

Thankfully, the live reading, staged by CBC Radio and Our Place, will mostly be done by people who are comfortable with microphones: CHEK anchor Joe Perkins and the CBC’s Gregor Craigie, Bob McDonald, Liz McArthur, Rohit Joseph and Kathryn Marlow.

It will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at First Metropolitan United Church, 932 Balmoral Rd. Sing‑along carols will be led by West Coast Reach Association, including members of the Our Place outREACH Choir. Tickets — $15 for individuals, $35 for a family and $15 for a virtual link — are available at

All proceeds go to Our Place meal services.

How to donate to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund

This year’s campaign for the Times Colonist Christmas Fund has reached $347,090.24 as of Tuesday. Our goal is $1 million.

Money raised by the Christmas Fund goes to food security programs and other charitable work on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

Our non-profit society works with dozens of local groups to ensure that help reaches as many people as possible.

Here’s how to donate:

• Donate online. Go to ­, which will take you to our Canada Helps page. It is open 24 hours a day and provides an immediate tax receipt.

• Donate by mail. Send a cheque to the Times Colonist ­Christmas Fund, 201-655 Tyee Road, ­Victoria, B.C. V9A 6X5.

• Donate by phone. Use your credit card by phoning ­250-995-4438 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Times Colonist Christmas Fund, through Island charities, assists individuals and families in need.

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