Saturday, 7 July 2012

Difficult Choices

Waitrose run a scheme whereby you’re given a green tiddlywink at the checkout, which you can donate to one of three local charities on your way out, by dropping it into your chosen box.  Each month, they share out their donation kitty between the three charities, applying some abstruse formula which we don’t need to go into here (mainly because I don’t know what it is).

The checkout staff are, I guess, trained to issue a token with every receipt as a matter of course, and most of them do.  One or two politely ask if you’d like one, which is nice but risky, as they quite often end up having to explain the system to someone who turns out to be impervious to explanations – I’ve been backed up in that queue a few times.

I think this is a brilliant idea, which the Government should take a closer look at (as they should all things John Lewis), and I try to make a considered choice.  It’s usually not difficult to identify the clear winner.  It will be voluntary, health-related and emotionally appealing.  Too often, it’s something the public sector should be doing but can’t, or won’t.  Towards the end of the month, tactical voting might come into play, as the clear winner has indeed clearly won, so I have to decide who comes second.  But that’s not so easy: there are school playgrounds, animal welfare groups, open spaces, various sports, brass bands … 

The kindly queue at the checkout can be outdone by the queue of parents with toddlers at the donation boxes.  My considerable reserves of patience will, I admit, sometimes run low as I wait for mum or dad to explain the difference between helping children with ADS versus buying new stumps for the cricket club versus relocating a colony of rare newts, to a child whose only real interest is getting the tiddlywink into the slot and watching it drop all the way to the pile at the bottom.

This has its compensations too, though.  Yesterday I arrived just in time to hear a three year old, who’d clearly been giving the matter some attention, say: “Bats.  I like bats.”

I smiled at the mum.  “Good choice,” I said.  She blanked me; but her son looked at me, smiled back, and nodded.


  1. We have two Waitroses within reach and sometimes I save my tokens to take to a preferred box at the other store. Particularly when there's one for saving hedgehogs.

  2. Please may I ask two questions?
    And the second one is: were bats an option in their own right or is it a general cricket club charity?

  3. Richard, hee hee.

    I rarely go to Waitrose as it's half an hour's drive away, but when I do I put my token in the box with the fewest. Unless one of the others is for the benefit of newts, hedgehogs or bats, obviously. Or lizards.

  4. Mig, what a splendid idea for a new hobby! I can now spend whole mornings cruising between Norcot,Caversham and Woodley in search of bats.

    Richard - Good questions. If you're uncertain, try hitting a cricket ball with a pipistrelle.

    Z - I don't know how to get onto their charity list. I suspect that lizards aren't much endangered here in Berkshire, because there aren't any. Mig'll know.

  5. We haven't had bats here yet. I'm disappointed.

  6. I would shop at Tescos thereby saving 15% which could be passed to my personal charity for unpensioned gentlefolk.

  7. I tend to choose the ones I know. I really like the fact that they support local charities...

  8. Do you get an online vote if you shop from Ocado? Should you be sponsoring the life boats in this weather or is Rog a more worthy cause?
    So many questions....

  9. I thought Waitrose had fallen out with Ocado. And they claim to match all Tesco's prices. I agree that Rog is worthy, but he wouldn't want to be thought of as a tiddly wink. There are no lifeboats in Berkshire (yet). I think I remember there being bats in my loft twenty years ago. Does that cover it? because I'm quite busy counting bottles and testing red and blue lightbulbs.

  10. The red bulbs presumably for the front porch; the blue ones presumably to keep the shooters at bay. Hopefully some white ones also. This is a jubilee year after all.