Valentine’s Fundraising Insults My Intelligence

I’ve written about my wealthy Alma Mater’s brilliant fundraising techniques twice before (here and here), but yesterday’s attempt at moneygrabbing takes the cake.  Here’s the email I received.  I’m sure it will warm your heart as much as it did mine:

Subject: Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today is a day for letting others know how much we care about them.  Why not show current students and faculty how much you care about their success through a gift to the University Development Fund.  The University Development Fund supports student and faculty research, scholarships, libraries, and much more.

You can share your love for the university by ensuring it has the resources it needs to continue on its path to excellence.  Make a gift today, we promise it’s better than flowers!

There’s so much wrong with this that I feel the need to just start listing punchlines:

1- If we’re talking Valentine’s Day and showing my love for 18-22 year olds, I can do that.  As a result, you may receive dollars from us in about 19 years if we forget to use a condom.  Since I couldn’t do that when I was a TA, I might not mind making up for lost time.

2- I have no interest in showing the faculty how much I love them in a Valentine’s-inspired way.

3- Why didn’t I think of that?  What woman wouldn’t prefer a donation made in her name as opposed to flowers?  How romantic!  (However, if you know a woman who would prefer a donation to a much less fabulously wealthy organization that does charity work instead, I might like her phone number.  🙂 )

4- The university is on a path to excellence?  Since students are going so far into debt to attend there, I would hope that the university is already providing them with excellence.  If you provided me with something less than excellence, it doesn’t make me love you.

5- I know you’re a research university, but shouldn’t teaching resources figure somewhere in what the Development Fund supports?  Sorry, but the libraries don’t quite count.

6- When I was a student, much was made of Valentine’s Day being V-Day, meaning Vagina Day.  I realize that “Vagina Monologues” performances make a substantial contribution to funding important charities that serve women, but you don’t need to keep the genital-themed discussion going by acting like a [CENSORED].  It’s all in bad taste.

7- I remember how much you spent on landscaping and I wonder how many students could have graduated debt-free if you had gone for a simpler aesthetic.  I can’t imagine how much of the Development Fund goes towards plants.  But then again, university officials would likely cite that old poem:  “Elsewhere I think I’ll never see a school as lovely as a tree.”  I support that environmental sentiment in theory, but in practice your tree looks more like this:

Created by n-rg.  The original is at http://n-rg.deviantart.com/art/Money-Tree-74891232

Created by n-rg. The original is at http://n-rg.deviantart.com/art/Money-Tree-74891232

8- Is it really such a good idea to ask for money on the same day so many people are giving such expensive gifts?  However, I might be able to contribute if you’ll accept leftover chocolate.  The grocery store is having a sale.

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Financial Preoccupations Insult My Intelligence

To close out this most materialistic season of the year, I would like to extend a helpful hint to all of you who are planning New Year’s parties:

Mother of Pearl spoons with sturgeon caviar an...

Mother of Pearl spoons with sturgeon caviar and salmon roe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You are wholly justified in worrying about what people will think about you if you do not put out expensive food.  After all, the party is designed to display your nonexistent wealth because that’s all your friends care about.  And they will never forget the deep fried caviar you serve up with tartar sauce to mask the slight char on the outside…

College Fundraising Insults My Intelligence

In one of my first posts, I slammed a college fundraiser for the buffoonish tactics she used when asking me for money.  To refresh your memory, I went to graduate school at a university that costs undergraduates upwards of $45,000 per year… or is it $55,000 by now?  The institution possesses an enormous financial reserve while thousands of suckers graduate with enormous debt every year.

But hooray!  Financial aid comes to the rescue!

Unbeknownst to many students (and their checkbook-wielding parents), colleges have borrowed a marketing tactic from retailers.  Raise prices through the roof, let those high prices make people believe that those prices mean higher quality, and offer discounts to make people think they’re getting a deal… all while soaking the poor saps who pay full price.

And then come the fundraisers who want to pull your heartstrings out with a pitchfork.  Those poor students!  So many of them are on financial aid and they need your help to make it through.  Let our tuition marketing scheme fool you into thinking your donation will make a difference in their lives.  And listen to the stories of some especially needy students who could never have afforded our artificially inflated prices without the markdowns we had budgeted for anyway.

So give us money, dammit.  The psychologically manipulated student body will remain forever grateful.

(Sadly, that last line is probably true.)

I’ll close with a second reminder.  I did my bachelor’s at a large public university and my graduate work at the prestigious University of Money.  While I can’t complain about my experiences at the U. of M., I don’t see how the undergraduate education offered there exceeded what I got at my other, more lowly alma mater.

The Poor Man’s Snobbery Insults My Intelligence

You may think that only rich people can be snobs.  I intend to prove you wrong.

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I like international grocery stores.  Besides the selection of food, the products are usually cheaper and sometimes significantly so.  For instance,  you can find spices for obscenely low prices; the brand name companies represented at your regular grocery store sell you a small bottle of spice for a lot of money, but I get my spice for one to three dollars per pound.  These are Indian brands or direct imports by the international market for consumption by the local immigrant community.  I may not get the “comfort” of a familiar brand, but that’s relatively unimportant.  If a spice brand is good enough for people in (or from) India, it’s good enough for me.  The quality is there.

English: Brazilian Linguiça or pork sausage on...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But instead of seeking good deals, many Americans buy (literally) the food companies’ advertising.  The grocery stores keep telling us how much of a bargain their prices are and the manufacturers also bombard us with messages about their products’ quality and budget friendliness.  And people absorb these messages unquestioningly.

So, I was visiting some friends one time and decided to bring some sausage from a local mom-and-pop butcher shop run by immigrants.  (Usually, my friends supply all the food for everyone; this doesn’t seem right.)  The sausage at this shop costs 30-40% less than what the grocery store sells.  It’s also fresher and of much higher quality.  However, my friend (who is not poor by any means) responded self-righteously to my contribution and did so with more than a little discomfort; he had agreed to let me bring food but I think he overestimated his ability to deal with it.

Some people who aren’t rich take their economic status as a sign of virtue; my friend was no exception.  It also didn’t help that people have learned to equate price and quality.  I brought better stuff, which somehow meant that I was flaunting my “higher” status.   (Um… I’ve been unemployed for a while and wasn’t rich before that, but no matter.)   I recommended the store and mentioned the lower prices but my words fell on deaf ears.  “Our prudent Kroger is better than your profligate place, you scum.”  Or something like that.

If that’s not snobbery, I don’t know what is.

If you want to spend the extra money to finance a world of wonderful advertisements, be my guest.  I’d rather spend the cash on something useful, or perhaps keep it in my bank account.  I’m a big fan of frugality, but I guess that makes me a snob too.

Bank of America Insults My Intelligence

It may sound strange, but I like to pay my credit card bills by phone.  There’s none of the risk associated with online banking and no need to remember to mail off a traditional paper payment.  That’s right, I’m so lazy that I’d rather spend extra time sitting around and navigating automated menus.

It wasn’t always like this.  Many years ago, my bank (Bank of America) tried to start charging people extra for paying by phone.  Hmmmm.  Paying by phone means that no one at their company has to sort mail from me, no one has to open my payment, check to see that it’s the right amount, verify that the check is signed, and no one has to enter my payment into a computer.  And they wanted to start charging me for this?

Ladies and gentlemen, it has become fashionable in recent years to demonize banks for their outlandish extra charges and questionable business practices.  I assure you that these problems are nothing new.

Since, presumably, the attempted fee turned people away from paying by phone, they got rid of the charge after a while.  So now I’m back to paying by phone, but there’s still some obnoxiousness to speak of.

When I call in and enter the payment system, they first thing they tell me is my balance, my minimum payment requirement, and my payment due date.  And then after a few more menus they offer me the opportunity to schedule the minimum payment, which would be transferred from my checking account on the due date.  (Remember, the less and later you pay, the more interest they rack up.)  Just press “1” and you’re all done!

Then there used to be a convenient pause (perhaps so you’d think there wasn’t another option?) before they give you the opportunity to change the amount and payment date.   And then they’re kind enough to offer an example of what it means to enter a payment amount using both dollars and cents.  Of course, the payment amount they use in the example is the minimum payment. Power of suggestion, I suppose, or maybe the bank assumes (correctly?) that some people will interpret the example as “I must enter 1-5-0-0.”

Then the system does the same thing with the example for how to enter a payment date.

But I suppose I should be thankful.  I received a self-congratulatory letter from the bank a few years back telling me that they were innovating their payment scheduling.  That’s right!  The payment deadline was now going to be the same day every month instead of being shuffled around all over the place.  (Translation: they were getting rid of another cheap moneymaking tactic.  If you were paying late because the deadline jumped around and you lost track, they got to charge a penalty!)

And then they have another “service” for me.  Would I like to schedule any payments up to twelve months in advance?  Um, no.  If I set the amount too low, I’ll have a bigger balance to pay interest on.  If I set the prepayment too high, the bank will have the extra money to earn interest off of.  And I won’t.

When a bank calls something a “service,” it’s usually more of a service to them than to you.

And now I’m done with my rant.  I think I’ll go feed the birds.

College Fundraisers Insult My Intelligence

I finished my bachelor’s at a public university that has been experiencing budgetary shortfalls in recent years.  I did my graduate work at a fabulously wealthy private university and I haven’t found a job yet.  Although the poorer university has more legitimate reasons to doggedly solicit potential donors in the spirit of eternal friendship, the people working there clearly possess common sense and behave themselves.  Today’s post is a tale of the latter school.

So, my friends at the University of Money’s development office come calling again (and again and again) seeking funds.    Even though I’m unemployed, they seem to have this strange idea that I’m somehow a potential large-sum donor who just needs to be reminded of his alma mater’s glory to make the dollars flow.

Love is in the air and all that crap.

And so I mention that my undergraduate institution provides superior job search assistance to alumni while the wealthy school offers virtually none.  I’m told that the career office is understaffed at wealthy university and I could swear that a lack of funds was implied.  But later, I’m supposed to be inspired by the multimillion dollar student activity building (or something like that) they just built.  The building, from that I can tell, is fun and sexy and that’s why it’s important.  Everybody’s happy now on campus and that should make me happy too, I suppose.  The conversation closes with her commenting that “at least you got a first-rate education.”

Well then, please, let me bounce you a check, o mighty University of Money.

After all, your minion got her script right.  She mentioned important programs that need more money (which, to me, reflects misplaced priorities in allocating funds), the luxurious new building (which seems frivolous to those of us without jobs or with huge student loans), and the quality of education (which she seems to have forgotten because she’s treating me like a moron).

But I digress.  What we have here is a fundraising professional (not a work-study student) whose job is to convince the unemployed that their money is more appropriately housed in the university’s overflowing coffers.   Let’s review: if I don’t have an income, where exactly does she expect the donation to come from?  And how did she get a job that requires at least a second grade understanding of finance? 

“Little Johnny has zero dollars.  If he gives Mrs. Davis six dollars, how many dollars does Little Johnny have left?”  You never saw that word problem in second grade because even second graders know it’s idiotic.