Monday, December 23, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness vs. Required Acts of Kindness: My Take on Pyramid Schemes, Chain Letters, and “Please Repost” Requests

I love helping people. In fact, my whole working life has been devoted to helping others. I’m a librarian. That’s what we do. Need help? Great! Just ask! Have a question? Shoot! Hands full? I’ll grab that door for you! A few pennies short? Let me dig at the bottom of my purse; I’m sure I have a few coins jingling around in there that you can use! Need a little chocolate to de-stress your day? Come to my desk where chocolate awaits you! (And I don’t even eat chocolate myself--It is literally there just for you!) Then there are the kinds of things people ask you to do things that are pointless.  In those instances I am less likely to get excited about “helping.”

You want to know where chain mail, pass-it-on exponential office giving, and in-home party perpetuation goes to die (especially during December)? It comes to me. And then it dies. A swift, swift death. Maybe at other times of the year I’d be more likely to keep it going, pass it along, but I’m mildly positive that December equals Cara’s limit. Random acts of kindness? Love them! Required acts of “kindness.” I’m not a fan.

Here are some examples:

Makeup/jewelry/food storage/baked goods/cleaning supplies in-home parties (with strong encouragement to purchase crap you don’t need, have never wanted, will never use--Oh, and do you want to host your own party and then become a beauty consultant/jewelry representative/food storage consultant/direct sales person? No.)

Why I take issue with this: you are using your friends to profit. You invite them over and then guilt them into purchasing unnecessary, overpriced things that really aren’t all that unique. And then you further guilt them into throwing their own parties to guilt their network of friends into buying (you guessed it…) even more unnecessary, overpriced things. The worst is when it isn’t even associated with a real event like a baby or bridal shower--For some reason, I can swallow that a little easier than just having a come-spend-money party. And then there are the invitations from people you may or may not have seen in years, who just recently added you as a Facebook friend.

Sample Facebook conversation:

  • Person A: Hi, Person B! So good to see you here on Facebook! Glad to see you are doing well!
  • Person B (after having not had any real interaction with Person A for at least 10 years): Hi! Nice to hear from you! Yeah, things are going well--Busy as ever, but a good kind of busy! Take care! 
  • Person A: Thanks! Things are going well here for me too. Actually, I’ll be having a party soon--you should come! I’ll invite you to the Facebook event! I’d love to see you there! 
  • Person B: (Reads message, gets event invitation and doesn’t respond because she sees that it is an invite for a product party. Pukes a little in her mouth.)
  • Person B: (Forgets about “party” invite and gets message from a stranger, the “representative” working with Person A for the party.)
  • Representative: Hi Person B! I’m Representative, and I’ll be helping showcase (some products) at Person A’s party. I saw that you haven’t RSVPd to the Facebook invite and I was wondering if you’ll be able to make it next weekend! Person A would love to see you there! 
  • Person B: (What the… Ugh. Reluctantly responds as politely as possible to Representative’s message whilst swallowing true feelings.) Hi, Representative, Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend. Best, Person B

Now, I don’t mind going to hang out with friends--people I actually interact with. Most of them know I’m not going to buy anything anyway. They know that I’m trying to live more simply, that I don’t cook enough to own more than 3 pots/pans, that I have to wear gluten-free/hypoallergenic makeup, that I’m picky about my jewelry, and that I don’t buy into that kind of theme party thing anyway. But I’ll go because I do my best to support my friends’ efforts, just not financially.

Gifting pyramids/chain letters

I despise these. Nothing gets me in less of a giving spirit than being solicited. I came to work the other day and found a small bag and piece of paper on my desk! Aww, so sweet! Someone left me a surprise! I looked to see who it was from. It was a pyramid/chain letter gifting thing. I get a gift and then have to surprise two coworkers with a gift. I did not ask for this gift and really don’t have time to find two more gifts to share. I already have four December family birthdays in addition to Christmas (with five siblings, plus cousins, aunts/uncles, nieces/nephews, friends, and boyfriend/boyfriend’s family). I can’t even keep all of that straight, let alone figure out who to surprise at work and then what to put in the bag of goodies to give them.

Please repost so this will reach eleventy-billion likes and someone’s someone else will do something pointless

No. Just no. These are scams and a waste of everyone’s time. I refuse to waste my own time by reposting it, and others’ time by asking them to do the same. No, I honestly don’t think whoever posted that picture on Facebook will donate five million dollars to charity if it gets 10,000 “likes.” Yes, I appreciate my family and friends. No, they don’t need me to post a paragraph or give another “like” on a stranger’s photo on Facebook to prove it.

Do you want help? To talk? Hey, five bucks to cover parking? Need a ride because your car is in the shop? No problem. I’m your gal! Want some help raising awareness about a real issue (Facebook is not necessarily always the best avenue to educate, just saying, but sometimes I guess it works)? Fine, I’ll do my best.

Want me to buy crap no one needs? Ask someone else.*

Do these kinds of things make anyone else feel extra grinch-y, especially at this time of the year? Share your experiences in the comments! I’d love to hear them!

*There are plenty of people who actually do enjoy this type of gathering. I acknowledge that, and am not trying to invalidate their feelings (doing my best to take a cue from Oprah, love her!). To those people, I say ENJOY! It takes all kinds! 

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