I clearly remember the last time I gave to a beggar. It was years ago. I had just gone through the drive-thru at Burger King®. They had the deal where you get two Whopper® sandwiches for the price of one. Such a bargain.
Anyway, as I sat in my car waiting for the light to turn green, smelling the piping hot, thick cut French Fries™ staining the bag next to me, I saw a homeless person up ahead holding a sign that advertised, “hungry.”
Maybe I felt sorry for him. Maybe I felt guilty about the extra 710 calories I was about to consume. Whatever the reason, I decided to be charitable. When I got to the homeless guy I rolled down my window and handed him my extra burger.
At that moment I realized why people give to the homeless. It feels good. For a brief second, I saw myself as a good person. I patted myself on the back and fantasized about how much better I was than the cheapskates in the cars around me.
I expected my flame-grilled™ gift to be received with a sincere thank you followed by a sparkle in his eye as he bit into that quarter pound* of savory beef.
That’s not what happened. Yes, he took my burger. No, he didn’t thank me.
When I give somebody the gift of America’s favorite burger® and don’t get as much as a nod of thanks I begin to ask myself some questions. Either this guy doesn’t like Whoppers as much as I do (unlikely) or he would rather I had given him cold, hard cash. The other possibility is that he smelled my fries and knew that I had the means to have given him a full combo meal. Fair enough.
When I am in a situation where I have to predict the character of a person, I tend to assume that they are rational, intelligent individuals. I believe if I were in their situation, I would do the same thing. If you don’t want to thank me I am sure you have your reasons. Still, what this man did next surprised me.
Before he consumed the burger I watched him pick off the juicy tomatoes, fresh lettuce, crunchy pickles, and sliced white onions. Now I am in no position to judge. I wouldn’t want to swap lives with this guy. But I would have to be Gandhi not to question the dietary integrity of this man and the sincerity of his claimed hunger levels.
Hopefully you recognize the satire in my story. I am not a terrible person. Yes, I could afford to give more. I am working on it. But here is the point to my exaggerated story…
Consider these two truths, two sides of the uncomfortable coin we call marketing:
Marketing is the stories people want us to believe.
We can’t escape the stories we are asked to accept. We are slaves to our minds and the rationalization that convinces us that we are heroes in our own personal soap operas. Whether we spend our money on fast food or on donations to charity, the stories we become the stories we tell ourselves.
I could convince myself that I am a cheap, cynical, jerk. I could also choose to believe that I am a sensitive, compassionate friend to those in need. The truth is probably somewhere in between. It depends which story, what marketing, I want you to believe.
* Quarter pound measurement based on pre-cooked patty weight.
Thanks for reading. If you liked this I would point you to this post as a diving off point for getting into my writing. Stay creative.