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Salvation Army Bell Ringers Taking Plastic
POSTED: 9:58 am EST December 9, 2004
UPDATED: 10:55 am EST December 9, 2004
PHOENIX -- The clang of coins in the Salvation Army's red kettles is being accompanied by the swipe of credit and debit cards this year as the charity equips some bell ringers to accept plastic.
Officials in Phoenix, which made the switch Wednesday, hope it will attract new donors and help offset an expected decrease in donations after Target stores nationally banned bell ringers.
"So many people shop with a debit card now. They just don't have cash, or extra change," said Sandi Gabel, a Salvation Army spokeswoman in Arizona. "It will be a nice way for people to make a donation if they don't have that cash on hand."
Salvation Army kettles have been a holiday institution since 1891. The donations fund a range of services, including medical assistance, emergency services and food and clothing for the needy.
About $1 million was raised from kettle donations in Arizona last year. "We knew we were going to have a loss this year in our kettle income, so we were looking for ideas, things to do to spark the interest of the public and our donors," Gabel said.
Bell ringers tried card swipes at least once before, in 1997 in Pittsburgh, but the idea did not prove popular.
"There's a whole psychology to it," said Ginny Knor, a spokeswoman for the Western Pennsylvania Division of the Salvation Army. "People would come over and look at it, then put their change in the kettle."
Donors in Phoenix showed the same response Wednesday, emptying the change from their pockets rather than swiping a card.
"I would actually go out of my way to get cash and then drop it back off," said Joe Posadas, 23, of Phoenix.
But college student Heather Farber, 21, said she'd rather use plastic. "I never have cash," Farber said. "And I feel cheap just throwing in a few quarters."
The card swipe machines are wireless and produce paper receipts for tax purposes. Gabel said to ensure security, bell ringers will be dressed in Salvation Army uniforms when the card swipe machines are in use. "They will be people you'd feel safe running your card," she said.