Saturday, May 19, 2012

Don't donate your used glasses

Comparing the costs of buying new glasses for the poor vs. sending and sorting donated, used glasses. Buying new glasses is cheaper. Nice case study on the topic of hidden costs.

Recycling old glasses makes people feel generous and thrifty. They believe they’re helping people and saving money. They think the glasses they donate are “free,” because they don’t consider all the hidden costs of sorting and shipping them. And they don’t realize just how cheap manufacturing new glasses has become. If they really wanted to help people see, they’d send money. Unlike leftovers, it’s guaranteed to fit.
The only thing this article neglects is that donating glasses could be, from the charity's point of view, a loss leader. If people donate their glasses, it is a type of commitment mechanism, and they might be more willing to actually donate money as well. So the additional cost to the non-profit of working with used glasses could be considered a sales expense.

Also, if local talent in the country where the glasses get shipped are hired to do the sorting, then that job creation needs to be factored into the calculation.

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