Of ours loves bargains, whether doubling her...

A FRIEND

October 03, 1994

A FRIEND of ours loves bargains, whether doubling her grocery coupons or landing on a yard-sale treasure. Last week, she discovered another kind of bargain. "You've heard of leveraged buy-outs?" she said. "I'm now a leveraged donor!"

Here's the story: A local public radio station is holding one of its seasonal fund-raising campaigns, complete with many of the usual incentives for larger gifts. This time around, however, the lures are especially sweet. A popular restaurant in town is offering a $25 gift certificate to anyone who donates $100 or more. In addition, the station throws in a CD. Combine those incentives with the tax deduction for charitable contributions, and the $100 donation looks a lot less formidable.

But that's not the whole story. Our friend happened to be listening the other morning when one of the restaurant owners was helping the station announcers drum up calls. At that point, our friend hadn't yet decided when to renew her membership in the station, or at what level. Then, on what seemed a whim, the restaurant owner offered to double the gift certificate to $50 for the next 10 callers and our friend lunged for the phone.

Later that day, she was still incredulous. For $100, here's what she got: a $50 -- not $25 but $50! -- certificate good at two locations of that generous restaurant, a CD from the station (in her excitement, she neglected to find out which one or how much it was worth) and, because she charged the pledge on one of those credit cards offering a rebate through certain corporations, $5 toward any product from her favorite computer company. Somewhere in there, there may even be room for a tax deduction.

And, of course, she can take some satisfaction in helping keep a good station on the air. Trouble is, with all those goodies coming her way, she's feeling too guilty to enjoy that part of the bargain.

It makes us wonder: Whatever happened to old-fashioned generosity, no strings attached?

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