Posts Tagged PayPal

Because helping is beautiful

“Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it, like my heart’s going to cave in.”

Poorly acted and directed that line would have been as cheesy as a bag of Doritos.  Instead, it was powerful and real.  And “American Beauty” went on to win five Academy Awards – including best picture.  And, it grossed more than $350 million worldwide.

It touched a lot of people for a host of reasons, but I’d argue it was an artistic and financial success because it had the balls to not just delicately slide a truth into a dim light – it shoved it in our mouths and forced us to bite down and swallow on the fact that life can be beautiful and truly suck sometimes.

I’m not Roger Ebert, but that line didn’t just strum a chord on the human condition, it shredded the chord and offered an alternative to the trite idea of “chords on the human condition.”  So much of that film worked to invade that private space we reserve for moments of unbridled joy.  The uncontainable smile on your 10-year-old son’s face as he rounds first and realizes oh my God, that was a home run.  It’s the same space we keep for moments of utter tragedy and loss.  It’s where I leave the pain of my cousin dying last year and putting down a family pet.

No one is welcome there without an invitation.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to manage that gate because life happens.  It’s just a matter of seeing it for what it is and chewing with the appropriate amount of pressure.

As I sit in my ergonomically correct Aeron chair, the span and depth of devastation in Japan is unfathomable and overwhelming.  There’s no beauty in it, but I can’t stop looking at the footage.  On Twitter and TV I’m trying to distract myself with other things – but can’t stop thinking how stupid all the Tweets are about the iPad 2 and how silly the commentary is on ESPN about the Miami Heat crying in the locker room.

Meanwhile, a potential nuclear meltdown in Fukushima adds yet another threat.

Take one minute and divert three mouse clicks away from that PowerPoint your client is going to re-write anyway to find a way to help people who could use it.  Prayers and candles are one thing, but aid and relief has a monetary price.  An easy place to start is here on PayPal’s donation site.

Maybe someday soon, people in Japan can stop worrying about where to get water or how far to stay away from the nuclear power plant and get back to the joyful inanity of watching videos of their kids hitting home runs on their iPads.

– Jose Mallabo

Update: April 12, 2011

Since first posting this I’ve been scrolling around the Web for examples of good uses of social media for social good. Namely because someone asserted to me that you can’t measure the benefits of social media at this point.  I think it’s all based on what you set out to do at the beginning — just like any communications program, social or otherwise. I ran across Alyssa Milano’s Twitter feed. She’s incredibly active on Twitter. Which led me to her blog then to this site where she talks about the work she did to raise $92K on her 37th birthday for Charity: Water. What a good use of celebrity and social media.

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My big fat wallet

It was starting to look like Costanza’s exploding wallet. So I dumped it out and out came a handful of receipts and a packet of Splenda — but mostly the pain in my right cheek was the heft of four gift cards. Each of them are about a year old – from last Christmas, of course.  The grand total of money on my unused cards = $150 – or about a week’s worth of groceries for a hungry vegetarian.

Wonder how many Macy's gift cards were in there?

With just two weeks before Christmas, I’m sure there are people who fully intend to buy actual gifts for their loves ones but will likely get too busy and end up buying a card off the end cap at Safeway or Genuardi’s instead.

I’m not judging you. We’ve all done it. Just know there’s a good chance that you’re taking your $20 or $50 bill and tossing it out the window of a moving car at night in a neighborhood you’ve never been in before.

Americans spend $65 billion on annually (a 2009 estimate) on gift cards with almost $7 billion of it going unused. That’s one tenth of the gross domestic product of The Netherlands. With 309 million people in the U.S. that’s roughly $23 per person in the U.S.  Based on that, I am seven times less likely to use gift cards than the average U.S. consumer.  Maybe a better way to look at it is the people who intend to buy me gifts are seven times more likely to forget.

It’s debatable.  In a pinch, I take PayPal.  And I use it most to buy gifts.  So, odds are if you PayPal me money, it will come back to you in the form of a durable good or White Elephant.

Imagine if the state governments took PayPal.  Now that would be true social commerce. If they did they wouldn’t have to use tax payer’s money to chase down unused, but already taxed money sitting on gift cards.

Gift cards are part of the country’s hidden economy that includes mail-in rebates, flex spending accounts and extended product warranties. Money spent but left unused like that yarn cardigan from your aunt Martha from Pasadena.

People freely buy a gift card for someone (who may not use it), but flee the register if asked to buy an extended warranty on a $59 DVD player.

– Jose Mallabo

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