Doing Good While Behaving Badly: Checkout Charity Process Mechanisms

Michael Giebelhausen, Benjamin Lawrence*, Hae Eun Helen Chun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Companies are increasingly using cause-related marketing campaigns to engage consumers during the purchase process and highlight their own corporate social responsibility initiatives. One growing trend among retailers is the use of charity campaigns, where cashiers or technologies solicit consumers to donate money at checkout. Though these checkout charity campaigns are ubiquitous, little is known about their impact on consumers or the psychological processes involved. This paper addresses this gap by examining the process by which checkout charity appeals may license consumers to engage in “guilty pleasures” counter to injunctive norms. In a series of four studies, we affirm this hypothesis, presenting a novel methodological approach for providing evidence of a credits-based process. This method utilizes a Johnson-Neyman procedure to demonstrate how a charitable donation creates a “warm-glow” feeling that subsequent counter-injunctive consumption erodes. In other words, we directly observe individuals “cashing in” credits to pay for bad behavior. We discuss the ethical implications of such campaigns in light of the subsequent behavior they may license.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-149
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Charity
  • Credentials
  • Credits
  • Injunctive social norms
  • Moral licensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law


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