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Have You Ever Accepted Something You Didn’t Need?


Oh, the power of the internet.

In case you missed it, Matthew Inman (hilarious cartoonist at The Oatmeal) received a letter from an attorney representing Due to some past drama between the two sites, the attorney is threatening to sue Inman in federal court. Or, conveniently, if Inman wants to send a check for $20,000, all will be forgiven.

Inman decided to raise the $20,000 through donations and send a picture of it (plus a cartoon insulting the recipient’s mother) to the attorney and/or the owner of He stated he would then split the money between two charities.

In less than 24 hours, Inman raised over $100,000 and the total is still increasing, even though fans are aware that he met his $20k goal. (donation site)

Let me say that I think this is awesome. I believe Inman really will donate the money to charity, even though I doubt his fans would mind if he used it for toilet paper (because that’s how popular his site is). And I love the way people have come together for a (somewhat goofy) cause.

Anyway, in the midst of all this, one of my friends sent me a message on Facebook. “You have all those blogs and stuff!” she said. “You should totally put up a donation button – I’m sure lots of people would be willing to send you a few dollars!”

Um, Really?

That’s not the first time someone has suggested that I put a donation button on my site.

Here’s the thing – I don’t need people to give up their hard-earned money for me. My bills are paid, I own tons of gadgets that could easily be sold, I have steady income coming in right now (knock on wood), and I have family members who are able to help if I need it.

It would be entirely different if my son was terminally ill or we were on the brink of starvation. If that was the case, I wouldn’t hesitate to slap a button on my sidebar and ask you guys to send money. But my conscience will not allow me to ask people for something for no reason.

Sure, I’d love to be like “Hey, I want bedroom furniture! Send your spare cash my way!” But I don’t need karma kicking my ass. What kind of person takes money (in a non-charity situation) from random strangers when there’s no emergency and their needs are met?

There Are Always Exceptions

I won’t pretend I’m some super amazing moral being. There are some times when I have accepted things I didn’t necessarily need, and in a few situations, I didn’t even feel guilty about it.

Example: I bullied a car salesman into agreeing to fill the gas tank in a car I bought, even though I could have easily afforded to do it myself.

Example: I still use my student ID to get discounts at certain stores and restaurants even though I graduated in 2006.

For me, it’s definitely situational. I feel far less conflicted about getting something from a faceless corporation than from an individual. Does that make it any better? Probably not. But I just cannot take something from another person when I know darn well I can make it fine without it.

What do you think about The Oatmeal’s fundraiser and the huge response from fans? What responsibility does he have where the excess donations are concerned? In what situations would you accept something you didn’t need?

About Andrea Whitmer

Andrea is a freelance web developer and mom trying to maintain a sense of humor in an otherwise chaotic world. She blogs in hopes of helping others avoid the same mistakes she made in the past. Join in the discussion here on So Over This, or connect on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Google Plus. You can also subscribe to new posts via RSS so you never miss out!


  1. I never heard of oatmeal before. Good to know. And I am seriously thinking abt having a donation button. All dining out money.

  2. That’s awesome he raised so much already. I read the first post. I have done the same thing as you when buying a car – I expect a full tank. I also get all kinds of free stuff to “review” on my site and I don’t feel bad about it.

  3. I had no idea people would donate so much to a blog. If I was reading a blog I liked and they were in sincerely in trouble or had a good cause I would donate if I was able.

    • I actually did donate towards Cait's (from Blonde on a Budget) cause of attending the Bold Academy. I never thought much of it before, but now I can see where adding a donate button might actually be worthwhile too.

  4. I love that The Oatmeal's fundraiser is doing so well, and I'm sure that Inman will donate the excess money to charity. If he isn't planning to, then he should probably make that fact known so that his audience can make an informed decision on whether or not to give.

    When it comes to myself, my bills are paid, I have a roof over my head, but I'm a long way away from being comfortable financially. If I was put in a situation where I could make some money without putting anyone else out, I'd take it. I'd be honest and open about it, but I would definitely take it.

  5. Budget & the Beach says:

    Yeah I hope he donates it too! This reminds me of people who are sue-happy. Unless absolutely necessary, I wouldn't do it. For instance if I spilled hot coffee on my lap from McDonald's. It's my own fault. But people take advantage, and like you I would feel karma nipping on my heels for sure. As far as a donation button on a blog, I don't mind it per say being there, but I'm pretty sure unless a person had a good cause, or was in serious financial jeopardy and I trusted them, I would never donate.

  6. I would only accept something I didn't need if I was in a situation I felt I was being taken advantage of (ie. being charged a price higher than an item was worth) or if someone was just being generous.

    I wouldn't put up a donate button on my blog or anything unless I was absolutely desperate (terminal illness like you mentioned!) OR if I had some awesome projected that I could put on kick-starter and get donations that way. Otherwise I'm not really interested in other people's money haha

  7. Haha I've totally used my student card to get discounts after I graduated! And I love The Oatmeal! Love!

  8. Personally, I don't think a donate button belongs on a site with advertising. Donate to my cause? Sure. Donate to my PayPal account? Nope, trying to get advertisers to buy me dinner.

  9. Your second example seems almost non sequitor to the rest. Asking for something, or negotiating a deal I think is a completely different category than lying to get something. I'm not claiming to be a saint either, I know I've used things like 'employee discount codes' as well, but I feel it's a different question than being honestly given something.

    Back to the initial question, I really don't have an issue with 'accepting things I don't really need'. First off, just about anything I'm given I don't really need, like presents, or even a meal out. But even though it was 'free' it actually costs you social capital. If you're always asking for a handout then you're using up your social capital, or goodwill. Unless you also contribute back in some way (even non monetary like helping move, or writing funny comics), you'll just come off as a mooch. So I don't feel accepting something is in any way a moral question, it's just whether or not you want to use your social capital with the group your in.

    • I'd only hold the Oatmeal example to do what he said he'd initially do. Unless he's made additional promises he can do whatever he wants. Of course doing different than what people expect or want him to will cost him possibly the next time he tries this, or just in general readership.

  10. That had to be one of the funniest posts I've read on The Oatmeal in a while. What a nice way to handle a frivolous lawsuit.

  11. I don't see anything wrong with putting up a donation button on your blog. So far, I've only donated to one blog, but that's probably because few blogs ask for donations. The material created on this particular blog is extremely useful, and I appreciate all that the owners' of the site do.

    People don't understand how time consuming blogging is. You're producing a valuable product, i.e., useful content. If your readers want to give you money because you've positively influenced their lives, whether you NEED it is irrelevant; you EARNED it.

  12. What an interesting side story – with The Oatmeal! That is kind of an inspiring story – the raising of so many funds so quickly! But your main blog post question – I guess I don't know how I feel about asking for money donations outside of legit charity work or medical bills or even if a blogger/webmaster needs additional funds to help cover the site's upkeep. I suppose any and every blogger has the right to ask for donations, but I'd be lying if I said I don't think it makes you cheap and/or bad haha.

  13. I think it is great that The Oatmeal got so much support. As far as the excess donations it depends on what he said he'd do with them. If he didn't specify he could return them, donate them, or use them himself but I'd stick with the first or second if I was him. I'd feel guilty for accepting it on a false premise for personal gain. As far as accepting something I didn't need if someone felt obliged to pay for my content I wouldn't complain. I wouldn't go begging and draw attention to it though.

  14. I think that whole situation is comical, really. As for me having a donation button, I can't see doing that. In general, I don't like being a taker. It's something where I don't want to feel like I owe anyone anything. Now, if I won a random lottery, I might say something different 🙂

  15. myjampackedlife says:

    I'd take it all and run…..well I would like to do that. Charity is a great option too though.

  16. There are many uproarious websites on the internet with this “Donation Button”. More often than not these are charity websites offering assistance to natural calamity victims or aid to those in need. It’s quite sickening me that there are people who don’t need money that much but still ask for donations just for “NOTING”.

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