A couple days ago, I noticed that there wasn’t much coffee left in the airtight container sitting on my kitchen counter. I quickly made a mental note to “add coffee to the grocery list.” A few days later, I happened to see an ad from my favorite Christian radio station, offering a “Free Bag of Monastery Blend Coffee” to anyone who would begin a new monthly donation to their ministry.
Finding the idea of “Monastery Blend” coffee intriguing, I set out on an investigation. It turns out that the coffee is produced by a small monastery located on Vashon Island in Washington State. Many years ago, this monastery received quite a bit of publicity when Starbucks threatened them for selling a coffee named “Christmas Blend”. (I know very little about trademark law, but apparently the United States Patent & Tradmark Office granted Starbucks federal protection for the term “Christmas Blend” many years ago.)
I thought it sounded like a wonderful idea to support the monk’s vocation of prayer by simply re-directing my regular coffee purchase into their operational budget. I proceeded to add a bag of “Abbot’s Choice” Ground Coffee to my shopping cart. The price was $9.50. That seemed reasonable to me; I’ve probably paid that much for a bag of coffee before, so I proceeded to check out.
In the world of e-commerce, there’s a term called “shopping cart abandonment”. That’s when someone adds items to their virtual shopping cart, and then abruptly stops in the middle of the checkout process, before paying for their purchase. My visit to the monastery’s online store turned into an example of this phenomenon very quickly. Why? After I entered my shipping address, I discovered that there would be an $11.25 charge for “shipping & handling”, bringing the total cost for one 12 oz bag of coffee to $20.75. I had set out to re-direct the money I would normally spend on coffee to a higher cause, but in this scenario I would end up paying twice as much for one bag of coffee. That’s just not what I had initially set out to accomplish.
I decided to see if there was any other alternative for putting my coffee dollars to work. After a quick Google search for “non-profit coffee”, I discovered a company called “Three Avocados”. This company was started in Missouri, with the explicit purpose of donating all of their profits to clean-water projects. (There are 1 BILLION people in the world who don’t have access to clean drinking water, leading to unnecessary disease and death.) It’s all too easy to forget these people, since we’ve never met them; especially when most of us shun our convenient kitchen tap in favor of plastic bottles with a brand name.
According to the Three Avocados website, $3 goes directly into clean water projects for each bag of coffee you buy directly from their website. So what’s the problem, you say? That sounds like a wonderful proposition!
Well, maybe I’m cursed with a mind that tends to sees things from a business or economic viewpoint. Or, maybe it’s a blessing. I’m not sure at this point in my life. But let’s do some simple math and see if you can figure out the conundrum that I faced last night:
$9.99 – Cost of a 12 oz name-brand bag of ground, Arabica coffee from a local retailer
$0.00 – Shipping is negligible; I’m already making the trip to buy other items anyway
$9.99 – TOTAL COST
$11.99 – Cost of their 12 oz Uganda Bugisu bag of Arabica coffee
$2.95 – Shipping
$14.94 – TOTAL COST
Can you see the conundrum? I’ll let you know what I decided to do – if anyone takes a guess at why I found this particular purchase decision to be a “conundrum”.