Socially responsible and random acts of kindness

Jamaica has many generous corporations. Several of them are celebrating major anniversaries this year, and using that to raise their profiles. Part of such initiatives involves ‘giving back’ to the community.

This past week, Scotiabank Jamaica, celebrating 125 years in Jamaica, has been making ‘random acts of kindness’, including treating people to ice creams at Devon House, paying bus fares for a host of JUTC passengers at half Way Tree Transport Centre last Friday, and this afternoon visiting Truston Basic School bearing gifts. (The instances can be seen on the Scotiabank Facebook page.) None of the beneficiaries needed to have been bank customers. The bank is no stranger to corporate social responsibility, and has been giving back in many other ways, such as the ‘Bright Future’ program.

Scotiabank Jamaica acting kindly
Scotiabank Jamaica acting kindly

The Jamaica Gleaner is 180 years old, and is marking that in many ways. One is to organize a 5k run, which will benefit University Hospital of the West Indies’ (UHWI) Physiotherapy Department and PALS (Peace and Love in Society), each due to receive a third of the amount made from a minimum of 3,000 paying participants expected to take part in this charitable event.

Another major contributor to the social responsibility effort has been Columbus Communication Jamaica Limited, who operate Flow and Columbus Business Solutions, and was the 2012 recipient of the award for Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), for its contribution to education, sports, arts and culture and community development.

Digicel, too, is at the forefront of social responsibility, with a wide range of initiatives that have been undertaken over the past 10 years through the Digicel Foundation and Digicel’s Caring Connections.

I, therefore, found it very strange that Digicel should decide to mark the fact that it got a one millionth data plan customer in the way it did. It chose to reward that lucky customer, who happened to buy a J$100 credit for a two day data plan, with a gift of J$1million (about US$9,000) and a Samsung s5.

(Courtesy of The Daily Observer.)
(Courtesy of The Daily Observer.)

I could easily understand a product giveaway like the phone, but the money? Knowing what they do about community needs, what rationale says that this windfall makes sense? It’s their decision, don’t get me wrong. It’s money that almost anyone in Jamaica would be glad to have–and what a return on a J$100 lucky dip–and the lucky ‘winner’ is a student training to be a teacher. I know one customer who is incensed, feeling that customers who were there from the outset were slighted badly by this. One commentator in the newspaper echoes the sentiment: ‘I think this is unfair… ive been a customer of Digicel for almost 10 years, topping up at least once per day, buys phones tolerate their many un-welcomed 2am promotional messages and i have never been rewarded. Guess digicel is just following suite; reward without doing anything. the excited Smith — a student at the Church Teachers’ College in Mandeville–said that she did nothing extraordinary to cop the prize.(direct quote), no grudge against Miss Smith just think digicel cud have spread out the winnings. make more persons benefit.’ I also know one person who over the past weekend was just going to try a Digicel data plan for her child, but thought better of it, because of the expense. Maybe, there are only three people who feel uncomfortable about this–though, I doubt that. Just to put things into some sort of context, Jamaica’s average income per head is about US$5,500, according to Trading Economics.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)