Holidays in the Red

December 4, 2023 •  By Cristina Roque
Holidays in the red

Centraide rigs a store cash register to show shoppers what it’s like to live with the burden of poverty

Montreal, December 4, 2023 Some holiday shoppers were in for a shock last week when they tried checking out their purchases and saw their cards declined due to insufficient funds. Centraide of Greater Montreal temporarily rigged the payment terminal at Zone Maison on Saint-Denis Street to show people what it’s really like to experience poverty. Having their cards declined produced a range of uncomfortable emotions for these clients until Centraide of Greater Montreal stepped in to explain the experiment.

In May, Centraide revealed that nearly one in five Greater Montreal households does not make enough income to pay for rent and basic needs such as food, clothing or transportation. Its recent October survey carried out with Leger showed that Quebeckers’ financial anxiety has stayed at significant levels, with one in two people (46%) dreading unexpected expenses. 

“Too many people have to cross their fingers at the cash register, hoping they’ll have enough money to cover their purchases,” said Claude Pinard, President and Executive Director of Centraide of Greater Montreal. “The holidays are particularly tough for low-income households. We created this social experiment to let people feel what it’s really like to be in need, if just for a few moments. Our goal was to make people aware of the burden and stress of this experience.” 

The customers whose cards were declined realized how lucky they are not to have to deal with this difficult situation on a daily basis.

As Canadians get ready to spend a record $898 on holiday purchases (source), Centraide wants to stress that not everyone has the privilege of buying special gifts for their loved ones. In this time of great generosity, the public is invited to add a donation to Centraide of Greater Montreal to their gift list.

To watch the video, click here.

If you or a loved one needs help, we encourage you to consult the 211 service to find community resources that can provide the support you need.

About Centraide of Greater Montreal

A true agent of change, Centraide of Greater Montreal is a public foundation whose mission is to bring people together and take action for an inclusive and poverty-free Greater Montreal. To achieve this goal, it supports a network of 375 community agencies and projects in Laval, in Montreal and on the South Shore that improve the living conditions of vulnerable people. Centraide works with the Greater Montreal population and with communities, businesses, institutions and philanthropic organizations. Its history dates back 50 years, when five charities merged into one entity. This year, Centraide invested $61.8 million in the community, which represents over 86% of the money raised from its annual campaign. Every year, nearly 800,000 people benefit from the help of the agencies that it supports.