I just listened to an interesting story on NPR: how the Red Cross lost (and never regained!) the trust of American soldiers 70 years ago. It’s a cautionary tale about charging for things that were once free, and how that can irreversibly change perceptions.
The Red Cross made a mistake in 1942 when it obeyed a request from America’s then secretary of war and started charging GIs overseas, to eliminate tension that arose because British soldiers had to pay for similar services. Just how bad are the consequences? Seventy years later, when NPR’s reporter told a veteran that the Red Cross still offers donuts for free, the response was predictably skeptical: “stale donuts probably, too”.