Microsoft Has Found The Cheapest Meals In America (Or Is Just Cheap)

picture-44So, maybe you heard about Microsoft’s newest promotion to get people to use one of its products. If you download Internet Explorer 8 through this site, Microsoft promises to donate 8 meals per download to a group called Feeding America, which wants to end hunger in this country. Sounds great, right? Read the fine print.

Only complete downloads of Windows® Internet Explorer® 8 through from June 8, 2009 through August 8, 2009 qualify for the charitable donation to Feeding America®. Microsoft® is donating $1.15 per download to Feeding America® up to a maximum of $1,000,000. Meals are used for illustrative purposes only. Meal conversion is effective until June 30th, 2010.

In case you missed it, let me highlight the hilarious part: $1.15 per download. For 8 meals. Let’s do the math.

$1.15 divided by 8 equals just about $0.14 a meal. I don’t know where Microsoft is eating, but I have never heard of any place that you can get a meal for 14 cents. And this isn’t one of those “for just 10 cents a day…” commercials that promise to feed starving children in Africa, this is meant to feed people in the United States. Hell, a gum ball from one of those machines at a convenient store costs 25 cents. Some cost 50 cents. That’s almost 4 meals by Microsoft’s math.

We all know how this works. Microsoft was never actually giving anyone any meals (hence the, “Meals are used for illustrative purposes only.”), it was just pledging to throw money at what sounds like a worthy cause if it got something in return — users to download what many consider to be a sub-par web browser. But if you’re going to do that, don’t claim to be giving 8 meals away for every download, when you’re really only donating $1.15. That’s just misleading.

If you’re really interested in helping to fight hunger in America, go to the actual Feeding America site and donate. They don’t even force IE8 upon you. Of course, the minimum donation amount they recommend on the site is $25 — which is something like 180 Microsoft “meals.”

Update: Rather than respond to all of the comments saying the same thing, let me be clear: I understand how this works — as I said above, it’s all about Microsoft donating a dollar amount to a charity, and not really about the meals. That’s why it’s misleading to say in big bold letters that it’s donating 8 meals for every IE download. Microsoft is not actually donating any meals, it is donating a relatively small amount of money to a charity that provides meals.

How small is the amount from Microsoft? Well, it’s spending a reported $80 million to promote Bing, but is only giving $1 million to fight hunger. This despite the huge words talking about how awful it is that 1 in 8 Americans struggle to have enough to eat. One thing Americans aren’t struggling with is a lack of web search options, or a lack of advertising.

Of course, I’m being a bit facetious, hunger is a very real issue and Microsoft has a right to wrap its own agenda (getting people to download IE8) in a charitable cause. I just find it inappropriate to use the cause in a misleading way. If you’re donating about a dollar per download, say that. Don’t say how many meals you’re providing based on some numbers that, as commenter Josh Forman notes, don’t even add up. That was obviously just a tacky way for Microsoft to get a number “8” that would match its own IE8, for branding and marketing purposes.

[thanks Andrew]