Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Yesterday, I stopped in the supermarket on my way home.  As if on cue, I walked right into this sign (glance quickly and then read on):

Nothing against the apple growers in NYS and the American Cancer Society is a wonderful organization, but WHY the pink ribbons.  This campaign is not for breast cancer, it's for cancer in general.  Pink ribbons equate to instant recognition.  I am skeptical of the wording, too.  HELP BEAT CANCER.  The word "BEAT" may have been a very deliberate choice given the fact that the sign is pink, the ribbons are pink and every letter in the word is also in the word breast.  Our eyes DO play tricks on us and I did, for a quick moment equate the apples with another breast cancer gig.

I WILL give them credit for making it clear they are donating $25,000.  Lots of credit since that is very prominent in the sign.  But, again, where is the money going.  "Fund cancer research and programs" doesn't say much.  In fact, it doesn't say anything. I don't even know how to make an inquiry.  I suppose I could try the American Cancer Society.

Bottom line, this doesn't really matter to me.  I wasn't in the store for apples and IF I were, I would have bought the apples without giving it a second thought.  Because I needed apples, NOT because of a ribbon.

This item, however, I DID purchase:

I just love the way the cheese is made to look like a runner. And why is it presumed that we are all running in some sort of thing?  When my friend (the one who died in January) was first diagnosed, we went out to dinner so she could talk and I could LISTEN.  Hand hold.  Maybe help her understand how to be an empowered patient.  I think we were still in a semi-embrace when she asked me (only half joking), "What does this mean, am I supposed to be wearing a pink baseball cap, should I be signing up to run in races, do I really NEED to run in those races?"  I don't think I will ever forget those words. I can still see the expression on her face.  I can tell you exactly where we were standing as those words were spoken.   She is now gone.  In under two years.  Those words haunt me.  The ribbon and the races did nothing for her.  She is one of the 40,000.  And frankly, that sucks.

Today, however, the cheese was a necessity and if there were another comparable product on the shelf sans ribbon, I can assure you, this particular package of cheese would not be in my fridge.  However, I needed to get some low fat cheese in the house.  I was in the grocery store with a list of acceptable foods provided by the doctor (this due to my son's surgical snafu).  Since the list is quite limited, I tried to purchase as many items as I could find.  The kid needs a bit of variety. Seeing the package, knowing what was up on this blog..... I stood there shaking my head.  I'm pretty sure anyone in the dairy aisle was looking at me ready to call those guys with the funny jackets.

Take note of the message on the back of the package:  "A portion of each purchase.....will be used to support breast cancer initiatives."  I don't have a crystal ball.  Do you?  Can you determine from that phrase what "portion" will be used? And what does the word "used" even mean.  Is there a reason it doesn't say "donated?"  I'd like some clarification on that phrase about supporting breast cancer initiatives.

This type of ambiguity is precisely what I was alluding to in yesterday's blog.  And this is what we should be expecting to see.... at the bare minimum..... this is what that message would look like if the product was being marketed with a decent level of transparency:

"Five percent of net proceeds to a maximum of 100k will be donated to Army of Women."

Same number of words (almost), VASTLY different message and my own hypotheticals.  If the wording on the package isn't in plain, transparent English, I'd suggest, unless the purchase is a necessity, don't buy it thinking you are doing something that it going to make a difference.  Buy it because you need it. And because there isn't a suitable alternative.  The only way this is going to change is if WE stop opening our wallets.

There is a reason for the ambiguity.  You can take that to the bank.  And deposit the money you saved on meaningless pink ribbon products into an account so you can send your check directly to a charity of your choice.  Yes, folks, it really IS that simple.  If enough of us stand shoulder to shoulder on this, we WILL make a difference and things WILL change.

I swear I'm getting off this soapbox.  For the time being.  However, my grocery outing was oddly coincidental, impeccably timed and is a perfect example of what I was trying to explain yesterday.  In other words, there was NO WAY this wasn't getting posted.

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand (or three thousand) words.  Questions?  Concerns?  I'm a moron?  Comment away.  I can take it.....  And I can dish it out, too.


  1. 2 thoughts--at least they used 3 apples and not 2 which would have looked like...well, we know.
    And "5% of of net proceeds" is just as vague since the consumer would never know what "net proceeds" equaled (net of what?). Unless they say "5 cents of every purchase goes to XYZ" it's not a transparent message.

  2. Teresa...
    Like the way you think about the three apples!

    Love the way you think about transparency..... yes, that is spot on..... using those percentages is vague. I recently bought a bracelet (because I liked the bracelet) and I was told 30% of "proceeds" ..... It was a bit on the expensive side so I wanted to know WHAT was being donated..... I swear there were five or more emails back and forth before I finally asked, "OK... so that means you guys are sending $80.00 to XYZ if I buy this bracelet?"

    Thank you!! You are right. Simple is best. Talk in dollars and sense, not "non-cents".....


  3. You are damn right about all of this. I have stopped buying unnecessary items with the pink ribbon on it. I used to be duped and purchased as many pink-ribbon items as I could, innocently (or ignorantly) thinking I was contributing to my cause, but cause marketing has no place with breast cancer. I lost a good friend, too, to breast cancer. Blazing mad right now. Pink ribbons didn't save her either.

    I'm so sorry about your losing your friend, too.

  4. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I would much rather put some cold hard cash directly into the hands of a woman who has breast cancer than trust the circuitous ambiguity of this sort of fundraising. Pink-washed, beribboned products didn't help keep our friends alive, did they, AM? And we both know of women who asked for financial help from Big Pink when they needed it, and they didn't get it. One of them didn't even get a return phone call. Pfffft...


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