Buy Pink Merchandise for Breast Cancer Awareness

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – and if you don’t know that by now, which rock have you been hiding under? Every organization from your local health care center to auto giant Ford Motor Company is jumping on the bandwagon, taking the opportunity to donate a percentage of their sales to various breast cancer foundations and causes. And you know what? I love it. More power to them, and thank you! I have no particular feeling for Ford–other than having received my first kiss, about a million years ago, in a Ford F100 pickup–but over the course of the past 12 years they’ve donated over $87 million to breast cancer research. What’s not to love about that?
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    Beth’s blog this week questions the motive of companies like Ford offering pink merchandise for sale during October. She wonders if they’re exploiting women’s fear of getting breast cancer; she calls their efforts silly and contrived. Beth is a writer; from reading her bio, I surmise she hasn't worked extensively in the retail sales world. So I’d like to offer another view, one from the other side of the counter, from inside one of those companies offering pink merchandise for sale.

    I work for King Arthur Flour, a small company in Vermont whose claim to fame is having offered the very best flour in America for sale to bakers since 1790. Flour? B-O-R-I-N-G, right? (Well, not if you bake. Trust me, we have our cult followers!) One of King Arthur’s sales arms is The Baker’s Catalogue, selling everything from chocolate and yeast to parchment paper and pie pans. And through December, we’re selling pink (spatulas, dish towels, a digital scale…) and yellow (mugs, bowls….), and donating 10% of the sales to the Susan B. Komen and Lance Armstrong foundations.

    Now, I can’t speak for every company out there, but trust me: this effort on our part is neither silly, nor contrived. Like every company in America, we’ve been hit by sky-high fuel prices, increased competition, and rising costs for everything from stainless steel to bushels of wheat. We scramble, and scramble hard, to meet our budgets each year. Thus donating money to any cause, no matter how worthy, is a financial stretch. But stretch we do, all 167 of us (King Arthur is employee-owned). Because we all know someone with cancer–a friend, a cousin, a neighbor. We don’t want them to die. And many of us know someone who has died from cancer; we want to spare others that agonizing journey. Our hearts are in the right place; we want to help.

    Fortunately, we’re already in the business of collecting money. So once we’ve made the decision to put off buying those computer monitors or that new labeling equipment in order to send some of that money to cancer support, it’s easy. (Well, kind of… our accounting folks might disagree!) We advertise the products, tell our customers where 10 percent of their money will go, and happily sell lots of pink and gold merchandise (we hope). When you get down to it, these companies that have jumped on the pink bandwagon aren’t some amorphous entity; they’re people, people like you and me. And like people everywhere, businesses can be cynical, and act silly, and do things that seem contrived. Maybe Ford’s motive is simply to increase its bottom line; with the trouble they seem to be in, that would be imperative. But I’m certain there are those at Ford (as there are here at King Arthur) who have been touched by breast cancer, who want to DO something… and who found the perfect opportunity during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Buy pink!
Published On: October 02, 2006