Pink Beads

My Kroger Hauling Out the Crap on Sept 30 (fuzzy stealth photo)

Two things you can count on in October: Here in the Midwest, it’s nature’s time to shine; and Walk into any Kroger store and you’ll find pink ribbons festooning booze, t-shirts, toilet paper, and Doritos.

That’s right, Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) is upon us. I’ve written extensively about this in the past and you can find a good archive here. This month I hope to add a new dimension to my work.

Discussing BCAM is a fraught with peril because I know people who give energy and money are sincere in their desires to help. We want that goodwill. We need that goodwill. But when people find out it’s not as helpful as they believed, or perhaps that it’s even harmful, they get defensive. Goodwill squandered. People walk away.

Please, for the sake of the 40,000 Americans who die of this disease every year, don’t walk away.

Remember, companies that profit off BCAM programs count on our silence in deference to the sacrosanct nature of breast cancer to help boost their bottom line.

This month, I’m going to walk through some of what is wrong with the commercialization of breast cancer, from the exploiting of good will to the objections I always here when I point the faults out.

Today, I start with an email I received yesterday.**


My daughter has a Chamilia charm bracelet. It’s lovely and provides years worth of gift possibilities.

This month, if I buy one of these three charms, I am also donating to the American Cancer Society. Plus, I can show everyone I’m on “team breast cancer.” Sounds great, right?

The one on the left costs $40, the other two cost $45 each. As a basis of comparison, a pink bead similar to the middle one but without the crystal and ACS affiliation costs $35.

As the bottom line of the email says, the company will donate $4 of each charm purchased to ACS.

According to GuideStar, ACS allocates 71% of its revenues to Program Services.*

According to Charity Navigator, the American Cancer Society’s program services expenditures break down accordingly*:

  • Patient Support 49%
  • Prevention 17%
  • Research 21%
  • Detection/Treatment 12%

So, doing the math, 71% of your $4, or $2.84, will be spent like this:

  • Patient Support $1.39
  • Prevention $0.48
  • Research $0.60
  • Detection/Treatment $0.12

What’s in it for Chamilia?

Look at the $45 pink ACS bead and the $35 comparable bead. Let’s say that tiny crystal chip is worth $5. After their $4 donation, they still make $1 more on that bead than they would have on the regular pink bead.

Then there’s the warm and fuzzies people feel about Chamilia supporting “the cause.” Brand loyalty is a powerful thing, and you can bet your bippy that Chamilia has a way to calculate the dollar value of it.

So is it worth it?

That’s your call.

What I’m asking you to do is to quash your impulse buy and think it through. Hit the pause button rather than the “buy it now” one. Do a little digging and make an informed decision. Ultimately, your power in the marketplace comes from where you spend your money (or don’t). 

Stay tuned. I hope to keep this an entertaining and enlightening October.

*The picture is a bit more complicated than that, as administration costs seem to also be included in the Program Services and expense numbers. If you are feeling adventurous, check out their 990 tax filing for yourself. For the sake of simplicity, I’m taking their numbers as they stated them. 

** I’m only looking at the charms here, not the 2016 special boxed set.