Yoplait Yogurt Breast Cancer Scam?

From their website:

"Yoplait® and You - Partners in the Fight Against Breast Cancer.

For every pink lid from Yoplait yogurt cups, six-packs or Nouriche bottles that you mail back by December 31, 2003, Yoplait will make a 10-cent donation to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, up to $1.2 million. Combined with Yoplait’s guaranteed donation of $830,000, we can raise $2 million. This September and October, look for Yoplait pink lids at a store near you."

To begin with, I am a Gay man and lost a very dear woman friend to breast cancer, and at a very early age.
I also used to work for one of the largest non-profit AIDS organizations in the world.

So why am I saying this is a scam?

Most large corporate organizations know exactly how much they need to donate to a non-profit for tax reasons. Do you think your local businesses, or the company you work for, picks their amount of donation out of a hat? Accountants work very hard to determine what the company needs to donate in order to slip into different tax brackets.

It is quite obvious that the accountants at Yoplait have determined that $2 million is the amount they need to donate this year.

However…and this is where I get pissed off with the scam…instead of just flat-out donating the money, they are using their donation to boost sales.

Don’t get me wrong. I applaud the fact that they are donating money to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and the end result is good.

However, the fact that they have put a LIMIT on their donation, and the fact that they are making people go through the motion of actually licking off, cleaning, and sending the Yoplait tops, costing you postage, when in end-effect, they have already determined the maximum donation…well, let’s not all be surprised when suddenly, they max their donation.

If this were truly an altruistic promo for breast cancer, there would be no limit. Hell, 300,000,000 tabs would be a lot of money for them! But no…they have already pre-determined their donation.

Send in your tabs, or don’t send in your tabs? Up to you…but trust me, it won’t make a lot of differnence.

Ms. magazine has a story about this in their current issue.

The economics of it are such that it’s easier (and cheaper) to send a check to Komen (or whoever). I can send a check to Komen for $30.00, which saves me the cost of buying 300 yogurts, (they donate $0.10 per lid. Assuming $0.60 per yogurt, that’s $180.00 for yogurt.) envelopes and postage, and gas to the post office.

Basically, I’m saving $150 by sending a check to Komen. And it’s my write-off come April.

Those were my thoughts when I first heard about the campaign, DMark, but as that was in my pre-SDMB days (I’m a relative newbie), I didn’t share those thoughts with anyone. Then I forgot about it.

Anyway, I agree. It’s pretty skeezy to use a serious disease to boost profits.

You know, for years I’ve heard of various supposed charity fund-raising schemes where you send in soda-pop-can rings to someone and supposedly X amount goes to charity. Of course, none of these schemes was ever real.

I wonder someone started up a new version of this old “joke” with Yoplait tops instead of pop rings and that Yoplait decided it was easier to go along with it than not …

Wasn’t their slogan something vaguely dirty, like “Let’s lick breast cancer”?

Weird. I swear I was just about to post the same complaint as the OP. (With much less research, since I’m lazy).

At first I thought it was a good idea, and more engaging than just a straight-ahead donation because you feel like you’re taking part in the contribution instead of just hearing about some large company donating a few thousand dollars to a charity. But after a month of dutifully pulling off the lids, washing them off, and setting them aside, I realized that I hadn’t done as good a job of washing them as I’d thought. I was left with a few dozen of these crumpled up pieces of tin foil with months-old active yogurt cultures still growing on them. I can’t mail these in in good conscience.

I totally understand putting a cap on the donation, if only for accounting purposes. A company that large needs to know how much they’re going to be donating instead of leaving it all up to the whim of consumers. What I don’t get, though, is why they make consumers deal with the labels instead of just donating a percentage of sales up to a maximum. They get the PR from the initial donation and are still allowed to put it on the lid of every yogurt container they sell, but don’t put their customers through the hassle of a bunch of nasty, torn container lids.

It’s in a company’s best interest to do rebates instead of a discount on the MSRP on their product, since they count on the fact that a majority of people will be too lazy or will forget to send in the rebate form. But that’s just between the company and the consumer – this just ends up hurting the charity for the company’s benefit (while making the consumer feel guilty). As a result, I’ve got a lower impression of Yoplait and am inclined to do what MsRobyn suggests (and which I’m ashamed to admit hadn’t occurred to me).

Cecil’s column on the subject. It’s also in the book collection Return of the Straight Dope on page 77.

I thought the even stupider one was the “everyone wear jeans on a certain day to show support for breast cancer research.” Is that helpful to anyone? Who is opposed to cancer research? I think this is sponsored by Lee jeans. Do they actually think someone out there might not already HAVE a pair of jeans and will go buy a pair of Lee jeans solely so no one will suspect them of being against breast cancer research? Bizarre.

I think it’s possible that Lee are paying for the promotion of this event so the charity can spend less on administration (as well as making a donation). by doing this they are supporting a charity, getting some free advertising, and the godwill associated when people go to buy their next pair of jeans.

It’s not a completely altruistic gesture, but its not a exploitative measure either.

I can’t find it in print anywhere, but I swear it was in the voice-over of their recent ad campaign, which featured women removing the little foil tops from yogurt containers and then licking the excess yogurt off of the lid.

I wonder who has to handle all of those lids.

My cynical guess: Nobody. It’s just easier to chuck 'em when they come in and write a check for the amount they had budgeted for anyway.

It was, I remember hearing that and wondering if they could’ve come up with a better slogan.

I’ve wondered about this as well. I wondered about the person who had to open all those envelopes, and what sort of protective clothing they had to wear to protect themselves from random mouth germs/mold/yogurt remains, etc. from people who didn’t bother to clean the lids properly. Ick. I suspect the Cervaise has the right idea as to what really happens.

I think that Yoplait (or, more accurately, General Mills) is buying into the current trend of “slacktivism”. “Oooh, I’m doing something good by saving yogurt lids!” :rolleyes: Why not just have it be a percentage of sales, or just advertise the donation on the yogurt? Why make people go through the hassle of sending in something, especially something that touches a messy food product? Blech.

It appears from their web site that the lids are really counted. You can use the site to keep track of how many lids you’ve donated.

I think this is a pretty stupid promotion. Instead of sending in X cents for each yogurt sold up to $2 million, they’re asking people to save the lids, put them in envelopes, attach a stamp, and send it in. Then paid employees have to process all the envelopes. So you have the consumers wasting their time sending in lids and Yoplait wasting money processing the lids. But knowing how things work out, it’ll probably be the best promotion in Yoplait’s history and we’ll see this type of thing from now on.

I work in the non-profit industry myself, and I have a family member who is a breast cancer survivor (and my mom is currently a cancer patient as well), so I’m intrigued by the Yoplait “promotion” too.

I wouldn’t call it a “scam,” as it’s hard to see exactly who’s being scammed, but I would call it a dodge. Yoplait will probably donate the money whether or not they get the lids. I think Cervaise is on the money by saying that they will dispose of the lids uncounted. My even more cynical take: the address Yoplait asks customers to send the lids is a drop-box where all the mail will be (heh heh) “lost.” No sane company would hire people just to count up millions of pieces of foil.

So, why ask people to send in lids? Here we’re getting into the number one question in the non-profit world: why do people donate their hard-earned money to a cause which they will receive little or no benefit from? The Yoplait Company (or their parent corporation, whatever it is) is no fool. They know their consumer base is comprised primarily of women who are interested in improving their health. Breast cancer is a big concern for this constituency, so it behooves Yoplait to “share” their concern by donating money to the cause. But it’s hard to get too excited about a multi-national company giving away a small slice of their revenues (which $2 million surely is for them).

Now we get to the subtle part. By asking their customers to send in lids, Yoplait can allow them to feel like they are actively doing something to “help lick breast cancer”–even if Yoplait really doesn’t care one way or the other how many lids they get. It doesn’t cost Yoplait a dime, as their customers will pay the postage, apart from the “drop-box” I mentioned. And, for the cost of a postage stamp and an envelope, Yoplait consumers can feel all warm and fuzzy inside that their friendly yogurt company is looking after their health.

Waste of time and resources? Yep. But not on Yoplait’s part, and that’s their bag.

Just call it what it is…brilliant marketing. Yes, they will donate the $2 million anyway. But the logic is this:

  1. You are a woman and thus affected by breast cancer directly, or a man indirectly affected by it through loss of a spouse, relative, etc.
  2. You are into eating yogurt, which in my opinion looks like congealed semen…blah
  3. You are ordinarily brand loyal to the OTHER guy’s congealed semen…er…yogurt (Dannon, etc.) but you suddenly notice that Yoplait has a pink lid, and remember the ad on tv
  4. Guilt motivates you to at least try the Yoplait brand because what kind of a bastard would you be if you COULD have helped stop breast cancer and didn’t?
  5. You decide Yoplait actually tastes better than the other brand you really liked and they sucker you into switching brands WITHOUT having to discount their price, issue a coupon, or some other lame costly proposition (except the TV commercials, of course)

Yoplait has been doing this for years. I haven’t eaten Yoplait yoghurt in probably a year, but I remember seeing those pink lids when I did. I never could bring myself to clean and send them off, though, because it always struck me as gross on all accounts.

Do you suppose that they collect/sell the names and addresses? That would sort of make sense as to why they want people to physically send the lids in.

Ok, a little straight dope from my mom who’s in marketing at General Mills (the parent company for Yoplait). They don’t just throw away the envelopes with the lids, they weigh them or take the number of lids written on the envelope.
Here’s the Yoplait Website which says that they guarantee the first $830K and the rest is up to the consumers to send in the $1.2M by way of the lids.
I did ask her if they would just give the $2M anyway regardless of the lids and she said yes but they still will weigh the lids when they come in.

So yeah, that does agree with the OP’s assessment of this not being an “honest” fundraiser. Is it a fraud/scam? Yeah, I guess so by the definition. If they really wanted to track this they would put codes on the lids that one could enter online thus skipping the messy lids, the extra postage, and it would then give an accurate count.