What’s your take on businesses offering a percentage of sales for disaster relief?

“What’s your take on businesses offering a percentage of sales for disaster relief?” – @SethSimonds

It always makes me happy when individuals and companies donate money to help a cause. I prefer this over the US government borrowing from China and then paying back the bill, with interest, using taxpayers’ hard earned money.

That being said, it bothers me when companies opportunistically use disasters to make money.

If a company responds to a disaster, the corresponding campaign should have the feeling of a somber, heartfelt sympathy card — not clever marketing. The message should be 100% about caring and 0% about their products or services. A logo + disaster relief campaign URL suffices. If consumers (ie. potential donation partners) want to learn more about the company itself, they have a lead.

If a company specifically designs a product for disaster relief, 100% of profits should go to the cause. (As a consumer, I understand that they have to pay overhead costs. I’m cool with this.) Think of it this way — the product wouldn’t even exist unless thousands of people weren’t hurt (or killed) in the first place. Anything less than 100% of profits indicates the company is stepping on victims’ souls to get a boost up the corporate ladder.

When a successful new product comes out of a disaster relief campaign, once the dust settles a little, the company may continue the product line with fresh marketing.

Companies don’t always make products specifically to support disaster relief, but still want to donate. In this case, a percentage donation is perfectly acceptable on existing products. The larger the percentage, the better.

Even more exciting than donating money is when a company additionally donates their products and volunteers their expertise to go above and beyond to help victims. Not only are they cutting into profits when they do this, they’re also paying out-of-pocket to make it happen. It’s acceptable to respectfully let the world know they’re helping in this way, which encourages others to do the same.

Certainly any disaster response from companies potentially boosts profits. It’s delusional to think otherwise. Good companies have a history-backed identity of being socially responsible, and are always looking for ways to help others. Their brands have a relevance that surpasses the products and services they sell. Companies dance a fine line at times, but savvy consumers who are intentional with their money will research a company’s business practices before buying any product, regardless of whether or not a donation is attached.

Good question, Seth.

( Oh… and in case you’re wondering, I’m listening to Joan Jett and the Blackhearts ;) )

Readers, what do you think?

Back in the USA

We’re back in the US…

While we knew we were coming back, we did not have an exit date… until the very last minute.

On a Friday, Tom got the “all clear” to call the movers.

Monday, the movers sent out someone to inventory the house and estimate the move. It took 30 minutes to assess the house, and we were told all was well and they’d be by in three days to pack.

On Tuesday, I got an email saying, “your household goods require more than a 40ft container – 19,000 lbs – which will cost an additional $7,000 out of pocket to add a 20ft container.”

Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, instead of packing our suitcases, spent my time frantically trying to get rid of items in our house. However, none of our friends needed anything by way of furniture.

Wednesday afternoon, I wrote to the moving company and said, “Something isn’t right. Our family of seven moved ALL of our items over here in a 20ft container and there is NO WAY we need 60 cubic feet! I would like to put our move ON HOLD until you can send another person out to reassess the house.”

Late Wednesday night I got an email from the moving company saying (paraphrased), “Oops! Our bad! See you in the morning!”

::insert crazy cleaning / packing / sorting until 4am on Thursday morning::

Thursday morning, the movers arrived early. Instead of watching them waiting patiently in our driveway until 10am, we invited them in.

The finished up just after lunch, a day ahead of schedule.

Thursday night, we slept in a hotel…. with more kids to beds than was probably legal.

Friday morning, before I could get to the house to clean, I received a call from our relocation company saying that “the landlord is in your house and says it’s dirty… and that their Japanese furniture is missing.”

We rushed to the house.

I immediately got on the phone with the translator.

The house was empty when we moved in. There was NEVER a Japanese dining set in our house.

The landlord’s property manager told my translator that he didn’t think there was ever a dining set in the house, but, out of respect for our elderly landlord and his wife, was pursing the matter. ::facepalm::

Friday night, we slept in the same hotel… but in the crown suite. This way, we could all be, at least, in the same room.

We flew from Aomori to Narita, expecting to have a few hours in between our arrival time and the big flight… only to find out that our tickets had been canceled. When we purchased our tickets, our children tickets were in random places all over the plane. Tom called the airline to try to move our seats closer together.

Twice we were put on hold, and twice the call was dropped. It was getting late at night, and we decided to wish for the best and sort it out at the ticket desk at the airport.

However, during our time in Hold Music Hell, our tickets were mistakenly canceled. The reservation number was there, but the seats had been given to others.

Nearly $30,000 on our credit card later for last minute reservations, we had a flight booked for two days later, seats together.

Flights were the smoothest yet – no turbulence, no snags, no mishaps – and, while we were a bit delayed due to our tickets, the two days of rest were much needed. For once, I stepped onto an International flight feeling refreshed instead of sleep deprived… which is good, because, during the flight, I hardly slept at all.

We then had a six hour layover in Minnesota, where I sat down to lunch and fell asleep with my head on the table – and then took a flight to Philly.

We took a taxi from the airport — coincidentally, the driver had lived in Japan, and was married to a Japanese woman — to Tom’s parents house.

Sleep deprived and exposed to many germy germ germs, the kids and I all came down with a horrible sore throats, fevers and coughs.

Tab and Micah ended up with ear infections to boot.

We’re just starting to feel better.

At least we’re HERE.

Unexpectedly Found Beauty : The Black Obi by Okada Saburosuke

The Black Obi by Okada Saburosuke

Oh the rush of unexpectedly being smitten by beauty!

I had bought some new drinking glasses at the Daiso 100 ¥ Shop. Daiso provides scraps of newspaper, on worktables placed at the end of the cash register aisles, so that breakables can be wrapped for safe transport.

I picked up a handful of scraps and began to cover each glass and tuck them into my shopping bag.

The sad, frustrating truth is that I cannot read Japanese. The many vertical characters on the newspapers’ pages blurred together into mysterious meaninglessness.

When I glanced down at the stack of paper to grab a fresh sheet, I found this lovely young woman staring up at me! There were few photos printed on the paper scraps that day, and so the contrast – this beauty standing out amongst the rows of gibberish – was especially striking. The painting, in art’s universal language, was something I could understand. I tucked the scrap into my purse for safe keeping.

This morning, I had brunch with my friends Sonia and Miyo and, as I went to retrieve a pen, I felt the saved newspaper in my purse and excitedly showed Miyo. She translated it for me.

I learned that the 1915 painting is called “The Black Obi” and it was painted by Okada Saburosuke. His style was heavily influenced by Kuroda Seiki, whose real name was Kuroda Kiyoteru. Seiki went to Paris as a young man, where he lived in an artist colony that included several Americans. He even studied English. Such things are difficult to comprehend, as I tend to forget that Japanese were in the US prior to World War II.

(Once before, this very thought really got to me after watching Letters from Iwo Jima, where Ken Watanabe’s character, General Kuribayashi, speaks of his life in California before the war and how he socialized with actors, and even received silver pistol as a gift, but then returned home when the war broke out to fight for Japan.)

One of the thing I love about The Black Obi is that it is the first time I’ve ever seen a Japanese woman in the context of an Impressionistic painting. It is exquisitely surreal as if she was cut from elsewhere and affixed to a Monet or a Renoir.

Such talent!

Seeing this painting made me wonder — Would this style of art would have continued in Japan if history’s course had been different?

More on Japanese art history can be found here.

The Anti-Supermom Trend : Healthy or Dangerous?

In this YouTube clip, I discuss both the positive and negative aspects of the anti-supermom trend and what it means for women. While the focus in recent years has been on becoming a domestic diva, some moms are proudly headed in the opposite direction. Here, I offer some analysis as well as a few thoughts to help women find their identity and maintain their voice in the crowd.