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editorial

Merchants must be transparent about bomb victim aid

‘Proceeds will go to charity.” That’s the message affixed to a variety of products — from pizza to candles to country music — now being marketed as “Boston Strong.” That local businesses are stepping up to help collect funds to support Marathon bombing victims is noble, but retailers also have an obligation to consumers to be transparent about how much money from such sales will end up actually going to charity and which charities will benefit.

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Cause marketing, as this practice is known, often comes down to the fine print. Consumers should always ask a lot of questions before they donate or make a purchase. But retailers should also make finding answers easier. Providing a detailed breakdown of which portion of each sale — that is, a specific percentage or specific dollar figure — will be donated to The One Fund Boston is one first step.

Many buyers naturally assume 100 percent of their payments will aid victims, and some local corporations such as Saucony, Harpoon Brewery, and New Balance have made that generous pledge. Other businesses that may want to help but can’t afford to donate production and other costs — or still want to make a small profit from their efforts — should be upfront about that. Doing otherwise suggests more interest in selling than giving.

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