State attorney general investigates firm’s cancer-funding sales pitch
BY STEPHANIE ZIMMERMANN Consumer Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org December 1, 2012 3:05PM
Adam Shryock, president of Boobies Rock. | Facebook photo
Updated: January 2, 2013 6:12AM
Boobies Rock — a for-profit business that’s been doing heavy fund-raising for “breast-cancer awareness” in Chicago and around the country — has largely removed its presence on Facebook as the Illinois attorney general’s office has begun investigating the company.
A Chicago Sun-Times investigation this week revealed that Boobies Rock was bringing in thousands of dollars at Bears, Cubs, college football games and at bar and nightclub events with the pitch “Would you like to donate to breast-cancer awareness?”
But many of the charities it claimed to benefit said they received little or no money.
After that story was published, Boobies Rock founder Adam Shryock emailed his managers telling them to “ ‘unpublish’ their Boobies Rock! Facebook page until this passes” and explaining how to do so.
Among the dozens of now-vanished Facebook pages is the Boobies Rock-Chicago page, which had featured scores of photos of Boobies Rock sellers hawking T-shirts and other merchandise to tailgaters at Bears, Northwestern, St. Xavier and other games and raising funds through “Cocktails for a Cause” and other such events at bars.
Shryock said Friday the pages were removed because “several of the reps with pages expressed concerns about being harassed, death threats, etc.”
He added: “That decision was also made because our biggest problem right now is with reps posting or presenting inaccurate information. Our focus right now is to clean that up and removing all Facebook pages but our main page with [sic] help in doing so.”
Several charities whose names or logos were used by Boobies Rock to market its products told the Sun-Times they received only small donations, of $100 or $250 — and sometimes only after complaining.
A Boobies Rock presentation used to gain entry to some venues put its gross revenues for 2011 at about $1.1 million, with “total commitments” at just over $250,000. But those “commitments” included a $250,000 legal settlement that Shryock paid to the Keep-A-Breast Foundation to settle a trademark-infringement suit.
Included in that settlement figure was a $25,000 donation to the Young Survival Coalition.
Two weeks ago, Boobies Rock sent a $50,000 check to The Pink Fund, a Michigan charity that got its lawyer involved after Boobies Rock used the charity’s name and logo to raise money.
Matthew Link, legal counsel for the Chicago City Council Finance Committee, chaired by Ald. Edward Burke (14th), said Burke plans to introduce a measure calling for an investigation into whether Boobies Rock violated city ordinances, consumer-protection laws or charitable fund-raising laws.
Link said Burke was offended by Shryock’s response to the charities’ criticisms in which Shryock told the Sun-Times: “We have the right to say who we give money to . . . We don’t have to be best friends with them [the charities] but we have the right to say who we give money to.”
“I think most people would be greatly offended by the position that the company’s founder took,” Link said. “What does it do to the legitimate charities that are trying to collect for their causes?”
The city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection did a preliminary check, and “as far as we can tell they don’t have any city permit to be selling anything,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Lipford.
The Illinois Attorney General’s Charitable Trust Bureau is conducting its own investigation, spokeswoman Maura Possley said.
Melonie Murray, Boobies Rock’s former promotional manager in Phoenix, quit the company last summer. Murray said she was given a quota — $350 minimum for each two-hour bar event — and became disillusioned when managers at Boobies Rock would not tell her exactly how much of the money was going to charity. When she submitted the name of a woman with breast cancer — the best friend of a local Boobies Rock model — in response to the company’s call for submissions, she said, “They said, ‘Well, that’s not how it works.’ And I asked them how it works, and they blew me off.”
Shryock said he didn’t remember that request but said the company gets many requests and can’t meet them all.