ABC: Christmas charity or profit?

There are few places more beautifully decorated this season than ABC Ashrafieh, one of Lebanon’s fanciest malls, whose indoor-oudoor concept is one of the most architecturally interesting I’ve seen anywhere.

So in addition to the eye candy, I was happily surprised to find that stands had been set up for Lebanese charities on the lower level, around a set of escalators:

The little wood box stands represented a number of non-profits like the Children’s Cancer Center.

The idea, one would assume, is that revenues from the products you purchase go toward the charities selling them. How wonderful of ABC, I thought– here’s a rare example of a corporation actually interested in giving–not just taking.

But when I decided to buy something, the prices were extraordinary. I picked up some dried fruit, a plastic container the size of a take out dinner. It was 19,000. I can buy a similar sized container for half that price at the supermarket so I asked the woman why it was so expensive.

“ABC takes 30 percent,” she complained. “So we have to add that to our prices. What can we do.”

I wonder if this is true. Is ABC actually charging charities rent, which drives up prices and discourages people to give?

I hope that the woman was exaggerating, but she seemed pretty serious. Maybe someone can weigh in on this?