Friday, June 22, 2007

The Problem With Recalls

We do recalls in this country the same way we do legal notices. We put out a legal notice where we hope people will see it. Hopefully the press picks it up and it makes the news where we have a better chance of seeing it. Often companies make announcements to the press and release press releases.

With the recent pet food problem, there were so many 'updates' that the press stopped making national news of the updates. It became incumbent on the individual to check the FDA web site for new listings. Please note that the last update was May 31, after Holmes' death. Also, please note that you can sign up for both a RSS feed and an email list of recalls for pet food. I urge you to do so if you have a pet.

We didn't find out about Holmes' food being tainted until we went to the store and found it removed from the shelves. That is not the best way to find out that the food was recalled three days before. We do not have a system to handle recalls. We have a legal method of handling the problem, just like other legal notices. The emphasis is on putting the information into the public availability. The emphasis is not on communicating.

Let us now look at some of the systems that are in place that could help. Buy any piece of merchandise anywhere and pay for it with a credit card. That transaction is recorded by more than one institution. There is an entire IT industry call Data Mining where Marketing Organizations analyze your purchasing preferences. It is not an accident if you buy at Amazon that they know what you like to buy, what your tastes are, that they can suggest things to you.

They already have everything from your address to your phone number to your underwear sizes. If they had your e mail, they could send you an e mail. They already call me for political donations from every political party on Earth. How about to save a living being? Could be a child, might be a cat.

In these situations, time is of the essence. In law and real estate, that's code for don't waste any time, because time is at a premium. I'm trying to be constructive here. Any thoughts? Anyone want to take this and make it happen? Any discussion?


Glamourpuss said...

When they recall products here, they advertise in the national press, in store, and sometimes on radio or tv. It usually gets onto the national news as well. But we are a much smaller country, I guess.


The CEO said...

Puss, I was after something more direct, like an e mail saying "your cat food made by X will poison your cat if you feed it to the cat. Please return it immediately for a full refund". Very targeted and hard to ignore.

Odat said...

Of course "they" can mail us all sorts of things when it's in "their" best interest! Like buy our stuff!!!! But when it's not in their interest they post a lil tiny piece in a newspaper to tell us. There HAS to be a better way...I'm going to truly think about this one!

Echomouse said...

My brain is not working well enough today to think. But you've given me food for thought when it kicks in again.

Listen to in Canada, the toothpaste thing....our government didn't even recall the products. Store owners took the initiative themselves after hearing about the recall in the USA! I don't think our government has made an official recall on that yet! I am so shocked about that alone because normally, we are much more stringent about these things and apolitical when it comes to food and medicine safety.

I am so sorry about Holmes. My brother also lost one of their dearly loved cats due to the pet food nightmare. They didn't find out until after he passed.

Maybe with all the influx of screw ups, the world will be more aware and safety conscious. Maybe the press will pick up on this stuff more. Otherwise we're headed to Soylent Green territory and that just scares the crap out of me. We all seriously need to stop buying so much from China too. And stop manufacturing so much food and product there. Its' ridiculous.

Matt said...

We certainly can't depend upon China to protect America.

The CEO said...

Just so you don't think that this is a final solution, what's missing is the economic incentive for the database holder to send out messages. It's not the data miner's responsibility, it's the manufacturer's responsibility. There's no legal reason that the manufacturer should pay the data miner to do this once they have fulfilled their legal responsibility. All I have done is shown a mechanism that could be made to work, not the economics, nor the public policy ramifications. I'm waiting for the writers and the people like Notfearingchange to show up. I don't have a lot of audience or much voice. Let's see if I have enticed anyone?

Lee said...

I see your point but it's a little big brother for me. The problem with letting corporations know your private life is they will not only warn you of danger but send you spam and sell your name. I'd like to live a little further off the grid.

Shibari said...

I couldn't agree more... you have a great idea. Too bad that it is so simple that the people "in charge" of putting safeguards into place won't likely "get it" .. oh and ... thnak you for visiting my blog! :)

notfearingchange said...

Here I am!

CEO my question for you is can you differentiate between "putting information into the public availability" and "communicating". Personally I think anytime it gets into the news that is the best form of communication as it gets people talking. Much better than listing it on a website.

That stated, we cannot rely and place all responsibility on the corporation - unfortunately. There has to be smarts in the consumer. And here the debate can rage - who's responsibility is it when people acquire goods? Is it the government with regulation? Is it the consumer with their purchasing knowledge? Or is it the corporation with their knowledge?

I understand your idea of data-mining, however there are some flaws with this idea:
1. Not everyone submits their email to these companies.
2. Not everyone pays with plastic - ah yes cash.
3. Email address for people open and close so having updated addresses would be difficult.
4. It would require a lot of linking of information to figure out who purchased what.

Okay - let us debate.

The CEO said...

Lee, we have already talked that data mining already exists, and the idea would be to use it for something good.

Shibari, hi, and welcome to the blog. There are some problems with the idea, but I appreciate the support. Nofear has some great training and will do a great job.

Nofear, my heroine, these are all little tiny issues that are easy to overcome. Arguing caveat emptor doesn't remove the mechanism as a better way to notify people of a defect. It's not a function of responsibility, think of it as PR> Data mining already does all of the necessary linking through relational databases down to the product level.

The FDA has set up automatic product recall notices via e mail, so has the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Maybe the consumer needs a stable e mail address?

Do we need to live with English Common Law as it was elucidated in the 12th Century? How do we share responsibility in the future, and maybe save lives? CMHL will have the right riddle. She always does.

cmhl said...

I like your idea, I really do, but I have concerns about the invasion of privacy. Specifically, mine. There is so much information out there about each one of us, and most of it is completely out of our control. Just run your credit report for example--- people are pinging my credit rating every day without my knowledge!

in a way, it is profiling. OK, quit sputtering, let me explain. I go walking through an airport, and I may or may not get pulled aside for a cavity search based on outward appearances. My personal autonomy could be shuffled to the side in the name of national security.

is it also profiling when I buy dog food at kroger, pay for it with a credit card & use my kroger card for the .00000000218% discount. Kroger now knows I buy dog food, they know I like to shop in the middle of night, and they know someone in my household needs shampoo to rid their hair of chlorine.

Personally, I don't really want these people knowing all of this information about me.

The data mining tools are just that-- tools. Machines. They can infer information that isn't necessarily true. Just because I buy chlorine removal shampoo doesn't mean I have a membership at the Y. Just because I buy sudafed doesn't mean I have a meth lab in my garage. See what I mean? A 14 year old kid could pull up information about me all day long on the web, but that doesn't mean that he would even be able to hit the high point. Dangerous.

I totally agree that theoretically this is one way that recalls could be mass-marketed. I'll have to poke you in the ribs a little, CEO, because you know I enjoy visualizing you as the flaming-haired-card-carrying-ACLU-liberal that we all know and love. With that being the case (teasing!), I would think that you would feel that YOUR civil liberties are being violated as a result of fewer restrictions on the amount of private information readily available to the public sector.


notfearingchange said...

sorry i still think there is a lot of cost of data mining the products and then sending out email....and on a cost basis and an efficiency basis i think it is better for recalls to be done via public announcements - news and posters where they products were sold. This results in people talking, which is one of the faster ways of disseminating information...

I also agree with cmhl...I don't want these people with additional information about me. I already feel guilty that the bank knows how much i spend at the liquor store each week - I keep telling them the wine is an investment...