Posts Tagged ‘business’
Backlog of manufacturing expected; China, India to provide replacements
Washington, DC, November 24 – Accumulating reports of defects among the approximately four million babies delivered in the US over the last year has prompted federal authorities to issue a recall notice for all children delivered between January and September of this year.
An apparent spike in defect reports became visible in March, when parents began reporting in higher-than-average numbers that their newborn children were not performing to standard. Of special concern, say regulators, was the frequency with which the units were emitting noxious substances from various orifices, which evidently attests to some sort of malfunction and indicated a serious quality control problem on the production line.
While the recall is underway, the six major plants in the US where babies are produced will scale back production, at least until the source of the malfunction can be identified and fixed. Demand for new babies will be satisfied through the importation of units from Asia, mostly China and India, where the surplus of babies has rendered them affordable to American would-be parents, import duties notwithstanding. Domestic trade groups have been pushing for strict controls on imports of foreign babies, but the inability of American baby plants to meet demand has forced those groups to accept a temporary lifting of import limits.
If previous episodes of this nature serve as any indication, say experts, no long-term damage to the American baby-manufacturing sector is to be anticipated. “Some smaller outfits might suffer, but those enterprises don’t seem to be affected by the current quality problems, so they might escape unscathed,” says Hugh Mantraffic-King, a consultant with ties to the industry. “In fact we’re likely to see several of the small-time baby producers step up their game and assert themselves while the big-name manufacturers are unable to produce.”
The most recent recall prior to this one occurred in the 1980’s, when parents began reporting abnormally high levels of autism and other developmental issues in their toddlers. That crop of babies had been manufactured primarily in California and Texas, leading to a months-long, acrimonious lawsuit that ended with a class-action settlement and a fine paid by Storx, then the leading baby manufacturer. Storx filed for bankruptcy in 1990.
In the 1960’s and 70’s, parents demanded the right to return their children after the latter began engaging in obviously defective behavior such as transcendental meditation, wearing bell-bottom trousers, and listening to disco “music.” However, no recall took place, as the units in question were past the warranty period when those defects were observed.
Company analysts had expected the product to sell relatively well on the strength of the product’s novelty and a campaign targeting the coveted 25-35-year-old demographic. However, the campaign seems to have little effect, and retailers are reporting only a handful of sales throughout the Northeast and Midwest regions.
The Backwash campaign highlights the product’s enzymes, which are suspended in a special formulation containing certain proteins such as amylase, which breaks down a set of common but complex organic molecules. The body wash produces a thicker, frothier foam when water is scarce, a contrast with other shampoos and soaps that froth best with a higher minimum level of moisture. The dry frothing was a feature that the company had hoped would translate into a selling point, emphasizing the water-saving advantages that Procter & Gamble calculated would appeal to the ecologically-minded Millennial demographic.
“We don’t yet know exactly where we went wrong,” said brand manager Abel Spitz. “The focus groups were pretty clear on the fact that this body wash’s features were promising, and that the design and color of the packaging was eye-catching and bright. We had a fabulous slogan for the ad campaign, so it’s going to take some more granular data analysis to get to the bottom of this.” The “Spray It, Don’t Say It” campaign launched in February, with ads on billboards, in print media, online, and a sprinkle of spots on network TV.
Spitz hopes his other brands make up for the losses generated by the Backwash failure. He also oversees a whitening toothpaste called Tartar Sauce and a nasal decongestant called Gland Opening. Even if they do well, says Spitz, “this one is hard to swallow.”
Also see PreOccupied Territory.
The firm, which mostly handles real estate transactions, has apparently altered the contents of the menu. To prevent callers from selecting their desired extensions out of habit and reaching the wrong person by mistake, the partners instructed the technology consulting firm that handles their communications to alert callers to the changes.
People who called today in fact took note of the message, but as of 1 p.m. local time Monday, none were able to determine what menu options had changed. “It sounds the same to me,” said Rita Sciortino, who was attempting to reach Jake Riddleman, a junior partner advising her on the sale of her home.
Jamal Rashad, an office supplies deliveryman, agreed. “I sat through the whole thing like three times this morning, just to make sure I got the right extension, and it was all a waste of time,” he said.
Others took the change in stride. “What? People actually listen to the menu?” wondered Isabella Diaz, a client. “I just hit ‘zero’ at the first opportunity so I can speak to a human. I hate those systems.”
Similar developments occurred last year when a social services department of the state government instituted a similar change, although in that case the difference was noticeable because although the system options appeared to remain the same, the voice guiding callers through the process was clearly different.
“They used to have this sweet-sounding lady, but now it’s almost robot-like,” complained Henry Watkins, who was trying to arrange a social worker visit for his disabled grandson. “I do hope that lady is OK. Do you think she found a better job, so they had to hire somebody else to read the menu?”
A spokesman for PCC Communications, the consulting firm implementing the change for DuBois & Fernandez, said they had yet to reprogram the system with the changes.
Mahwah, New Jersey, March 27 – Researchers studying the population of one of the largest retail chains in the US were shocked today to discover the occurrence of a parent shopping there who was not interacting negatively with the children in tow.
Observing the customers at the Walmart here for a doctoral thesis, sociologists Mor Bidley-O’Beese and Trey Lertrache spotted a man in his thirties escorted by three children under the age of ten, each of whom seemed to be content. At first assuming that the lack of fighting, throwing, vandalism, running around/away, and whining was attributable to the children being medicated, the researchers soon realized, to their puzzlement, that in fact the group was inherently polite and well-behaved. Such a family grouping has not been previously documented at Walmart.
“The initial observation of the subject in question naturally led us to the conclusion that some pharmacological component was necessary to explain the behavior of the children,” said Lertrache. “We had no precedent for a non-dysfunctional dynamic in this environment.” It was only after they witnessed the non-ironic use of such terms as “please,” “may we?” and “here, you can use mine” that Lertrache and Bidley-O’Beese began to realize the anomaly they had encountered.
“We had been unaware that such a creature existed in this habitat,” said Bidley-O’beese. “No previous studies have found an intra-Walmart parent-child framework that was not riddled with passive or outright aggression; raised voices; snappy retorts; sarcastic remarks; verbal abuse; or borderline physical abuse.”
A further anomaly occurred when the family in question intentionally spent time in the dental and personal hygiene aisle. “In our experience, that’s generally a pass-through-it-to-get-to-the-snacks kind of aisle,” noted branch manager Iona Methlab. “It doesn’t get much in the way of people heading there to get an item on their shopping list.” She said others have stopped in that aisle before, especially seniors looking for denture cleaning materials, but certainly no families had headed there initially.
At press time, the family was waiting at the checkout line without berating the cashier and the people ahead of them not to take all day.
Woonsocket, Rhode Island, February 6 – The heads of America’s largest tobacco companies are scratching their heads at a decision by CVS, the nation’s largest pharmacy chain, to stop selling cigarettes, wondering why the drug they sell is somehow different from all the others.
CVS announced yesterday that as of October 1 it would cease to stock cigarettes, which represent $1.5 billion annually in revenue. The company announced the move as part of a strategic shift toward a healthier image. Executives from RJ Reynolds, Altria, and British American Tobacco, three of the world’s largest cigarette sellers, professed confusion over the move, noting that the active ingredient in product they manufacture is nicotine, a bona fide drug.
“We are as yet unsure how to formally react,” said a Vice President at Altria who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I mean, tobacco is basically nicotine in smoking form, and nicotine is a drug. CVS is a drug store. They sell drugs. What am I missing here?”
CVS’s 7,600 retail outlets represent the US’s largest pharmacy network. Recent years have seen the chain offer an increasing variety of low-cost healthcare services, attracting consumers and insurance providers alike with costs noticeably lower than those at hospitals and health clinics. In keeping with its emerging image as health-oriented, CVS elected to forgo the tobacco revenue in favor of a more wellness-friendly image that it calculates will more than make up for the loss in sales. However, the pharmacies will still sell such dangerous items as razor blades and abuse-prone substances, which the tobacco executives see as puzzling.
“They sell cosmetics, some of which can be positively lethal if ingested, so clearly this isn’t a health-based decision,” said a British-American Tobacco VP. “And they traffic heavily in greasy, salty, fatty, and sugary snack foods, which means that any claim that the move is specifically motivated by long-term health concerns doesn’t seem to hold up,” he added.
“It might be some warped considerations of painting tobacco companies as peddlers of evil, but really, why would anybody think that?” wondered the executive.