The Washington Post’s alarming story about teenagers intentionally imbibing Tide detergent “pods” (or “pacs”) due to dares by other teenagers, is not a story about teenagers being dumb, but really one about faulty design.
The increasing one-use bite-sized packetization of goods, like food, housecleaning supplies, and other “conveniences” is the problem. No teen, unless they are trying to commit suicide, are going to drink a bunch of Tide detergent from a 64 oz. container. But place it in a cute packet, like peanut butter or sports energy gel, then the fun starts.
Tide’s parent company, Procter & Gamble, said in a statement that it is “deeply concerned about conversations related to intentional and improper use of liquid laundry pacs.”
“Laundry pacs are made to clean clothes,” Proctor & Gamble spokeswoman Petra Renck said in the statement. “They should not be played with, whatever the circumstance, even if meant as a joke. Like all household cleaning products, they must be used properly and stored safely.”
If Proctor and Gamble is so concerned, why don’t they just take the product off the market? They can admit–“we made a mistake. We got greedy, and gimmicky, thinking that this would give us a leg up on the (scant) competition. Instead of making our product better, we just thought giving you less laundry detergent for a higher price BUT in nifty little “pacs” would do the trick. But, we didn’t realize that over 10,000 children under 5 would try to eat them in 2017 alone. Or that 225 teens would be exposed to them. Perhaps bite-sized packets for laundry detergent is inappropriate. Let’s pull those Tide Pods off the market, for the sake of the public good and public health.”
Nope, instead, P&G play the usual corporate routine–they’re not designed wrong, they are just being used incorrectly. As if it were possible for 10,000 baby poisonings in a year to occur, and that to be an incorrect use. That’s like saying that people who drove Pintos and got into accidents (and they blew up) were using their cars incorrectly.
You’ve got to love their corporate defense, doing their best to stave off regulation (because, like little kids eating Tide PODS, they can’t regulate themselves):
“even the most stringent standards and protocols, labels and warnings can’t prevent intentional abuse fueled by poor judgment and the desire for popularity.”
Whatever you do–don’t make us have a label or warning! It would be too onerous. And it would certainly be too onerous to pull this (quite unnecessary!) product from the market. Methinks this reeks of cigarette industry rhetoric… but I digress.
A design flaw is a design flaw, whether it is intentional or not. Admit it, make it right, and move on. For those of us that are adults here, we ought to design products that cannot be prone to abuse on such a large scale. And if we learn that our creations happen to look like candy (deliberately?) and are hurting people in mass numbers, we have a responsibility to take them off the market.
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