"His voice betrayed a craving for terrible things." -- Don DeLillo

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April 21, 2006

"If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one."--OR--Corporate Doublespeak Causes Blindness!
In case you didn't hear the news last week from Bausch & Lomb, you can check out stories here or here (among many other places). Luckily, I happened to be at the press conference...

(SETTING: A hastily thrown together press conference)

(Bausch & Lomb CEO Ron Zarrella takes the podium)

RON: Thank you all for coming today. There have been some alarming news reports going around and I wanted to take the chance to speak with everyone before our stock prices go any lower. (beat) Oh, right, and especially because we want to keep our consumers informed.

Bausch & Lomb has been proudly manufacturing ReNu contact lens solution for years now and we thank all our customers for their support. Unfortunately, we've run into a slight problem. It turns out that this contact solution, you know, the stuff you've been pouring into your eyes everyday for years, yeah, it, uhh..., it...causes blindness. (quickly) Thank you so much everyone and have a good day!

(Zarrella rushes off the stage as reporters begin screaming questions and chaos brews...a muffled argument is heard backstage and Zarrella soon begrudgingly emerges again)

REPORTER: Your contact solution causes blindness?! Are you kidding?!

RON: Haha, I'm sorry, I should have been clearer. Of course, the solution itself doesn't cause blindness. That would be crazy. Haha. No, no, the solution has just been linked to a eye fungus called Fusarium that causes severe corneal infections that lead to blindness...that is, after sudden blurred vision and painful irritation. That's all. So the Fusarium causes the blindness, not the ReNu. Wanted to make that clear.

REPORTER: So you're recalling ReNu, right? Obviously.

RON: Absolutely not. It's called a Voluntary Market Withdrawal. We just want stores to take it off the shelves and keep in the back for a while. That's all. No need to panic.

REPORTER: I guess it's just a couple isolated cases then?

RON: Actually, there are more than 100 cases, but, c'mon, that's like a drop in the bucket. What are 100 blind people to the ten million people who use our solution? Get serious.

REPORTER: All right, then I'm assuming you know what's causing the problem and are already taking steps to stop it?

RON: Well, umm, not sure how to say this...yeah, we have no idea what's causing the problem.

REPORTER: Then why are you issuing this wishy-washy withdrawal when a recall is the safest and most secure way of getting the product away from consumers?

RON: Hey, remember it's a hundred out of ten million, so it's not like the odds are against you here. (anger rising) I don't know if you know this being a lowly reporter, but recalls are fucking expensive. I'm not about to issue one when we don't know a damn thing about the problem. (anger still rising) If a couple more people go blind as result, fuck 'em. That's the risk of being a trusting consumer whore. Once I've misdirected the FDA enough, I'm putting those boxes right back into stores and I don't give a shit what anyone says. I'm running a fucking multi-billion dollar company here!

(various executives emerge from backstage and begin forcefully removing Zarrella from the stage)

REPORTER: Do you have any final words for us?

RON: Yeah. (clears throat and leans into mike) Our bad.

(Zarrella leaves stage and press conference ends)