Thursday, September 23, 2010

Learning a Lesson from Tylenol

In late September and early October of 1982, seven people in the Chicago area died after taking extra-strength Tylenol capsules that had been tampered with and subsequently found to contain cyanide. The criminal behind these deaths was never identified and brought to justice. On October 5th, the parent company Johnson & Johnson took the unprecedented step of recalling some 31 million bottles of Tylenol in circulation with a value of more than 100 million dollars. They did so even though it had been clearly demonstrated that the poisonings were the result of deliberate tampering with the bottles and not a consequence of a production error. In the aftermath of these deaths, Tylenol introduced a new triple-sealed package to prevent such crimes in the future. While in the short-run, Tylenol’s market share dropped from 35% to 8%, before the year was out it had completely recovered, and Tylenol would later become the country’s most popular pain reliever.

I think there are some valuable lessons to be learned from the way Johnson & Johnson handled this crisis. Even though they were not directly responsible for the deaths of those who swallowed the tainted capsules, the company willingly incurred a massive financial loss by recalling all of the existing stock to ensure public safety. Furthermore, they changed their packaging (which also undoubtedly represented an additional outlay of capital) because they were intent on regaining the public’s confidence.

There will be times when we are unjustly accused of wrongdoing. At other times, suspicion will be cast on our motives. It is then that we need to be willing to go the extra mile to demonstrate that we have the other person’s best interest at heart. If a secular company can right the wrongs committed by another, surely we as Christians can do likewise.

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