Thursday, July 27, 2006

72. Company has no morals

Late one evening last week, my wife and me jumped into the car, filled it with our three dogs and headed to Speedway for a couple of seventy-nine cent "smoothies." Some brilliant television marketing sparked our interest, and spontaneity, which was timed perfectly with the recent heat wave. Unfortunately, the smoothies were not completely frozen, and we ended up with a couple of liquid popsicles. The trip was not for naught, however, because the dogs enjoyed getting out of the house and participating in one of their favorite activities, going for a "r-i-d-e." With three dogs, we have to spell the word, because the mere mention of it, upon our consideration, turns the house into utter mayhem. Suddenly, it seems as if we have ten dogs, running, barking and jumping everywhere and on everything. You would think they had won the lottery.

The usually efficient Speedway was very backed up with a long line of customers. It surprised me, considering that it was after 11:00 p.m. I saw on the side of the register a woman with a hand held contraption, one that looked similar to the inventory entry pads I have seen at the grocery stores. At first, I thought she worked for Speedway, after which I thought her efforts might be best received in helping the sole attendant move some customers through the line.

As I approached I realized that she was not entering inventory, more so, that she did not even work for Speedway. She was, in fact, an employee of R.J. Reynolds, and her intent was to offer smokers two packs of Camels free if they purchased one pack of cigarettes- of any brand. The machine in her grip was one that, upon receipt of the free packs of Camels, automatically entered the name and address of the customer into its memory via his or her driver's license.

As a marketing plan, I would have applauded the effort. R.J. Reynolds was working to both get the customer to consider their particular brand of cigarettes and obtain a large amount of customer information- for more effective use in direct marketing. I also appreciate the leg work, working store by store, meeting customers one by one. The plan also worked well for Speedway, as their customers received three packs of cigarettes for the price of one. Customers that appreciated the savings are likely to go back to Speedway a few more times, thinking that maybe there will be another great offer.

I wondered though, in the context of the whole situation, about the woman handing out the free cigarettes. Does she not understand how horrifically dangerous and addicting cigarettes are? It is probably true that the person accepting the free smokes is already addicted, and that in truth, she was only promoting her "brand" of cancer and other deadly disease But I still wonder how she reconciled that at night. Had anyone in her life ever died from the use of cigarettes? If not, would that have made a difference in her decision to market them for R.J. Reynolds? Is it a matter of personal interest, as I have suggested several times before, that is the mechanism driving her decision-making? Or possibly, is she in complete denial of the dangers of smoking?

I realize employment is difficult and perhaps many people are doing things that they are fundamentally against just to feed their families- and I empathize with that. We are faced with tough ethical decisions from time to time.
R.J. Reynolds must also be held accountable. There is nothing more amusing, the consequences aside, than reviewing the website of cigarette companies. In the case of R.J. Reynolds, I will admit that they are consistent to the idea that they are not trying to persuade a nonsmoker to start smoking- at least in this case. They are just trying to get them to change brands. Their website, however, also states the following:

"The company takes great pride in the principled, responsible and lawful manner in which we conduct ourselves and our business. This company is filled with extraordinarily dedicated people who share a deep commitment to four very important principles that guide every aspect of what we do. We fully recognize that we produce a product that has significant and inherent risks (the first principle)."

Their marketing philosophy states,

"R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (R.J. Reynolds) believes that cigarette smokers are at significantly increased risk for a number of diseases and conditions, including lung cancer, cardiovascular disease (including heart disease) and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (emphysema and chronic bronchitis). Our company's philosophy is to operate as if smoking is a cause of these diseases."

How does a principled and responsible company exists in an environment in which it "operates as if smoking is a cause of" these life-ending diseases? How do extraordinarily dedicated people produce and market a product that they themselves recognize as having significant health risks? Have they ever asked themselves what exactly what are they dedicated to?

On the larger, societal scale, I think how great it would be if people were truly principled and responsible, and refused to do what they know is wrong. Would it not be great if people refused to work for these cigarette companies? Would it not be great they refused to work for companies that built bombs or that harmed animals and the environment? Finally, would not the world be a better place if people refused to kill each other as an exercise of patriotism or act of religious devotion.

I have never understood the point in which people stop thinking for themselves. Whether it is selling cigarettes or as a member of the Nazi army, why do individuals give up not only their morals and values, but also their life to harm or kill innocent people?

No comments:

Post a Comment