Who Will Eliminate Blackhearted Merchants Syndrome?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
November 6, 2013
Summary: Obsolete legislation, cowardly officials, and greedy industries are accomplices in a consumer nightmare. We have endured repeated food safety crises. We hope new legislation will close the loopholes, as soon as possible. We hope the business community can collectively rehabilitate itself, and eliminate the sickening Blackhearted Merchants Syndrome.
Full text below:
Recently business leaders have been issuing obsequious apologies to the public. These are among the most nauseating theatrics the Taiwan public has ever been forced to endure. They include the toxic starch and Top Pot Bakery scandals. They include adulterated cooking oils from the Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory and power outages on the Taiwan High Speed Rail System. These differ in degree. But they all hurt the interests or health of consumers. The theatrical apologies and lame excuses show that businessmen no longer have any ethics and no longer care about maintaining brand image and product quality.
It is no exaggeration to describe this erosion of business ethics "Blackhearted Merchants Syndrome." Two years ago the plasticizer scandal erupted. These crimes, committed with malice aforethought, turned society upside down. Consumers panicked. But many businessmen remained indifferent. They continued to defraud and deceive the public as they did before, This is why wave upon wave of food safety crises ensued.
Take the recent adulterated cooking oil scandals. Over 90% of the cooking oils manufactured by the Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory was adulterated. Kao Cheng-li, the man in charge, brazenly adultered everything the company made. He gave the public an insight into the black heart of these merchants. Just when observers thought the storm had passed, other well-known manufacturers such as Ting Hsin and Formosa Oilseed Processing concealed the truth about using Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory cooking oils. As a result their products were removed from the shelves for several more days, and once again aroused consumer indignation. Ting Hsin and Formosa Oilseed Processing are companies that the Ministry of Health and Welfare assured us made quality cooking oils. These companies knew their products contained adulterated cooking oils. Yet they misled both government officials and consumers. Such practices have exposed their complete lack of social responsibility.
A positive corporate image takes long years to build. But destroying a gold standard takes only the wave of a hand. How can one not remain vigilant? In the food industry for example, products must comply with food safety regulations. But these are merely minimums. In the pursuit of product excellence and consumer loyalty, one must be innovative in one's research and development. One must abide by the spirit of fair trade and exercise care, day after day, year after year. Only that can result in a business that meets the highest standards.
Recently many businesses have engaged in deceptive advertising, false labeling, and outright fraud. Some sought short-term profits. Some sought reduced costs. Some sought a sudden windfall. But as everyone knows , such violations are inevitably discovered, sooner or later. Those who seek a sudden windfall will have to pay a higher price in the end. Yesterday Wei Ying-tung, head of the Ting Hsin Group, offered an online apology. He said "The food industry is definitely an industry which requires a conscience." This remark was dead on. But an industry which requires a conscience also requires constant scrutiny. Otherwise, overnight it can become a Blackhearted Merchants Industry.
Blackhearted Merchants Syndrome is epidemic within the business community. It is not difficult to understand why Taiwan's economy has stalled in recent years. Many factors form a chain. One. Businesses are overly concerned with profits. Driven by the profit motive, they blindly pursue market share and cost reduction. Quality control is gradually moved down the list of priorities. Two. Too many large scale enterprises are OEM. This results in lax quality control, and inadequate government inspections. OEM outsourcing also offers a loophole by which to evade responsibility and pass the buck. Three. Industrial products involve complex processes. Inspection has become more difficult. This provides businesses with opportunities to cheat. Government regulators are inefficient and timid. This makes inspection even more difficult. Four. Businessmen have lost their sense of ethics. This has led to an overemphasis on advertising and an underemphasis on quality control. The public is often unscientific in its attitudes and unable to see things for what they are. This makes it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.
In all fairness, the public on Taiwan has long respected and trusted Taiwan's large scale enterprises. But the cowardly or arrogant behavior of some businesses at this crucial moment, is not worthy of respect. How companies treat consumers determines how loyal consumers will be to the companies. This is an iron law of cause and effect. It applies to the adulterated cooking oil scandal as much as it does to the Taiwan High Speed Rail System power outage fiasco. The Taiwan High Speed Rail System enjoys monopoly status. It can unilaterally raise prices. Taiwan High Speed Rail System passengers can only express anger and frustration. But when power failures result in Taiwan High Speed Rail System passengers being trapped, the cost in time and energy is inestimable. The Taiwan High Speed Rail System must make more equitable compensation arrangements. This is its duty and responsibility. Many passengers were unable to make their connections. Yet the High Speed Rail System imposed harsh restrictions on refunds. If passengers are able to show when the High Speed Rail System failed to provide them with promised services, of course they have the right to demand compensation and refunds. This is beyond dispute.
Obsolete legislation, cowardly officials, and greedy industries are accomplices in a consumer nightmare. We have endured repeated food safety crises. We hope new legislation will close the loopholes, as soon as possible. We hope the business community can collectively rehabilitate itself, and eliminate the sickening Blackhearted Merchants Syndrome.
2013.11.06 03:28 am