Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cookie Jar

In early 1992 a network news show sent two undercover reporters to Food Lion to work in their meat department. They had received multiple tips that the chain was systematically engaging in unsanitary meat-handling procedures. What they found was a management-mandated scheme to minimize losses by selling out-of-date meat to consumers. This included mixing expired ground beef in with fresh ground beef, bleaching rotten meat to remove its odor and then reselling it, and re-dating expired meat and putting it out for sale.

What ensued when this story was aired on ABC's Primetime Live was a lawsuit by Food Lion that stretched out over nearly 10 years. The lawsuit alleged fraud and misrepresentation by ABC as its reporters lied on their job applications so that they would be hired. There never was any doubt as to the truth of the news story. After an extensive search of the news archives you will not find one statement by Food Lion as to their sickening, underhanded, money-grubbing, disgusting breach of faith with their customer base. No statements of "we will look into this to be sure these sorts of practices are stopped" or "we screwed up and will work to make things right". Their corporate response and mantra when busted was to cry foul and to play a game of distraction and blustering and litigation.

So, the question is, how do you react when you are caught red-handed? Flat out busted. Do you own up to your mistake, take your punishment, and work to make things right with those you harmed? What about when you don't like how you were caught? How many times have you heard someone say when they are busted "I can't believe that you were spying on me!" That is a response designed to shift the blame and escape judgment. What about when you don't like the manner in which you were caught or the person who catches you? Should that make any difference?

I'm reminded of the kid who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. When his parent's walked in on him right in the middle of the act, he quickly put his hands over his face. He figured if he couldn't see his parents, then they probably couldn't see him.