20 January 2010

Illegitimi non carborundum

McNeil Consumer Healthcare is recalling large lots of a number of its OTC medications, including Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, Rolaids, Simply Sleep and St. Joseph aspirin. I hadn't thought much about the recall although we use Motrin, Tylenol and Benadryl with some frequency around here until I realized that I'd just bought two new packages of Motrin.

I got an email this morning advising me to go the McNeil recall website, which I did in order to look up the lot numbers of my Motrin.

Naturally, the large 225-caplet bottle of Motrin I have is subject to the recall.

Both the spouse and I have been taking Motrin from this lot, and neither of us noticed anything off about it, nor have we noticed any of the side effects listed on the recall notice. However, the recall notice states clearly: "Consumers who purchased product from the lots included in this recall should stop using the product and contact McNeil Consumer Healthcare for instructions on a refund or replacement."

I groaned because I don't want to worry about refund or replacement. I know how manufacturers love to give consumers the RUN AROUND on issues like this.

But! I paid $16.00 for this bottle of Motrin which is about 1/4 used and I've been told by the manufacturer to get rid of it and NOT use it. And the chemical that has apparently contaminated some of these medications sounds pretty nasty.

So, the McNeil site is supposed to tell me how to get my refund/replacement. If it does, then the information is very well hidden because I looked at every page and found nothing.

Next, I called the phone number given for their Consumer Care Center.

Pretty much what you might expect. A man answered the phone, and I explained that I had a bottle of Motrin subject to the recall and wanted my money back.

The person in question requested the lot number and UPC code from the bottle. Then I was put on hold while the information I provided was verified as part of the recall.

I'd already done this, of course, and the wait was interminable.

He returned, apologized for the wait, and asked if we'd had any adverse effects from using the product. No, I told him.

He would be happy to offer me a coupon, he said.

That sounded suspicious. How much of a coupon, I asked.

One dollar off my next purchase of Motrin, he replied.

I lost my temper in the rather biting way I can lose my temper (which does not entail yelling, but clearly demonstrates that I am not pleased). I pointed out (knowing the call was being recorded) that none of this recall was my idea, that McNeil had evidently provided me with a contaminated product, that I'd barely used the bottle of Motrin that I was now being told to dispose of and that $1 off of a $16.00 bottle of pain reliever was $15.00 too little compensation.

(Sorry, McNeil. I told your guy it was a $20.00 bottle of Motrin because I couldn't remember the exact price but knew it was alot. I've since found the receipt. It cost me $16.00, which is still quite bad enough.)

I could hear the spouse laughing at me from another room.

The man on the phone up-ed the ante and offered me a $2.00 coupon.

I protested in outrage about the insult of a $2.00 coupon. I WANTED THE ENTIRE PURCHASE PRICE REFUNDED. I am not unreasonable, but I do believe in being treated fairly.

Well, he said in tones of dudgeon, if I wasn't satisfied with what they were offering, he'd give me a coupon for the full amount. He said this like the money was coming out of his own pocket.

Why, I asked, should I be satisfied with anything less than the full amount? If McNeil wants to prorate my refund by the pill, I'd be happy to send them the bottle. However, $2.00 doesn't begin to cover the cost of the bottle, what's still in it, and now, the aggravation of trying to get rid of the stuff.

I suspect that this final offer was...less than honest. The response was too quick and too pat, and came after I'd been told that the maximum coupon that was being offered was $2.00. I don't believe that I will ever see a coupon for the full purchase price of my bottle of Motrin. I do believe that I was told this to get me off the phone.

This is poor business practice, admittedly, but it turns out the recall story is even more disturbing. After I got off the phone, I did a bit of research on the recall. USA Today reported a few days ago that McNeil knew about the problem that led to the recall in early 2008, adding "The FDA sent McNeil a warning letter for violating manufacturing standards and failing to report and investigate the problem in a timely way, [Deborah Autor, the director of the FDA's Office of Compliance of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research] said."


McNeil, you've certainly lost my goodwill for putting me through the nonsense of that phone call, and you and your parent company Johnson & Johnson have lost my business.

Go listen to some good music: "Fight Song" from the album Keep Color by Republic Tigers. The spouse said that he was laughing because when I get righteous about something, I will "wallop" the object of my displeasure with it "again and again and again." He added, "They just don't stand a chance."

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