Friday, April 9, 2010

What's Next? Disposable Bath Towels?

I'm fairly jaded. I have been a cynic since... oh... roughly age 11. But this product made even my jaw drop.

My mom pointed it out to me, and from reports around the country, when people first saw the commercial, they thought of me and my certain outrage. I'm so touched! Being TV-less this week, I visited the site: We are greeted by this statement: "Introducing new Kleenex (r) Hand Towels. Your hands are only as clean as the towel used to dry them."

Now... I'm trying to picture the ad pitch meeting for this. When they said that last sentence, did they think it was particularly pithy and touching and caring, or were they barely stifling laughter as they said, "Can you believe they're gonna fall for this one!!!?"

I looked over the site. I listened to the hand-drying song that some ad-man created to further sell the fear of our own laundry. I actually was moved to tears... by the insanity of it. I couldn't even blog on it right away because it was just too much. I didn't know where to begin! It's too inane! It's much too much to think they want us to think OUR OWN TOWELS are bad for us! It's like a sick joke! But there it is. I couldn't sit back and watch Kimberly-Clarke reap the benefits of more clear-cutting on our fear of germs in our own homes. There are a few mentions of CDC (Center for Disease Control) guidelines on the site, you know, to make it all official and really truly scary. If the CDC says it, it must be true, right? Aha... my hook. I went to the CDC's site and diligently searched for their dire recommendations about our unsafe hand towels. Would the CDC really have something to say about the dangerous terry-cloth hanging oh-so-innocently in our bathrooms? I mean, sure. You WASH your hands, with soap and all, but that towel!!! Kleenex says right there on the site: " Regular washing of cloth hand towels does not ensure cleanliness." ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? So, back to the CDC. I found hand-drying guidelines for cruise ships (OK, those are basically floating Petri dishes, I'll grant them that one) and medical/dental facilities. Again, granted. I could find nothing that suggested the CDC is alarmed by our evil hand towels in our homes. So, I contacted them. I figure they should be made aware that Kimberly-Clarke is taking liberties with their guidelines, which, really, should be taken seriously and not used for scare tactics in the name of profit.

After all, does KC make this product because they are worried about us? No. They make it because they can profit off our fears. If they can stoke the fire of our germophobia with so-called CDC regulations, then all the better, I suppose.

I contacted the CDC. Within 24 hours, they responded that they were unaware of any such recommendations for home hand-drying, but would escalate my inquiry. (This is where I am impressed that they would take one small question so seriously!) I made no mention of the product or company, initially. The next day, I receive a PHONE CALL FROM the CDC! They actually called ME to discuss this further! (This is where I am beyond impressed!) A very nice doctor asked about the product in question. I told her what it was and gave her the site. She went to it. I could hear the skepticism in her "Hmmmmm..." tinged with faint amusement. I directed her to the pages that loosely quote CDC guidelines. They use them in such a broad term as to think they might have gotten away with it. I explained to her that I felt Kleenex's use of the guidelines was alarmist and misleading. She was definitely landing on my side with this one. She assured me that she was unaware of any recommendations the CDC would make about HOME towels, but that the CDC is a big place, and she would make sure this was brought to the attention of the proper people to see if there are nefarious doings afoot here. (OK, those are my words, not hers, but that's the gist.) I trust her to do so. After all, she called me.

I do not know if I will hear back about what happens. I figure, at the very least, perhaps Kimberly-Clarke will have to shell out a few bucks to change their campaign and site. I'm OK with hitting them in their wallets. Better, to have them publicly state they misused the guidelines. Best case: product gets halted completely, cease-and-desist, never made again. (I can hope.) All I know is, I tried. I already do not use Kleenex Facial Tissue, because hankies work great and I am not afraid of them and I do not want to kill trees or fill landfills when my allergies hit. Oh - I did send an e-mail to Kimberly-Clarke as well, explaining what I was doing with the CDC... but I have yet to hear back from them. Yeah. I called in the big guns. I'm just little me, but let's see them argue with the CDC. They can't exactly throw money at them to make them go away... I don't think so anyway...

I do fear that if we let them get away with this product and sell public fear to this degree, single-use bath towels are not far behind. We don't need to be afraid of our own laundry. Let's not get that carried away. Please?