Last week included going to a Baltimore Orioles playoff game. Of course, that necessitated that I go to the concessions during the game. I needed some ballpark food. That’s when I saw behind the scenes.
All of a sudden, I saw a heavyset fellow behind the counter preparing the hot dog buns. He would take a bun and place it in a paper container. He was preparing dozens of these to be ready for the hot dog. So, a person at the counter could just grab the container and bun and throw in the dog when it was ordered.
That all seemed reasonable. What I wish I had not seen was the entire process. As he readied the buns with his two fingers, he also picked at his pants, scratched his nose, wiped his face and picked up something off the floor. All this behind the scenes stuff was taking place without gloves. Needless to say, I vowed never to order a Camden Yards hot dog. A “note to self”.
This behind-the-scenes also reminded me of some bad past corporate behavior that is now remembered as the Pinto Memo.
The Ford Pinto was a subcompact car that was manufactured during the years of 1971-1980. It was competing with imports from Volkswagen, Datsun and Toyota. That’s what caused the Ford engineers to design a car to increase gas mileage by making it lighter. Consequently, the car was designed with no classic, heavyweight bumper as well as the usual reinforcement spacing between the rear panel and gas tank.
With only 22 months of concept to production, Ford was billing its Pinto as The Little Carefree Car. Soon, carefree became scary car as the public became aware that rear-end collisions were causing the cars to blow up into fiery fires from spilled fuel. Critics began to allege that the lack of structure reinforcement was the cause of these fires and resulting deaths. Lawsuits followed.
Thereafter, the magazine Mother Jones printed a memo that had been circulated to Ford management before the Pinto was manufactured and sold. The memo had been stolen from Ford and was never supposed to be seen by the public. It proved that Ford was making decisions based on profit and not safety. The memo said in part the following:
1. With expected unit sales of 11 million Pintos, and a total cost per unit to modify the fuel tank of $11, a recall would have cost Ford $121 million.
2. But, using mathematical formulations of a probable 2,100 accidents that might result in 180 burn deaths, 180 seriously burned victims, and 2,100 burned-out vehicles, the “unit cost” per accident, assuming an out-of-court settlement, came to a probable $200,000 per death, $67,000 per serious injury, and $700 per burned-out vehicle, leaving a grand total of $49.53 million.
3. Allowing the accidents to occur represented a net savings of nearly $70 million.
4. Therefore, a human life was mathematically proven to be worth less than an $11 part.
Despite the probability that this car would cause death, Ford management had made the financial decision to push forward with sales. When news of the memo broke that demonstrated that Ford had been aware of the design defects, criminal charges and civil lawsuits followed. The behind-the-scenes was no longer “hidden behind the counter”. The depth of corporate greed was shocking.
Now swinging a bit to the absurd, pic o’ day shows quite the heavy equipment operator!