The Girl Scouts in several states are recalling batches of Lemon Chalet Crème cookies because they taste a little funny. The manufacturer, also sometimes known as a baker, says the cookies are safe but “may contain oils that are breaking down.”
Now the Girl Scouts are not calling it a recall, but a “quality withdrawal.” I don’t know who the organization is attempting to fool with this squeamish euphemism, but they’re only kidding themselves.
Most but not all stories in the news media on the recall so far use the term “voluntary recall,” often in the headline. See, for example:
Some media report that the Girl Scouts call it a “quality withdrawal,” which only underscores what a silly expression it is because people see or hear it next to the accurate term, “voluntary recall.”
To state the obvious, the Girl Scouts use the term “quality withdrawal” in an attempt to communicate that the cookies are safe to eat, but just taste a little funky. But “quality withdrawal” says nothing about taste and it doesn’t take away from the fact that the cookies have been recalled. Moreover, most people with jobs work in the world of large organizations in which safety is often equated with quality or considered an attribute of quality. That means that when they hear or read the term “quality withdrawal,” they may likely think of safety in any case. In other words, many people won’t understand the distinction the Girl Scouts and its manufacturer are trying to make. Many will be ticked off by this silly attempt to massage language.
The “suits” who decided to call it a “quality withdrawal” instead of what it is, a “recall,” have done the Girl Scouts a grave disservice. I think most people will react poorly to the expression because they will see it for what it is: mealy-mouthed and weasel-worded corporate newspeak at its worst.
I don’t believe that this ineptly duplicitous approach to taking responsibility is consistent with the mission of the Girl Scouts of the USA, which describes itself as “the world’s preeminent organization dedicated solely to girls—all girls—where, in an accepting and nurturing environment, girls build character and skills for success in the real world.”
If the Girl Scouts had asked me what to call it, I would have said “a voluntary recall because the cookies, though safe to eat, don’t taste right.” The phrase is short, easy-to-understand, accurate and, most importantly, takes responsibility in a mature fashion.