On January 2, 2014, Wal-Mart recalled donkey meat in China, fearing that the meat was not actually donkey. On a Chinese social media website it was announced by Wal-Mart that they were investigating the source of the meat and would reimburse anyone who had purchased it.
Over the past several years, China’s food market has had several scares and setbacks, and this is not the first time Wal-Mart has been a part of it. Because of China’s already vulnerable state in regards to food safety issues, this could result in major harm for Wal-Mart. The President and CEO of Walmart China, Greg Foran, issued an apology, saying: “We are deeply sorry for this whole affair. It is a deep lesson (for us) that we need to continue to increase investment in supplier management.”
Wal-Mart has also said that they intend to seek legal action toward the supplier of the donkey meat. It is suspected that the donkey meat actually included traces of fox meat.
In this week’s class we discussed cultural theory. Alan Zaremba’s book, Crisis Communication, Theory and Practice defines Cultural Theory as the following: “Cultural theory is based on the premise that a phenomenon that can be appropriately labeled “organizational culture” exists. In the same way that ethnicities are said to have distinctive cultures, cultural theory assumes that individual organizations can be said to have distinctive cultures.”
Zaremba goes on to say that cultural theory suggests that there is a strong, interdependent relationship between culture and communication within a company or organization.
I think that, in terms of the Chinese Wal-Mart scandal, it is difficult for consumers to tell what exactly went wrong. It could have had something to do with the culture that exists within the Chinese Wal-Mart, and the fact that there was a lack of monitoring of the food supplier could have had to do with lack of communication within the company.
I also think that Wal-Mart responded appropriately, at least to the best of their ability. They showed not only concern for those consumers who purchased the donkey meat, but also toward China’s food safety, in general. They have owned up to the mistake that was made by their company, while also admitting that they are going to take legal action toward the original supplier of the meat. It really raises the question of who is to blame the most. Does the supplier carry the blame for cross-contamination of meat, or is Wal-Mart to blame for blindly selling the meat?
Zaremba, Alan Jay. Crisis Communication: Theory and Practice. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2010. Print.