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1052 A Product Recall

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,052 – A Product Recall.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,052. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast and download the Learning Guide for this episode. You can also take a look at our ESL Podcast Store, with additional courses in Business and Daily English I think you will enjoy.

This episode is a dialogue between Melissa and Lee about a company that made something with a problem and had to get people to send it back to them in order to fix it. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Melissa: This is a disaster! If we have to recall 100,000 units, we’ll take a huge loss this year.

Lee: We have no choice. The product defect poses a safety hazard. If we don’t act quickly, we’ll have a huge liability issue on our hands.

Melissa: I think we’re blowing this out of proportion. Only a small amount of our June product run was affected.

Lee: Yes, but even one case of someone getting hurt because of the defect would be a PR nightmare, and that’s on top of the charges of negligence we’d have to face in court. We need to get ahead of this now.

Melissa: All right, all right. I guess we have no choice. Should we hold a press conference to announce the recall?

Lee: We’ll send out a press release first and then hold a press conference.

Melissa: I’m putting you in charge of it. Get it done.

Lee: You mean in charge of getting the press release sent out?

Melissa: I mean that and the press conference. You can face the press and answer their questions.

Lee: You’re throwing me to the wolves?

Melissa: Not at all. I’m helping you raise your profile in the company. You should be thanking me.

Lee: Somehow I don’t feel so grateful.

[end of dialogue]

The topic on this episode is a product recall. A “product” is a thing, usually a physical thing, that companies produce and sell. Just about anything physical can be a product: a computer, a microphone, a piece of paper – all of these are products. We often distinguish between products, which are typically physical, and “services.” A “service” would be, for example, something a lawyer might do for you. The lawyer isn’t selling you anything. The lawyer is charging you for his services (and quite a bit, I’m sure).

In this dialogue, Melissa begins by saying, “This is a disaster.” A “disaster” (disaster) is a crisis, a major problem that will be difficult to solve or recover from. There are “natural disasters” like earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods, as well as “man-made disasters” – things that humans cause.

Melissa says, “If we have to recall 100,000 units, we’ll take a huge loss this year.” “To recall” (recall) here refers to a company that makes something, a product, that has a problem, and it has to ask the people who bought the product to return the product back to the company so they can get a new product, one that works correctly, or to get a “refund” – their money back. The verb “to recall” can also mean to remember, but here it means something very different.

Melissa says that they will “take a huge loss this year.” A “loss” (loss) is when you spend more money than you bring in. A loss would be the opposite of profits. “Profit” is when you make money. A loss is when you lose money. Lee says, “We have no choice,” meaning we don’t have any other option. We have to do it. “The product defect poses a safety hazard.” A “product defect” (defect) is a problem in the product or a problem with the product.

So, for example, if you make a car and the brakes of the car don’t work properly, don’t work correctly, that would be a good example of a product defect. It would also be a good example of a product defect that poses a safety hazard. The word “poses” (poses) here just means presents or causes to happen. A “safety hazard” (hazard) is something that could hurt you or possibly even kill you.

Lee says, “If we don’t act quickly,” meaning if we don’t do something right now, “we’ll have a huge liability issue on our hands.” “Liability” (liability) refers to your responsibility, especially your financial responsibility in case something goes wrong. When Lee says, “We’ll have a huge liability issue,” he means that the company may have to pay out a lot of money to people, especially if people get hurt from their product.

He says we will have this “huge liability issue on our hands.” The expression “on our hands” or “on your hands” means belonging to someone, especially when we’re talking about responsibility for a problem. If you’re working on a project at work and suddenly you discover a big problem, you might say to your boss, “We have a problem on our hands,” meaning we have a problem here. Lee thinks they’ll have a liability problem if they don’t recall the product.

Melissa says, “I think we’re blowing this out of proportion.” “To blow (blow) something out of proportion (proportion)” means to act as if something were bigger or more important or more serious than it actually is. The other word we would use here would be “overreact” (overreact). “To overreact” is to blow things out of proportion, to make them seem as if they were bigger problems than they actually are.

Melissa says, “Only a small amount of our June product run was affected.” A “product run” would be a number of units that were made at the same time, that were manufactured at the same time. Melissa is saying that the defect in the product is only affecting a small number of the products that they made.

Lee says, “Yes, but even one case,” or one example, “of someone getting hurt because of the defect would be a PR nightmare.” “PR” stands for “public relations,” and here it refers to the publicity or the reputation of the company. A “nightmare” is a bad dream. We sometimes use it to describe a terrible situation. Lee continues, “And that’s on top of the charges of negligence we’d have to face in court.” “On top of” here means in addition to.

So, in addition to the PR nightmare, Lee says, there will also be charges of negligence. “Negligence” (negligence) is a term often used in the law to refer to the failure of someone to take care of someone or something that he is responsible for, especially if that failure results in or causes harm or even death. “Negligence” refers to a situation where you don’t want to harm someone, but you do things that harm someone, things that you should have not done or that you should have known not to do. Lee says the company will have to face charges of negligence in court.

He says, “We need to get ahead of this now.” “To get ahead of” something means to say and do whatever is necessary so that you can control a situation, a situation that is perhaps getting worse. Melissa says, “All right, all right. I guess we have no choice. Should we hold a press conference to announce the recall?” A “press (press) conference” is an event to which you invite reporters from television stations or newspapers in order to make a big announcement, in order to say something important about your company and its actions.

Melissa is suggesting they hold a press conference. Notice the verb “hold” is used, especially when we are talking about press conferences. Lee says, “We’ll send out a press release first and then hold a press conference.” A “press release” (release) is a document, either a piece of paper or perhaps a PDF file, that you send news organizations like television stations and newspapers and magazines, announcing something important about your company.

Melissa says, “I’m putting you in charge of it,” meaning you have to do it. “Get it done,” she says. Lee says, “You mean in charge of getting the press release sent out?” Melissa says, “I mean that and the press conference.” You can face the press and answer their questions. “To face” is used once again here to mean to have to deal with a difficult situation or to have to talk to and handle a certain group of people.

Lee says, “You’re throwing me to the wolves?” This expression “to throw (throw) someone to the wolves (wolves)” means to put someone in a difficult situation, especially a situation that might be hostile and where the person might have to answer difficult questions. “Wolves” is the plural of “wolf” (wolf), which is an animal, a sometimes dangerous animal. Lee is asking if he is going to have to suffer, basically, for the mistakes that the company made by having to hold a press conference and talk to reporters.

Melissa says, “Not at all,” meaning “No, I’m not throwing you to the wolves.” “I’m helping you raise your profile in the company. You should be thanking me.” “To raise (raise) your profile (profile)” means to do something so that other people notice you – to get attention, positive attention, from other people, especially in your company. Of course, Melissa isn’t trying to raise Lee’s profile by making him the person who has to do the press conference, but she acts as though that is what she were doing.

She even says, amazingly, “You should be thanking me,” meaning that Lee should be grateful – should say thank you for this assignment, this task. Lee says, “Somehow I don’t feel so grateful.” “Grateful” (grateful) means feeling thankful, wanting to express your thanks to someone. Lee doesn’t feel very grateful, very thankful, for having to do this job.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Melissa: This is a disaster! If we have to recall 100,000 units, we’ll take a huge loss this year.

Lee: We have no choice. The product defect poses a safety hazard. If we don’t act quickly, we’ll have a huge liability issue on our hands.

Melissa: I think we’re blowing this out of proportion. Only a small amount of our June product run was affected.

Lee: Yes, but even one case of someone getting hurt because of the defect would be a PR nightmare, and that’s on top of the charges of negligence we’d have to face in court. We need to get ahead of this now.

Melissa: All right, all right. I guess we have no choice. Should we hold a press conference to announce the recall?

Lee: We’ll send out a press release first and then hold a press conference.

Melissa: I’m putting you in charge of it. Get it done.

Lee: You mean in charge of getting the press release sent out?

Melissa: I mean that and the press conference. You can face the press and answer their questions.

Lee: You’re throwing me to the wolves?

Melissa: Not at all. I’m helping you raise your profile in the company. You should be thanking me.

Lee: Somehow I don’t feel so grateful.

[end of dialogue]

We’re all very grateful for the wonderful work done by our scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse. Thank you, Lucy.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2014 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
disaster – a crisis; a major problem that will be difficult to recover from

* When the school, post office, and police station flooded, it was a disaster.

to recall – for a company to say that there is a problem with its products and to ask sellers and buyers to return them to the company in exchange for a replacement or refund (money back)

* They were horrified to realize that their baby’s car seat had been recalled several months ago and they hadn’t known it.

loss – when costs are greater than revenues (income); the opposite of profits

* When the fungus started destroying coffee plants, many farmers took a loss for the year.

product defect – a problem with something that one has manufactured

* Consumers have started reporting a product defect. Apparently the phone stops functioning when the temperature drops below 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

safety hazard – something that could present a risk to one’s health or life; something that could cause injury or death

* Keeping bottles of household cleaners in a lower cabinet could be a safety hazard for young children.

liability – being held responsible or something, especially being made to pay as punishment for something bad that has happened

* Participants have to sign a statement that the organizers of the soccer team will not have any liability for any injuries that occurs while playing.

on (one’s) hands – belonging to someone, especially when talking about a problem; one’s responsibility

* If we don’t finish on time, we’ll have a major client problem on our hands.

to blow (something) out of proportion – to act as if something is bigger, more important, or more serious than it actually is; to overreact

* He doesn’t need to go to the hospital. It’s just a small cut. You’re blowing the injury out of proportion.

product run – the number of units manufactured at a particular time, often on one day or one short period of time

* When we’re using all the equipment at full capacity, our product run is 400,000 units.

PR nightmare – a public relations crisis; a situation that needs to be handled carefully and immediately to influence how the public perceives what has happened without hurting the company’s reputation or business

* When the newspapers reported that the antibiotic contained a deadly virus, it was a PR nightmare for the pharmaceutical company.

on top of – in addition to; plus

* We have to pay for Ann’s college tuition on top of our regular bills this month.

negligence – a failure to take care of someone or something that one is responsible for, especially when that failure results in harm or death

* Not taking your car in for maintenance for more than five years is a clear sign of negligence. Of course your car doesn’t run properly.

to get ahead of (something) – to be proactive; to say and do whatever is necessary so that one has some control over the situation and is not merely reacting to events and other people’s actions

* How are we going to get ahead of these bad news stories? We have to know what’s happening before the reporters start telling the world.

press conference – an event that reporters are invited to so that they can hear a spokesperson’s announcement, ask questions, and receive answers

* The company held a press conference to announce its expansion plans.

press release – a written document, usually 1-2 pages, announcing something important, sent to reporters in the hopes that they will write articles about it

* Will you write a press release when you hire the new CEO?

to throw (someone) to the wolves – to put something in a difficult position where he or she will be in a defensive position and will need to answer many questions or do many things in front of people who are hostile or aggressive

* The first time Chelsea stood in front of the judge and jury, she felt as if she had been thrown to the wolves.

to raise (one’s) profile – to do something that attracts favorable attention, especially making one more likely for a raise or promotion within a company

* When Blake got those new clients, he really raised his profile within the company.

grateful – feeling thankful; wanting to express thanks to someone

* We’re so grateful to you for allowing us to stay here for a few days.

Comprehension Questions
1. Which of these involves inviting people to an event?
a) A PR nightmare
b) A press conference
c) A press release

2. What does Lee mean when he says, “You’re throwing me to the wolves?”
a) He doesn’t want to be fired.
b) He is worried about facing the reporters.
c) He expects to get a promotion and a raise.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
loss

The word “loss,” in this podcast, means a financial loss, when costs are greater than revenues (income): “The company expects to have a loss in the third quarter.” The word “loss” can also refer to the feeling of missing someone: “It’s normal to cry when we experience loss.” Sometimes “loss” refers to the passing or death of someone: “It took her many years to recover from the loss of her husband.” The phrase “loss of life” means death: “Caution! Improper use of this machinery could result in loss of life.” Finally, the phrase “loss of limb” means the amputation (removal) of an arm or leg: “The Army is struggling to provide medical care of hundreds of veterans who suffered loss of limb during the war.”

to raise (one’s) profile

In this podcast, the phrase “to raise (one’s) profile” means to do something that attracts favorable attention, especially making one more likely for a raise or promotion within a company: “Do MBA programs teach students how to raise their profile to catch the attention of potential employers?” When talking about social media, a “profile” refers to basic information about oneself that one places on a website for others to see: “Facebook profiles include a person’s name, gender, birth date, relationship status, job, and more.” Finally, in a newspaper or magazine, a “profile” is a short article and/or list of facts about a person or company: “Having our profile published on the front page of the business section led to a huge increase in sales.”

Culture Note
Toy Safety

Toys can present many safety hazards, especially for “infants” (newborn babies) and “toddlers” (children who are learning how to walk). For that reason, many toys are “labeled” (with a sticker or tag providing information about something, especially something for sale) as not being “suitable” (appropriate) for children ages 0-3. Toys with small parts, for example, present “choking hazards,” because small parts could “break off” (become separated from the larger toy) and become “stuck” (fixed; cannot be moved) in the child’s throat, making it impossible for the child to breathe.

Lately there have been many concerns about the materials that toys are made from. For example, many parents are concerned about the presence of “BPA,” a chemical that is found in certain types of plastics. Now, many toys, bottles, and other items are labeled as “BPA-free,” meaning that it does not contain any BPA. Parents are also worried about the presence of “lead” (a heavy metal) and other “toxins” (substances that can make people sick) in the plastics and paints used to manufacture toys, so they “seek” (look for; try to get or find) “reassurance” (comfort) in the labels from manufacturers.

Electronic devices “marketed to” (intended for sale to) older children present additional safety hazards. “Faulty” (with problems; incorrect) “wiring” (how electronic devices are put together) could create “sparks” (very quick flames of electricity) that, when placed in a bed or next to clothing, for example, could create a fire.

Concerned about fire, toy manufacturers often make sure that their cloth items are “flame-resistant,” meaning they will not catch on fire easily. However, the chemicals used to make things nonflammable can be “toxic” (containing toxins, which are harmful to people), so parents may “find themselves in the predicament of” (being in a situation where a difficult decision must be made) choosing between nontoxic and flame-resistant toys.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - b