3 Horrible Translation Mistakes

With the explosion in global marketing, a whole new language has sprung forth. While it doesn’t have an official name, let’s call it “Lost in Translation”. Most of these mistakes are just funny and although they affect sales, they do not cause harm. But, some marketing messages are downright dreadful and could cause great harm t o the consumer. Either way, if the company had used the services of a professional translation agency, they would have saved themselves time, money and perhaps grief.

Mead Johnson Baby Products

In 2003, Mead Johnson Nutritional experienced a serious translation error of their marketing materials from English to Spanish. Due to erroneous preparation instructions on the label, Mead Johnson was forced to recall 4.6 million cans of baby formula.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, preparation as translated on the label could have resulted in: irregular heartbeat, seizures, renal failure and possibly death.

Had this horrible translation mistake not been rectified timely, Mead Johnson would have had to deal with serious financial implications both from government fines and litigation. Additionally, consumers would have suffered serious life changing issues.

Willie Ramirez Intoxicado

Marketing is not the only field that suffers from cultural misunderstandings and poor interpretation. In Willie Ramirez’s case, a horrible translation mistake was debilitating.

Willie had gone out with a friend the evening of January 22, 1980, when suddenly he developed a headache that felt like “someone was sticking a needle through my head”.

The South Florida hospital thought the comatose Willie had intentionally overdosed on drugs. His Cuban family and friends attempted to explain Willie had eaten a bad hamburger for lunch and they believed him intoxicado.

The doctors only spoke Spanish, but a bilingual staff translated intoxicado to intoxicated. A professional translator would have known that in Cuba, intoxicado indicated “poisoned” rather than intoxicated, which implied Willie was drunk or high on drugs.

It turned out to be neither. Willie actually had an intracerebeller hemorrhage. Since medical testing pointed to a drug overdose, the doctors treated him accordingly. Even worse, he bled for two days while still unconscious. Ultimately, the treatment delay and subsequent med error led to Willie’s becoming quadriplegic.

A law suit, supposedly covering the span of Willie’s life, settled for $71 million dollars.

What’s In a Name?

Many large corporations have inadvertently named their products and/or services seemingly innocent names, only to discover something got “lost in translation”.

Take Hoover, the widely known vacuum cleaner manufacturer. One of their machines named Zyklon created an unfortunate association in Germany. Zyklon translates to “cyclone” in English. However, Zyklon B was the name of a lethal insecticide commonly used in gas chambers during the Nazi Holocaust.

One poorly translated word can cause horrible consequences! Pretty scary, isn’t it?

Find a Commercial Law Attorney for Your Business

Good management is essential to keeping any business afloat. So is good legal advice. One person who can help you manage your company’s legal affairs is an experienced commercial law attorney. Commercial law is the term used to refer to the various statutes, regulations, and other legal requirements involved in forming, operating, and dissolving a business. Businesses are considered legal entities that must abide by various laws, including contract laws, environmental laws, employment laws, intellectual property laws, and laws governing commercial transactions, among others. Commercial law is extremely diverse and complex. To ensure that your company is complicit with the various laws affecting your business, you should consult an experienced commercial litigation attorney before start-up.

There are many lawyers to choose from, so it is best to do research to find the right person for the job. One good source of advice is other entrepreneurs who have built successful businesses. They can often refer you to commercial lawyers who helped them achieve their goals. You can also talk to other people who have experience working with lawyers. When you find a lawyer who you believe is a good fit, you should meet with him. Talk to him, ask questions. The following are important criteria to consider when choosing a lawyer for your business:

The lawyer you choose should have experience and expertise in commercial law. He should be able to guide you in choosing what kind of business entity to establish. He should also have experience with taxation. He should be able to create a variety of business contracts for use in all of your business dealings.

– The lawyer should be able to defend you and the business should contract disputes arise.

– A business lawyer should be up to date with changes to business laws and be able to give you sound advice.

A commercial law attorney can help your business in a variety of legal matters, including taxation, employment contracts, intellectual property protection and compliance with various environmental and consumer protection laws at both the state and federal level. In addition, the attorney can represent your business interests in a variety of transactions, including real estate transactions, contract disputes, product liability lawsuits, and much, much more.

Product Liability Law

product liability lawIf your business offers products of any type to consumers, making certain that the products are safe is imperative. The most stringent responsibility, of course falls upon the producer of the product, but they are by no means the only one who assumes a measure of that responsibility. Distribution venues such as wholesalers and shops which carry the product also assume some part of the responsibility to ensure that the product is safe.

What are the Consequences of Failing to Be Responsible

Failure to meet that responsibility can be very serious. The consequences which arise from it may be legal action as well as imprisonment or very hefty fines. Even without those kinds of penalties, the result of a lawsuit could be legal bills from which you and your company might not recover.

You can and sometimes will be sued individually by others who have been injured in some way or been damaged by the use of the product.

What Do Businesses Need to Know About Product Safety?

According to Hall Tanner & Hargett of Florence, AL, many businesses today do not understand the full ramifications of product liability law. They are unprepared for the consequences that might arise if they are entangled in a product liability lawsuit.

The law says that you have certain responsibilities as a purveyor of a given product. Among those responsibilities are:

  • Actively monitoring the safety of any products that you sell to ensure that none have been recalled or found to have safety problems.
  • Providing any information which you have available to you to your customers to help them to understand and to avoid the safety risks that may be inherent in a product.
  • Warning consumers about any possible safety problems that might arise from the use of a given product.
  • Taking immediate action to remove the product from your shelf and notify customers if a safety issue is found which has not been previously noted.

What Does the Law Require?

Every shop and wholesaler is required by law to take an active and proactive approach to the issue of consumer safety. Doing otherwise may make you guilty by reason of negligence and cost you your business or even your freedom.

Where Can Our Business Find Out More About Product Safety?

Extra care should be taken when you are selling toys, food, medication, or high risk goods such as fireworks or other flammable materials. There are very specific regulations which apply to these items, which may be found here on the Trading Standards Institute website.

Business and Ethics

Some may say in jest that organizations are reminiscent of a three-ring circus. Well, within those three rings it is the procurement professionals who are the ethical tightrope walkers.

Right now, there are individuals in every corporation who are treading the ethical fine-line because of expediency, undue pressure or perhaps because they don’t know any better. Fear of potential ramifications to career and reputation can, ironically, keep many from questioning clearly inappropriate behavior from someone they perceive to have more power than they do within the organizational environs.

Why is it so difficult for businesses to consistently maintain high ethical standards? As an independent observer, many would sit on the throne of judgment and consider themselves imbued with a much higher moral standard and wax poetic about the failings of others.

But life isn’t black and white. In fact, right is rarely diametrically opposed to wrong. It is sometimes easier to “turn a blind eye” as opposed to following Hamlet’s path and suffer “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. Many situations are cloaked with uncertainty, incomplete information, multiple points of view, contradictory responsibilities and pressure, external or self-imposed.

Procurement is a hot bed of ethical challenges and too often procurement professionals are left feeling that there is no net to catch them when they take the ethically correct stance. Choices made by those in procurement can affect the entire corporation. The processes within purchasing ensure that fair and objective decisions are made. Yet other areas of the enterprise may have another agenda. Yet if procurement waivers on its ethical foundation, it traverses the tightrope without a balance bar, and discovering in the process that there is no net to catch them below.

The ethics of an organization are determined by the actions of the top leadership on down. Ethics are not bottom-up in the enterprise. Leadership and the corporation as a whole must value ethics. If the bending of the rules results in accolades as a result of increased short term revenue, or other perceived benefit, then many in the business will rightly believe that ethics don’t matter, performance does. In other words, the end justifies the means. That is of course until the issue hits the front page of the newspaper and then the organizational navel-gazing commences.

Procurement professionals need to embrace a standard that is above reproach, even when they believe that the rest of the organization is acting like the ethics circus clowns. In some cases it may mean that a job or position needs to be risked. It is important to remember that the perception of reputation is the reality. As Lady Macbeth discovered the taint can’t be washed away when it is perceived that one’s “hands are dirty”. If a job is lost because of an ethical stance, at least neither your reputation is lost, nor are your career options in the procurement field.

Although a myriad of ethical issues await procurement on a daily basis, there are three key ones which provide the basis for many a sleepless night because of the inane pressure to “get with the program” or “turn a blind eye”. These are reciprocal business awards, conflicts of interest and maverick spending.


Mention reciprocal business to most procurement professionals and an audible groan can be heard. At its simplest, reciprocal business is any arrangement under which a seller of one product or service buys another product or service from one of his or her customers. It is a basic quid pro quo. However, as many in purchasing can attest, there is often more “quid” than “quo”. Continue reading