Let the Stupid Buyer Beware Dept.: Anti-Viral Kleenex
(February 2009)

The Ethics Scoreboard’s current favorite among deceitful labels: the Kleenex

box claim that their new anti-viral tissues “kill 99.9 %” of germs. After you’ve bought these miracle tissues based on that bold-lettered assertion on the box, you then might read the small print, which explains…

"[The] tissue has three soft layers, including a moisture-activated middle layer that kills 99.9% of cold and flu viruses in the tissue within 15 minutes."

So the germs in the tissue are killed in 15 minutes. That sure is a boon, especially for those who leave their used tissues around for that long before tossing them, use them as wall hangings, sculpt them into nudes, or who like to feed them to the kids. It wouldn’t do anything for my cold, unfortunately, unless I stuffed the tissues up my nose until they disappeared and snorted them into my mucous-filled lungs. And even then…the .1% of germs that survive are the ones you have to watch out for. The little buggers multiply.

The tissues have tiny bumps on them that contain a sulphate and citric acid, and they apparently do kill germs. The problem is that the box’s statement invite the inattentive, the gullible and the biologically clueless---that is, about 75% of the population, conservatively speaking---to assume that the tissues will kill the germs in their bodies, not in the Kleenex. I don’t know about you, but after I blow my nose into a tissue, I cease to regard the resulting tissue cargo as a threat.

Deceit is a literally true statement that is intended to make a reader or listener come to a false conclusion. (This is a language spoken prominently on Madison Avenue and in Washington D.C.) The Kleenex label is deceitful.

And for those of you who doubt that Kleenex is counting on consumer misunderstanding to sell its products, here is an example of how highly it rates its users’ intelligence. This is, says Kimberly-Clark on its website, a “frequently asked question”:

“Q: Do viruses have to hit the blue dots to be effective?”

And the answer:

“No. The virus is killed when it hits any part of the middle layer.”

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