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11/01/2015

Hit a Myth

There are moments when the guidance offered by two pieces of conventional wisdom collide in contradiction and prompt a direction setting decision be made. On one hand the old expression "Let sleeping dogs lie," indicates that if something is not being too disruptive, the smarter thing is to not disturb it by calling attention to it or stirring it up. On the other hand the adage, "silence means consent" conveys if you do not openly oppose that with which you disagree, you run the risk of people misinterpreting the absence of a contrary perspective as agreement or resignation.

You see it often in a debate, one side makes a bold accusatory claim and the other side has to decide whether to actively engage and risk calling further attention to the assertion or simply refuse to honor it with a response and hope others understand it as ludicrous or false. As the association serving as the "Voice of Food Retail," FMI must make that decisive call each time we see another account pop up claiming to unveil the manipulative marketing secrets of the supermarket or purporting to blow the lid off the sneaky psychology of the grocer. The medium and format may change, but these recurring exposes all bear the familiar scent of fear-baiting embellishment and tend to hit the same tired notes. That puts us as advocates of the food retail industry in the place of having to choose the battle of when, where, how and how hard do we seek to squelch these myths. In the age of social media, where mistruths left uncontested are given open range to spread like wildfire, the notion of letting sleeping dogs lie is simply no longer an option.

To help in challenging supermarket myths that are all too frequently repeated, FMI has added a special page to our website dedicated to dispelling the inaccurate notions sometimes leveled against the food retail industry. Since launching this page, some have already responded to our invitation to add to the growing collection of supermarket myths in need of being put to rest. And in fairness, some have accused us of kicking a sleeping dog.

The rationale behind the myth busting web page is to provide our members with resources to confront the misperception being perpetuated every time they hear or see it. If we challenge the myths with facts, we lesson the likelihood of repetition. Also, because most myths have a glimmer of truth about them, if we provide a balanced response perhaps it will highlight the facts, inform the public and address an issue rather than distort it.

For instance, one of the favorite myths frequently trotted out is regarding shopping cart handles being a microbiological health hazard. If we can present the reality that yes, cart handles are in the public domain like door knobs, elevator buttons and handrails, therefore do carry germs, but then work with the myth evangelist to scale back the hyperbole and focus on consumer education, we will provide more than sensationalism, we will offer solutions.

An article instructing consumers how to amplify the cart cleaning protocols followed by most retailers and reduce germ exposure by using the hand wipes their retailer makes available might not be as exciting as referring to cart handles as grocery store germ warfare, but which approach actually helps mitigate customer exposure to germs? Visit our supermarket myth page on www.fmi.org and tell us what you think.