Watsons Malaysia Explains Itself – Badly.

It’s been one week since I blogged about a bottle of tampered-with, over-the-counter medicine that I purchased at Watsons, Asia’s largest personal care chain (a drug store, basically). The blog post – and the story behind it – went totally viral in Malaysia thanks to Samantha Khor who wrote it up for says.com, a hugely popular Malaysian website. Since then, I’ve received a bit of clarity on what, precisely, happened.

But first, let’s back up to last Tuesday. Out of curiosity, I returned to the Watsons outlet where I’d bought that bottle of Panadol, looking to see if the chain was still selling tampered-with packages. What I found astounded me: not only were they selling a tampered-with package – they were selling the very same bottle of Panadol I had returned to the store several days earlier for having been tampered with (easily identifiable due to the serial number on the box)! Below, a photo of the returned bottle on the shelf. Compare it – and the serial number – to the photo I posted on Monday – they are one and the same (a fact later confirmed, which I’ll get to).IMG_2255

I was planning to blog that on Thursday, but before I could I received a phone call from Danny Hoh, Head of Marketing at Watsons, on Thursday afternoon. Continue reading

An Update on My Watsons/GSK Kerfuffle

My Monday blog post taking issue with Watsons Malaysia and its handling of product safety and social media has been circulated much more widely than I ever expected. This is, in large part, due to says.com, a Malaysian news site that covered it on Wednesday, with this story by Samantha Khor.

Thanks to that story Watsons reached out to me late Thursday afternoon, and again at 10 PM on Thursday night. During the second call Watsons agreed to give me a written statement on steps they’ve taken and will take in response to my post. I believe that I will have that at some point on Friday, and when I do, I’ll put together a blog post covers everything that’s happened – including the steps that Watsons told me on the phone that it will take to ensure product safety in its Malaysian stores.

[UPDATE: On Friday evening, just as I was about to publish an update, I spoke to GSK, the manufacturer of Panadol. Based on that conversation, I’m going to wait until Monday to publish an update.]

In the meantime, I have a request of readers in Malaysia: if you have a moment could you please stop by your local Watsons outlet and check whether the box seals on 50-tablet bottles of Panadol are intact. If the seal is broken, could you send a photo of the box, the broken seal, and – this is important – the serial number on the box, to ShanghaiScrap at gmail.com.

More soon.

Watsons Malaysia Isn’t Safe for Shopping or Social Media – a Shanghai Scrap investigation.

[aka the triumphant return of Shanghai Scrap, shopping avenger.]

Last week I badly wanted a bottle of Panadol (a product my US readers would know as Tylenol, ie acetaminphen), so I went down to my local Watsons (specifically, the Amcorp Mall location in Petaling Jaya) – the largest “personal care” chain aka “drug store” chain in Asia – and bought a bottle. When I arrived home and prepared to open it, I noticed something very, very troubling – the safety seal on the box had been cut open and then re-sealed. See photo below.


Now, that’s a safety violation of the first order. In the US, for example, it’s a violation of FDA guidelines – and I assume that’s the case the world over, including in Malaysia. The idea, of course, is to protect consumers from anyone who might – for whatever reason – tamper with the medicine inside (regulations inspired by the Chicago Tylenol murders of 1982). Out of curiosity, I opened the opened box, anyway (because I had a really, really bad headache). And inside it went from bad to worse: the bottle lacked a safety seal. In other words, thanks to Watsons, this package of Panadol was unsafe; anybody could’ve altered the contents. Continue reading

The Moon Shines Just as Bright

It’s Mid-Autumn Festival time aka Mooncake Festival here in the Chinese-speaking parts of Asia. When I lived in China, I mostly associated it with eating extremely heavy pastries (mooncakes ) and crowded restaurants. But of course there’s much more to it, as I was reminded in a conversation with a Malaysian Chinese acquaintance who grew up in Penang, a heavily Chinese part of Malaysia, in the 1960s. On the occasion of the festival, which occurs during the full moon, folks in her town would gather, eat a large meal and – in a tradition she recalls as ‘old fashioned’ – pray to the Moon Faerie.

Then this happened.

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Or, as she put it to me: “Who wants to pray to an American flag?”

Now, this wasn’t a statement of anti-Americanism (believe me). Or, as some of my more logically-minded friends might assume, an instance of reason triumphing over faith. It’s just that where once there was a Moon Faerie, now there was a flag. Or, as my acquaintance’s mother was said to have put it: “Why would I want to pray to an American flag?” The reaction, I’m told, was not sadness but anger. To my ears, at least, it sounded as if an uninvited dinner guest had crashed tradition.

I don’t want to take this too far. I’m told the old traditions in rural Penang were dying out anyway by the time Neil Armstrong put his flag in the lunar soil. Far from being a myth buster, that man on the moon was more of an irritant to a culture that was still trying to maintain itself against ever-approaching modernity. Of course, in the end, everyone adapted, the festival is still celebrated, and more likely than not, a few folks still point their eyes heavenward, to the Moon Faerie.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival from Malaysia.

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