Bath Salt Makers Face Strange Reputational Risk
Saturday, July 7, 2012

I’m willing to bet that “drug-fueled, canibal zombies causing reputational risk” never came up on any corporate risk management plans. But that’s just the problem that companies that sell bath salts now face.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, just Google “bath salts.” Five years ago, the results page would likely return only mentions of the aromatic, colorful crystals designed to accompany you in a nice, warm, soothing, relaxing bath.

Now? Yeah … not so much.

The results I came across on the first page include info from on an “emerging and dangerous products”; a Washington Post headline heralding a “Zombie Apocalypse,” and an ABC News article titled “Bath Salts: Use of a Dangerous Drug Increasing Across U.S.”

This isn’t exactly the type of search-engine association that Lee Williamson, president of the San Francisco Bath Salt Company, ever expected his company to receive. San Francisco Bath Salts Company sells the bath salts you put in your tub. It has nothing to do with the “bath salts” drug similar to methanphetamine that has been increasingly (and often erroneously) linked to bizarre, violent attacks throughout the United States.

The frenzy began — literally and figuratively — when a naked, rampaging man reportedly tried to eat the face of a homeless man in Miami. Ever since, the media has continued to hype a series of gruesome and just-plain-strange incidents that have any connection to the drug.

But as Time details, the companies who sell legitimate, harmless bath salts are also being caught up in the depravity.

So now, Williamson and his company are trying to redraw the line between their product and the drug that’s gripped the nation. The industry has seen slumping demand since 2009, as consumers have cut down on luxury bath items, Headline News reports. But now that they have to contend with the drug abusers who want to rip faces off, it’s game time.

“I’m sure people are afraid of actual bath salts from the headlines and have not pulled the trigger because they are confused by the headlines, which is a shame because they have the opposite healing effects of this deadly drug with an unfortunate name,” Williamson told HLN.

I’ve heard of a lot of odd “emerging risks” in my day, but I would have to say this is the most unusual. Just goes to show that reputational risk can come from anywhere nowadays.


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