Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sunday, June 17, 2007


What started out as a consumer survey for a British Sunday newspaper on the economics of making a Reebok shoe turned out into an international scandal for the multi-national company.

Andrew Drummond had been commissioned to do a breakdown on the business from the factory floor to the retail outlet for the features pages of the Sunday Mail in Scotland.  He visited the company's factories in Bangkok. Although Reebok had denied permission the local company Bangkok Rubber had nothing to hide.

There was nothing wrong with the factories. In fact they were pretty much state of the art, although the staff were paid little more than the minimum wage - not unusual in Thailand but probably of interest to the end consumer.

The mark up from factory floor to the shop was in the region of 1000 per cent. Again this was not abnormal in the trade but perhaps interesting to those paying £50 for a pair.

The firm's major costs were, and remain to this day, on marketing and of course their executive staff.

By co-incidence and some misfortune the International Vice-Presidents of Reebok had turned up in the Thai capital for a convention during Andrew Drummond's survey and showed just how some of that 'mark up' was being spent.

Reebok executives cleared out two bars in the red-light area of Patpong and took the girls on a cruise up Bangkok's Chao Phraya River.

Some of the girls were reported to have earned more money in a few hours that the girls in the factories worked in a month.

Reebok attempted to stop the story being publish and sent a car load of lawyers from London to Glasgow to get an injunction on the story. They withdrew and went back home when the newspaper showed the lawyers the photographs. After publication by the Sunday Mail the story was subsequently syndicated worldwide.

Reebok is a 'champion' of human rights. Each year it awards its own Human Rights Prize.

But not everybody accepts the award.

* Like this chap for instance


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