Complaints over Pampers Dry Max diapers is the latest sign of the growing power of social media to organize consumer protests against corporations.
Since mid-April, hundreds of parents have voiced their dissatisfaction with the new version of the disposable diapers, which they claim has caused serious rashes. They're pushing for a Pampers recall.
The Facebook pages – with names like "Bring back the Pampers Cruisers, Dump Dry Max!" "Recall Pampers Dry Max diapers!" and "Pampers, Just Admit you made a mistake already!" – have put increasing pressure on Procter & Gamble, the makers of Pampers.
On Wednesday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said it was investigating Pampers. On Friday, a digital media site reported that there was a Pampers recall, generating more online interest even though the report turned out to be false.
If indeed there is a link between Pampers Dry Max technology and diaper rash, the Facebook pages will have served as an important rallying point for worried parents.
"My daughter is 2 1/2, used nothing but Pampers since day one and she never had any problems," writes Dorothy McDonald on the "Bring back the Pampers Cruisers" site. "On the second day of her wearing Dry Max, she started to SCREAM in pain when we wiped her and she was all red."
"I will never buy them again either," writes Laura Wolf on the "Recall Pampers" site. "Pampers has lost my trust."
Does this online concentration of concerned parents mean that Pampers is causing an abnormally high number of rashes? Not according to Procter & Gamble.
The company says more than 2 billion of its Dry Max diapers have been used and that it has gotten fewer than two complaints about diaper rash for every 1 million diapers it has sold – an average that's held even before the new product was introduced. These numbers suggest the company has gotten roughly 4,000 complaints, perhaps fewer. The main Facebook group opposing Dry Max has more than 6,800 members. The Facebook pages have attracted a total 700 people so far (assuming there's no overlap among them). [Editor's note: This paragraph was updated May 11 to include numbers from a Facebook group.]
"For a number of weeks, Pampers has been a subject of growing but completely false rumors fueled by social media that its new Dry Max diaper causes rashes and other skin irritations," the company said in a May 6 press release. "We have comprehensively and thoroughly investigated these and other claims and have found no evidence whatsoever that the reported conditions were in any way caused by materials in our product. Independent physicians, highly respected in the field, have analyzed our data and have confirmed our conclusions."
In the supercharged social media world, it may be hard to know whom to believe. If your infant is experiencing problems with a disposable diaper for that matter, it makes sense to switch immediately. Otherwise, the federal CPSC suggests patience.
"It's important to look to the CPSC for the latest information on this issue and to be aware that there is false information that is circulating," says spokeswoman Patty Davis. "We are at a very early stage in our investigation."