Friday, November 21, 2008

Your thoughts & views

With the recent CPSIA decisions last week, what are your thoughts and views on how this will impact your business and the economic climate?


Anonymous said...

Hi Rick,
I watched your CPSC presentation on you tube and thought you gave a very compelling argument. I, too, am a manufacturer of educational products that I fear will be subject to the new CPSIA law. My products are "primarily intended for" parents and caregivers, but do involve the participation of children. This can be achieved without the child ever coming into physical contact with any part of my products. My company's mission is to help combat childhood obesity - a cause, I believe, that deserves as much pragmatic solutions as possible. I now find myself worried about marketing, and changing certain aspects of the product that help make it so effective. What this law is doing is sabotaging potential innovation that could actually HELP children. I am sure you know this frustration first hand.

My fear is the obvious - that these products will fall within this ever-so large CPSIA scope. What I find just so ironic, to the point of it being almost ulcer-inducing, is that my company and product line (which is innovative and very effective) is fighting against an epidemic that will effect 1 in 3 children by 2010 (according to experts). This epidemic is fueled by the food industry through marketing to children, adding artificial preservatives, chemicals and "pseudo-nutrients" just to lure kids in... and keep them hooked on ... their products. Think about this... 1 in 3 kids are expected to be either overweight or obese by 2010. Wouldn't the CPSA be better served by going after the food industry and the multi-billion dollar corporations within it? Their sanctimonious position on child safety and protection is a huge hypocrisy and they should be called out on it.

Etienne Veber said...

I am Rick Woldenberg's business partner and I am responsible for running the day to day operations of three small/medium size educational product companies: Learning Resources, Educational Insights and Northpoint Horizons.

40 years ago Barbara Tuchman wrote a provocative book about what she called the "March of Folly" of human societies. I humbly suggest that this book be a required reading to all members of Congress and their staff. The premise of the book is to try to understand why societies continue to go down a path of self destruction in face of overwhelming and growing evidence that the very path they are engaged in will result in the actual destruction of its existing social structure!

Over the last 24 hours, I had to deal with a large US corporation (QVC network) which has just announced that they will stop selling ANY toy or similar items as of January 1st, 2009 ANYWHERE in the US due to the new California exception. I also had to deal with a very large educational distribution company which is taking a completely unreasonable position as to what constitute a toy, an educational products or a science item. Why do they do that? Simply out of fear and lack of clarity. Who is going to suffer? Consumers, teachers, students, and law abiding US small and mid sized companies with impeccable safety track records, like ours. And for what benefit? None whatsoever in terms of safety, with the notable exception of the enrichment of various testing lab companies. I was also in direct contact with two trade associations that represent small/very small retailers around the country (NARTS and ASTRA). Both told me of the many phone calls they are receiving of overwhelmed members of their associations calling literally crying over the phone and asking for advice as they face certain bankruptcy for their local businesses and personal finances. These are housewives, mothers, teachers that simply do not understand what is happening! In short we are starting to experience chaos in the market place. The very chaos that Rick has repeatedly warned against in his various messages over the last 2 months.

How many more signs do we need before real leadership is exercised here? Who will have the political courage to face the reality and "save" this piece of regulation in order to achieve the stated outcome of better regulation with a common sense approach to the various implementation issues that arise from such piece of legislation? Who will take the time to inform themselves about the details of the CPSIA and realize that most of the children industry actors are good, law abiding citizens trying to make a positive difference in the world and their local communities?

If this was a SNL piece, it would be silly funny. Sadly, it is our daily reality and soon, unless action is being taken, many people will be unemployed, financially bankrupt and schools, teachers, students will not find the products they so desperately need to improve their knowledge in science, math and language arts. All this so that a few politicians could stand in front of the media and proclaim their outrage of various recalls from large companies. But wait, the companies that had their products recalled are not complaining because they have the financial means to deal with the additional testing bureaucratie that we are imposing and they certainly are in no position to challenge the political direction of the moment. So they will survive, but the "good guys" won't.

Is that the American way? Another example of the March of Folly? I seriously hope not.

Etienne Veber

Anonymous said...

Etienne Veber,

This is a fantastic commentary. If you have not already, I would try to get this to the mainstream media. What this new legislation is doing to your company and countless others is outrageous to say the least. We live in America, for God's sake! What is happening here??

Rick Woldenberg, Chairman - Learning Resources Inc. said...


Thanks for your comment. Your concern about the law is well-founded. This overly-complex and poorly thought-through law is causing enormous problems and many unintended consequences. Of course, the primary victims will be low volume (specialty market) products which cannot be sold profitably with all the extra costs imposed by the law. There is no data suggesting that these products, from shoes to tennis rackets to lamps to toys to Harry Potter books to your products, are dangerous or ever were. That is totally lost in the discussion. Unfortunately, with the law on the books, instead of speaking in common sense terms about the real risks that kids are exposed to, we are forced to defend absurd and fantastic concepts like the possibility of the presence of phthalates in raw wood or lead in cotton t-shirts. I am sure we have better things to do in this weak economy than waste our time on this nonsense. It's time to let business get back to business, and concentrate our safety assets on the real safety issues. Imaginary risks can wait!

Please feel free to use your identity next time and share your contact information. We need to build our community and work together to defeat this common enemy. Thanks.


Wendy Romero/Bobs and Bits said...

I saw your presentation on youtube & was also present at the blogradio show tonight. How will I be affected by all of this? As an artist/handpainter of mostly one of a kind children's products, I seem to have a triple whammy. 1) I create products for children 2) I use paint -- which no one can tell me clearly how I can ever be in compliance without testing literally hundreds of colors and 3) one of a kind items can't be third party tested anyway without being destroyed. Here's how I'll be affected -- I'll be out of business. Not only will my livelihood be affected (even though it's part-time), but something that I love doing will be taken away. I have been made to feel like I'm a criminal for doing absolutely nothing wrong...sorry not made to feel like I'm a criminal -- I actually am a criminal by February 10th.

Rick Woldenberg, Chairman - Learning Resources Inc. said...

Wendy, don't want to be the bearer of bad news . . . but you are right on. It's ridiculous, unfair and surreal. You have a strong voice, I suggest that you write a letter to the editor to as many papers as you can, call, email and fax your Congressman and Senators, and stay tuned to act with the community of affected companies and individuals. You are not alone. There are thousands of companies, big and small, affected by this law. It's even more interesting if you take into account the thousands of Moms who are up in arms about this law. Check out CPSIA Moms on Google - that will keep you plenty busy. If we can harness the power of this large community (soon), we might be able to get something done to stave off disaster. Thanks for watching this blog.


KRISTI said...

Thanks for everything you are doing to get our voices heard. I was only introduced to you this morning when I stumbled upon your you tube video and then heard you speak tonight on the radio show.

I am an Etsy small business owner and a mother of two and I can't decide which part of me is more enraged. I worked full time in corporate retail for years until I finally settled down to something I actually enjoy doing and that also allows me to spend ample time with my children. My products are made with love and care and are on the verge of extinction. The shop owner in me is heartbroken but the mom in me is just plain pissed off I was pissed off when I had to toss a half dozen Thomas trains but that is nothing compared to the anger I feel now. I do not want my children's lives filled with mindless, plastic, noisy toys and generic imported clothing. I want to raise my children to experience art & creativity & quality...and these rights are being stolen from me. Even worse than that, they are being stolen from moms just like me all over the country that have NO idea what is about to hit them. That is both terrifying and unjust.

Anyway, sorry to ramble. Really just wanted to say thanks...and glad you're here.


Diana Adams said...

Hi Rick, Along with Bridal Sewing, I make little flower girls dresses and I sell them on Ebay. I buy my fabric by the bolt on ebay, or elsewhere online for $1 a yard. I only buy 100% cotton, but it does have a pretty color or print on it. Buttons I buy. Thread, Zippers, snaps & hooks & eyes.
I cant afford to test everything!
I also alter clothing for children.
What about that hook & Eye or button I add to a dress I've altered for a child?
There are so many levels of what ifs here....This is all I know how to do. I am 50 years old and have been sewing bridal for others since I was 15. My Grammy talk me this! She said I could do this till I retired! So now I have to age discriminate. There is no other way. I have to go adults only or else. Not good in my book!
Thanks for all you have been doing.
I saw your video on youtube, I dodnt know how on earth you kept a straight face. I couldn't have.
Blessings to you,
Diana Adams

Valerie Jacobsen said...

I owned a used bookstore and sell children's books. According to my lawyer, I will no longer be able to sell used children's literature after 2-10-2009.

Ours is a very small business. Maybe I would never be caught, but I'm not going to put Goodnight Moon in a plain brown wrapper and hand it under the counter with 5 years in jail on the table.

Dennis Blackmore said...


I just want to show support from the UK representing Europe. I am sure that any batlles you win in the USA will benefit companies in our industry over here.

Etienne said...


May be you want to write to various congress members the importance of many other countries of the small/medium size children companies based in the US? They are a great source of innovation and creative ideas worldwide on how to stimulate creativity and learning for children. The CPSIA will effectively destroy the opportunity to export what's good about America.

Considering our track record over the last few years as a country, I would imagine that is not something we should treat casually. May be you can even get a few other educational distributors to write letters as well?



Rick Woldenberg, Chairman - Learning Resources Inc. said...

I get so frustrated when I read these comments. The CPSIA is such self-inflicted injury. I happen to collect antique children's books (anyone have a good "Struwwelpeter" for me?) so the very notion that these books might become "illegal" is beyond outrageous to me. I am writing Congress again tonight.