Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Right now, I am cleansing my mind by attending a business class. So, while Rome burns, I am not fiddling but I am trying to think "Big Thoughts". Yesterday, we discussed a car company with a big customer service problem (hmmm). In particular, they had several customers who were very angry over car quality problems - what should the car company do? Well, the car company wasn't too motivated about helping these customers because (a) the customers were deemed whiny and "professional complainers", and (b) the car company's Customer Service folks were very focused on how hard they worked to provide service and their implementation of a wonderful "Red Carpet" warranty program and generally preferred to talk about how well-intentioned they were. Our instructor informed us that most companies tend to assign negative attributes to people who complain (e.g., "whiny") rather than deal with the substance of the issue, and that 75% of all companies eventually "calcify" against their customers. What a terrible statistic, and even worse, what a terrible result! It gave me a lot to think about, as we pride ourselves on our strong relations with dealers and our consumers.

But it also made me think about the CPSIA and our evolving relationship with Congress. Has Congress calcified against us? Are they no better at listening than the hypothetical car company? It's an interesting question, isn't it? Having reflected on this question, I say the answer is no - and yes. In fact, your screams have been heard, and Congress is acting. The people who are listening and acting, however, are your representatives. These are the people who have no "skin in the game", the ones who are Government by the People and For the People. Their job is to listen to you and to help you when you need it most.

However, not everyone is listening, and there are strong signs of calcification in Congress toward us in some critical quarters. The authors of the bill, as evidenced by the January 16th letter to the CPSC, seem to be deaf to our arguments and pleas. The data and other information you brought forward have only elicited a letter insisting that the law be conservatively and rigidly implemented as written. The January 16 letter indicates an unwillingness to compromise and appears to be an attempt to prop up (justify) the CPSIA rather than acknowledge its defects. As we know from observing American car companies, this strategy can have tragic consequences. . . .

The moral of the story has yet to be written. If Congress remains self-satisfied and unwilling to contemplate its errors, if they refuse to surface their problems and instead focus on justifying their processes and their defective law, the results are predictable and inevitable. The House and Senate leadership need to wake up to the reality of this law. Safety can be achieved through more rational, less penal means. They need to figure this out before it's too late. It's time to hit the "pause button" to allow for this work to be completed.

Finally, on this Inaugural Day, I want to close with thoughts of forgiveness and renewal. These are important words for those of us opposing the CPSIA. With a new administration in place, regardless of the politics, we can move for a fresh start to appropriate legislation on safety. The past need not govern our future in children's product safety anymore than other policies of the prior Administration. It's time for a fresh start!



Connie said...

New administration - same players. You can shuffle the deck but you're still playing the same game.

Quote of the Day: "The hazardous substance lead was banned from house paint in 1978. U.S. food canners quit using lead solder in 1991. And a 25-year phaseout of lead in gasoline reached its goal in 1995."

read it here: http://www.fda.gov/FDAC/features/1998/198_lead.html

And they want us to phase it out of all children's products in six month???

trinlayk said...

When I worked in customer service years ago... I was regularly disciplined for taking the time/trouble to actually try to solve the customers' issues.

"You aren't handling enough calls."
Never mind that a large % of calls were customers calling MULTIPLE times with the SAME issue.

I think this has been a long term problem (at least 15 years) in US Business.


Connie, they want to phase out lead in Children's items in 6 months, with the heaviest burdens on the smallest companies, which already make products with either NO lead or inaccessible lead.


I've also been reading a LOT lately about Eleanor Roosevelt, and the WPA handicraft projects that employed so many "unemployable" people through the Great Depression.

Maybe our big ally to contact is Michelle Obama...

(keep in mind this reply is posted with 4 hrs sleep, a headache, and glued to the inaugural proceedings on TV)

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Woldenberg,

First of all, I want to say thank you for making us aware of the many implications of this law. Your efforts are not in vain, and they are much appreciated. I spoke with my father this week, who is a licensed D.C. area lawyer, and he said the exact same thing that you did. The only real solution this close to Feb. 10, is to request for a stay to this law so there can be adequate time to clarify the law and to hopefully amend the law. There simply is not enough time to adequately fix this mess before then. I can't imagine how difficult this is for you and other small to medium businesses, and I want you to know that my family and I are praying for a miracle, because that is what is needed in this situation. I am a mother who teaches my children at home, so I have bought from your company before. It is hard to believe how all the many companies that sell educational materials and home school materials, as well as their customers, could possibly be affected by this legislation. I am keeping my trust and hope in God, that no matter what the outcome is, He will sustain us in the days ahead. Don't give up hope.

Donna said...

Very well said again Rick. If something doesn't happen soon... then if we proceed as according to the law, if a business can't afford to test current inventory, then it's suppose to be considered "contraband". There's going to be a lot of toxic waste to dispose of. This hasn't even been discussed in the law. Where is this toxic waste suppose to go? And our country is suppose to be turning more green? Maybe we should pile it all up on the steps of congress and give them a visual of what they caused. Six months is definately not enough time for any industry to change and to say current inventory has to comply? Unless I'm wrong I don't know of any industry that was forced such testing that was made retroactive to current stock.

Anonymous said...

OK, the goal of the law is to make sure there is no lead in these products. Fine, our products have zero detectable lead. But that's not good enough; if we don't have a 3rd party test certificate for our products agreeing that they do not have lead in excess of allowable levels, then the lead-free products are deemed to be lead-contaminated anyway. We can't sell them, we can't even legally toss them in the trash because they have been declared to be hazardous waste.

Essentially, my inventory of 100% safe 100% lead-free products has been rendered worthless by an act of Congress. Isn't that unlawful seizure without due process?