Sunday, March 1, 2009

CPSIA - You Have Wrecked the Thrift Industry - Who's Next?

From: Rick Woldenberg

Sent: Sun 3/1/2009 1:14 PM

To: 'Christian.Fjeld@mail.house.gov'; 'robin.appleberry@mail.house.gov'; andrew_grobmyer@pryor.senate.gov; james_reid@rockefeller.senate.gov

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Subject: CPSIA - You Have Wrecked the Thrift Store Industry - Who's Next?

Please see the below article from Friday's Boston Globe about thrift stores NATIONWIDE removing ALL children's merchandise from their stores. Can you imagine anything more HEARTLESS in a Depression than to create a legal incentive to cause THRIFT STORES to stop offering children's merchandise? I find it chilling - and disgusting. The CPSC has clarified the CPSIA's impact on thrift stores at the urgent demand of Congress. See http://cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/smbus/cpsiasbguide.pdf (page 10 and thereafter). Mission accomplished. Have you read it? Here's a sample from Question 14 (page 10 under "Guidance for Retailers and Resellers of Children's Products, including Thrift Stores. . . ): "But, more importantly, as a business person, YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SELLING PRODUCTS THAT HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO CAUSE HARM TO ANYONE, ESPECIALLY A CHILD." [Emphasis added.] In other words, sell children's products at your risk. Don't blame the CPSC - it's your law, Congress, you wrote it.

Now read the article to see how YOUR LAW works in the real world. Here's a sample: "The fallout from the law is especially damaging for consumers who have increasingly visited thrift stores during the tough economic times. The National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops said members across the country reported, on average, a 35 percent increase in business in October and November, compared with the same period the previous year. Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries had a record $1 million in sales in October, a 30 percent increase from last year. This boom is in stark contrast to traditional retailers, which saw sales fall 2.8 percent in October - the largest percentage decline since 1992. 'It's heartbreaking,' said Denise Thompson, of Dorchester, who would visit the Roxbury Goodwill store almost daily to buy most of her clothes for her 3-year-old son. 'There are lots of kids that need coats. Money is tight in this economy.'" Well, at least all those needy people can take comfort in knowing that their children are safer. They are freezing, of course, but they're safe.

And how about this: "Under the new law, merchants must not sell any items unless they are sure of the lead content, according to Nychelle Fleming, a spokeswoman for the [CPSC]. The commission has investigators who can inspect merchants and the current penalty for violating the law is $8,000 per infraction, and that fine will increase to $100,000 in August. . . . Besides fines, thrift stores are worried about potential liability and lawsuits from customers if shops mistakenly sell products with high lead content, Hurst said. 'A lot of struggling families are going and looking for clothes, particularly for children, at resale stores,' Hurst said. 'But as more shops come to grips with this law, more and more sellers are going to pull items from the shelves to protect themselves.'"

And don't forget to check out the 65+ comments by readers of this newspaper. See http://people.boston.com/articles/abusiness/?p=articlecomments&activityId=5518020152017972050. Those comments are a good proxy for the American public. I hope you will take a moment to see how you are pleasing the voters with your new vision of how to protect our kids.

It's not like you haven't been told AGAIN AND AGAIN about the evil impact of your CPSIA. How many more warnings will Congress ignore before it decides to acknowledge its SERIOUS errors and comprehensively and URGENTLY reconsider this bill? I would note that Congress has cancelled two hearings in recent months on the CPSIA, most recently the scheduled hearings of the Subcommittee on Regulations and Healthcare of the House Committee on Small Business. I had been invited to testify at that hearing. Tired of hearing from me? Keep cancelling hearings on this bill, and you will hear from legions of people besides me.

In the meantime, please enjoy the article below, your handiwork, and be prepared to explain to your constituents why you felt the CPSIA was NECESSARY TO PROTECT THEM. I don't believe the article mentions a big outbreak of terrible illness over zippers or from any other children's products for that matter. I am sure your constituents will appreciate learning how you reached the conclusion that reorganizing our entire economy was necessary to prevent imaginary illnesses. I will be, too.

Richard Woldenberg
Chairman
Learning Resources, Inc.
rwoldenberg@learningresources.com
Follow my blog at http://www.learningresourcesinc.blogspot.com/ or at www.twitter.com/rwoldenberg


http://www.boston.com/community/moms/articles/2009/02/27/lead_law_puts_thrift_stores_in_lurch/

Lead law puts thrift stores in lurch
Some stop selling children's clothes

By Jenn Abelson

Globe Staff / February 27, 2009

A federal law designed to protect children from lead products has caused several Masschusetts thrift stores to stop selling kids' clothing, shutting off an important shopping alternative for families struggling in this recession.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which took effect Feb. 10, prohibits all shops from selling children's products that contain too much lead or potentially harmful chemicals. Congress passed the law in response to a series of recalls of toys and jewelry that had high lead content and were linked to several child deaths and illnesses. But the legislation applies to all children's products, including clothes, which could contain lead in metal zippers, buttons, or painted fabrics.

The sweeping nature of the law has been devastating for many resale shops nationwide, such as those run by Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries. Unlike traditional merchants, thrift stores do not deal directly with manufacturers, which can provide proof that products meet safety standards. The regulation also applies retroactively to goods already in stores, and many thrift stores do not have funds to conduct the tests themselves.

In recent weeks, Goodwill pulled all children's merchandise from its nine stores in the state. Thrift chain Second Time Around eliminated kids' clothing from several of its 16 shops. St Vincent de Paul is currently removing children's clothing with metal zippers, buttons, and painted fabrics from its processing center, which sends out merchandise to its six stores in Massachusetts.

"Our customers are concerned because they've come to rely on Goodwill for these items," Morgan Memorial Goodwill chief executive Joanne Hilferty said yesterday. "We expected that thrift stores would be exempt from the law for a period of time. But we're not. It's an interesting example of unintended consequences."

The fallout from the law is especially damaging for consumers who have increasingly visited thrift stores during the tough economic times. The National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops said members across the country reported, on average, a 35 percent increase in business in October and November, compared with the same period the previous year. Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries had a record $1 million in sales in October, a 30 percent increase from last year. This boom is in stark contrast to traditional retailers, which saw sales fall 2.8 percent in October - the largest percentage decline since 1992.

"It's heartbreaking," said Denise Thompson, of Dorchester, who would visit the Roxbury Goodwill store almost daily to buy most of her clothes for her 3-year-old son. "There are lots of kids that need coats. Money is tight in this economy."

Thompson, pointing angrily at the former kid's section now filled with men's clothing, said she will start shopping at Sears and Marshalls for her son, but is worried her money won't go as far. Many of the children's items at Goodwill sold for $2. The chain had already eliminated toys in the fall of 2007 following the spate of recalls.

Children's clothes accounted for about 5 percent of Goodwill's revenues at the thrift stores, which are used to help fund the nonprofit's job training and career services program. Because Goodwill has replaced its children's clothes with men's clothing, the impact the shift will have on funding is unclear.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which enforces the new law, said that the concern, along with metal zippers and snaps that could be coated with a lead paint, involves screen printing, rhinestones, and other embellishments. The new standard limits the total lead content in most children's products to no more than 600 parts per million in any accessible part.

Under the new law, merchants must not sell any items unless they are sure of the lead content, according to Nychelle Fleming, a spokeswoman for the commission. The commission has investigators who can inspect merchants and the current penalty for violating the law is $8,000 per infraction, and that fine will increase to $100,000 in August.

"The intent was not to close down any particular stores. However, we do want to make sure that the resellers and thrift stores are making sure that their products are safe and do meet the new law," Fleming said.

Goodwill is keeping the children's clothes it pulled from the shelves and hopes to receive further clarification from the safety commission so it can return to the stores some merchandise that complies with the standards.

The law has created confusion among many merchants, according to Jon B. Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts trade group, and led to inconsistent results. One thrift operation has yet to clear out its clothes: But Savers, which has seven resale shops in Massachusetts, has emptied its shelves of other children's items to comply with the new law: books, cribs, crib mattresses, baby blankets, high chairs, sipper cubs, along with bath and pool toys.

Besides fines, thrift stores are worried about potential liability and lawsuits from customers if shops mistakenly sell products with high lead content, Hurst said.

"A lot of struggling families are going and looking for clothes, particularly for children, at resale stores," Hurst said. "But as more shops come to grips with this law, more and more sellers are going to pull items from the shelves to protect themselves."

Jenn Abelson can be reached at abelson@globe.com

6 comments:

jen said...

Perfect again Rick! I noticed in some of those comments that several people think that this has been "fixed" with a thrift store exemption from testing and a stay from testing. As owners of businesses we can tell you 100% there has been NO reprieve. Unless of course you want to wrap your child in a cotton cloth with a cut out for their head.

You can't exempt thrift stores from testing but hold them accountable for knowing which items have lead. One suggestion from the CPSC is to call the manufacturer...I'm sure that would be time well spent. The law is enforceable in each state even with the stay. There are a lot of hungry lawyers so as a business owner...better safe then sorry.

What is Congress waiting for, the next election? This is shameful!

Valerie Jacobsen said...

What's a 25 below wind chill when no child has ever been lead poisoned by a zipper? Who needs affordable coats?

On imaginary children, I'm thinking the same thing. I started cpsiahurtskids.com yesterday so that we might possibly distract Congress from their focus on imaginary or mythical children to take a look at some real kids who ARE being hurt by this congressional assault on their young lives.

When Congress talks about imaginary children, we'll call them on it, and we'll show them our real kids.

I put a "CPSIA Compliance for Dummies" image up on my sidebar at bookroomblog.com, near the bottom. See what you think of it. When it comes to what we can't change right this minute, we might as well have some laughter along with the, yes, tears.

Many thanks, always, for what you are doing. I know your company needs this effort, but your front line work is good for so many more, including people who still don't know it.

Anonymous said...

Doncha just love it? Congress has NO concern for unborn children that are being murdered via abortion, but they're worried about live children - who survived a potential abortion - ingesting lead.

Some reports I've read, from doctors and hospitals, state that the lead poisonings they've encountered by and large occurred due to lead paint ingestion. Now where could that leaded paint come from. Hmmm ....

Why from (wall) paints, of course! So now does every used house on the market have to be tested for lead paints under the CPSIA? If so - and if a house containing said paints causes a child's poisoning by ingestion - will the former owner and the realtor be held accountable? Ditto apartments rented for use by children. IF the seller / lessor are NOT held accountable, WHY NOT??

Let's not overlook copper plumbing joints that are sweat-joined by lead-bearing solder. While most of the solder (60% lead & 40% tin, give or take) is retained in the joint itself, an overzealous plumber (apprentice) can feed enough solder into a joint that some of it is exposed to the water flow, where it can leach into the drinking water supply.

Remember the old admonishment to "Flush the water pipes if the water hasn't been used for some time" (example: a summer abode)? True, the admonishment had to do somewhat with the taste of the water, but guess what could be dissolved in the water to cause that off-taste. Why LEAD, of course.

And then there are very old houses with lead or brass (lead-bearing, just like house keys) plumbing.

Ah, but the excuse is, "The house isn't sold for use primarily by children ages 12 and under, so that's not a violation of CPSIA." So the biggest potential violators get off scott free, while us retailers and resellers are pinned to a wall if we - unintentionally - sell even one violating item. Even if the CPSC has not identified (to us) that said item violates CPSIA, we're dead meat!

But trying to budge Waxman off his egotistical high horse is like trying to kill a rhino with a BB gun. Waxman's apparently afraid of the shame he'd bring on himself if he admitted an error in his thinking when the bill was drafted. So he stands fast in his ivory tower, while the CPSC is severely underfunded, and we - the resellers and retailers - have to do the job that the CPSC is charged with doing. Will the CPSC pay us a "finder's fee" for identifying a defective item? Almost as surely as we can guarantee that this country will be out of a recession within a week. Dream on!

And congress rolls on. Next the porkulous bill, followed by the national budget. And they're all claiming that they're worried about the rising unemployment figures that they're contributing to. Talk about keeping a good distance from the real world.

But what really bugs me - beyond the above - is that the public behaves like a herd of lemmings. They keep voting the same clowns back into the Washington Circus.

(another) RIck

American said...

What a travesty. Instead of compelling the Adminisration's bureaucrats to do the jobs they are paid to do and inspect imports to confirm compliance with existing laws, which would have prevented the pet food and toy recalls we've experienced, Congress give the Executive Branch yet more power to destroy jobs and eliminate means of individual, family, and community self-help by giving it yet more oversight on the minutia of everyday life and business. Yup, small business creates 97% of the jobs, and non-profits provide 100% of the niche services to Americans, so during a recession Congress decides to cripple both because politicians should take taxpayer money to create government employees to decide who, what, when, where, and how to help which people, instead of letting us help ourselves and each other locally, personally, and for our specific needs government can't possibly address in a humane manner.
Change some people believe in, but not the America that was ever successful, efficient, or incrementally and sustainably becoming and staying the best country on Earth. Sigh. Who is going to provide perfectly good winter coats and shoes to families who can't pay their heating bills or drive the kids to school due to the new Cap and Trade punitive taxes? Not the Congress or Cabinet appointees who can't seem to pay their own taxes.

Anonymous said...

IMMIGRATION IS ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF BAD LAWS THAT ARE DIFFICULT TO COMPLY, UNFAIR AND THAT NEED TO BE CHANGED.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that if every thrift store simply refuse to comply-- civil disobedience--they couldn't collect all the fines on all the stores-- or shut them all down.
There isn't money to pay to enforce this law anyway.
We are the government, are we not?