Tuesday, May 11, 2010

CPSIA - Lowest Common Neurosis

I have a new legal standard for the CPSC in its continuing effort to make everyone so, so, SOOOO safe: the "Lowest Common Neurosis". Under this innovative legal standard, our safety agency would reset its legal standards and reissue 2500 pages of rules every time a ridiculous news article appears touting a poorly-conceived, made-up phobia relating to children's products. There are so many examples to think of, from cadmium jewelry (thanks, AP!) to Zhu Zhu Pets with lethal noses to the latest craze, making hourly employees at the checkout counter cough up General Conformity Certificates on the spot.

Hadn't heard of that one yet? This is the latest craze sweeping the nation, thoughtfully brought to our attention by the Dallas CBS affiliate on May 10. Their report begins ominously: "Mindee Haas buys plenty of toys for her 15-month-old daughter Sophia. Haas, 33, says she usually trusts those toys are safe, but her trust is fading after a recent run of toy recalls."

Ah, the "recent run of toy recalls". And those were what, precisely??? I think the crack CBS "investigator" is referring to the recalls in 2007/8. They certainly couldn't be referring to recent recalls because toy recall rates have fallen precipitously. According to data from the CPSC website, there have been a grand total of nine recalls through April 15 of this year (one alleged injury, from laceration) and only 32 in 2009 (20 alleged injuries and one death, none from lead). This is very low by historical standards. Of the 3 billion toys estimated sold per year in our country, only 4,530,860 were recalled in 2009 over 32 recalls. The total units recalled this year is 888,680 through April 15. This amounts to a recall of approximately 1 in 1,000 toys sold (in other words, 99.9% toys were NOT recalled in 2009/10).

I guess a crisis is whatever CBS Dallas says it is.

Apparently not satisfied with creating a scare about imaginary recalls, the CBS affiliate continues to intone, quoting the mom: "'I don't want [my daughter] to be a lab rat at home,' said Haas 'There are so many things in toys these days that we just don't know the effects of them long term and that's what's scary.' Toy after toy has been yanked off the shelves deemed unsafe for children."

To "investigate", CBS decided to find evidence of toy safety. They chose the low budget route and opted to NOT test toys, perhaps fearing that the toys would pass (and then what would they be able to say?). Instead, Matahari-like, "CBS 11 News went undercover inside the most popular toy stores to see if they had the certificates for their toys."

Frankly, if I still had a sense of humor about this awful law and its devastating consequences, I might find this rather amusing. I don't. Here's what CBS did, in their own words:

"Employees at both stores and even a manager said this was the first time they heard about safety certificates. 'I have a guest who's wanting to buy a toy she says she was told that you can get a certificate printed out something that says there's been a lead recall or not,' asked a Target employee 'It shows if the toy has been tested for lead.' We waited as the employee got an answer from her manager, 'Do you know anything about that?' Manager: 'No I have never heard that we don't have certificate.'" Incredibly, the checkout person at Babies R Us and Toys R Us also did not have a copy of the company's safety files right there for inspection. Whoa!

I think this is CBS's hidden camera video of their investigation:

CBS was able to get some great insights on the problem from a SMU Marketing professor. He thinks the stores are blowing it. "'Not only is it important to have [the GCCs], but you could use [the certificates] to market your store,' explained [Dan] Howard 'You could advertise the fact that we have it!' When asked how difficult he thought it was to simply know about the certificates Howard responded 'Not difficult at all!'"

Dan Howard says it's not difficult at all to have checkout counter access to GCCs at Target, TRU and all other U.S. retail outlets for children's products. Well that settles it! I sense a new rule a-comin'!

And how does Mom feel about the CBS findings? I think she articulates our new Lowest Common Neurosis rather well: "'Just not knowing if the companies are being responsible enough to know what's in their products that's what's concerning,'" said Haas. She says she will stick to going to her mom and pop shops for the time being."

Anyone want to kick in for a national Xanax fund?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This story got it wrong. There is a comment box under the story. Everyone should should go over there point out the error -- that GCCs are not required to be provided to anyone who walks through the door.