Each year there are hundreds of product recalls in the US. Examples include beef for e coli, laptops for battery fire hazard, chainsaws with missing guards, and cookies with nuts missing from the ingredient list. The product recalls are a result of product harm—the product can hurt the consumers in some way. The recall is designed to separate the product harm from the customer. People return the product and it removes the risk. The problems could be a result of a defect, a missing part, or an undeclared food allergen. Infant furniture is common product that is recalled because the furniture can harm the child in some ways. The furniture in question can include beds and chairs.
So why highlight infant furniture? One reason is the risk posed to helpless infants. Another reason is the difficulty in recalling infant furniture. Kids in Danger (http://www.kidsindanger.org/) report that only around 30% of infant products are returned. That means 70% stay in use and remain a threat to infants. The risk is compounded by the secondary market for infant furniture. People often sell their infant furniture at garage sales or online or simply give it to other people. (It should be noted eBay has a policy against selling recalled products). The people buying the product on the secondary market probably have no idea of the product had been recalled. In all likelihood the seller did not know that either. Manufacturers are required to send news releases to media outlets about recalls. The media may or may not use the information. Recall information can be found at various web sites such as www.recalls.gov and www.cspc.gov. Moreover, most companies involved with infant merchandise place the recall information on their web sites. But consumers have to actively look for that information. It is easy to miss that a product you own has been recalled.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission:
“‘The meager returns have spurred initiatives aimed at getting harmful products out of the public’s hands, including a Consumer Product Safety Commission e-mail program that notifies consumers about recalls.
Still, too often consumers never hear about a recall or “put it on their to-do list and never respond,’ said Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the safety commission.
Last week, for instance, the agency reissued an August 2008 recall of about 900,000 Simplicity bassinets because two infants had died after becoming trapped between the product’s bars or in a pocket of fabric; the initial recall was prompted by the deaths of two other children.
‘We have said for decades at this agency that we do a very good job of getting dangerous and recalled products off of store shelves,’ Wolfson said. ‘Our greatest challenge is always getting those products out of people’s homes and out of circulation.’” http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toys-trade26-2009aug26,0,1722342.story
Toys “R” Us has announced a unique program for removing potentially dangerous infant product from the marketplace.
“WAYNE, NJ (August 26, 2009) – Toys”R”Us, Inc. today unveiled a national program that provides customers the opportunity to trade-in used cribs, car seats and other baby products in exchange for savings on a new item. The ‘Great Trade-In’ event is designed to call attention to the fact that, due to safety concerns, certain used baby products, such as car seats and cribs, are not the best candidates to be handed down or resold.
Safety experts have recently reported that sales of used products are on the rise and are warning consumers to be cautious about purchasing second-hand children’s items. The ‘Great Trade-In’ event places an emphasis on specific old or second-hand baby products that may be potentially unsafe, but are still in circulation.
During the “Great Trade-In” event, which begins Friday, August 28 and continues through Sunday, September 20, all Babies”R”Us and Toys”R”Us locations nationwide will accept returns of any used cribs, car seats, bassinets, strollers, travel systems, play yards and high chairs in exchange for a 20% savings on the purchase of any new baby item, in any of these product categories, from select manufacturers.” http://www4.toysrus.com/Investor/pr/082609.html
The Toys “R” Us action is a proactive attempt to deal with the problem of recalled infant products remaining in circulation and being resold or given to others. It will be interesting to see the level of response and what percentage of the exchanged merchandise had been on recall lists. The actions by Toys “R” Us are supported by the CPSC and Kids in Danger.
Questions to Consider
- How can this action be used to bolster the CSR for Toys “R” Us?
- How might this action help if/when Toys “R” Us has a crisis?
- Why is it important that other groups support the “Great Trade-in” event?
- What else could be done to help create awareness and action on recalled products?
- How would you evaluate the success of the Great Trade-in” event?
- What makes the Great Trade-in” event any different other efforts to make people aware of recalled products?