Wednesday , 23 April 2014

What’s really up with the metoo seat?

metoo chair in redOn Friday, late in the afternoon, I saw a news release from the CPSC that was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Even the headline was unusual: “Consumers Urged To Stop Using phil&teds USA Clip-on Chairs Due To Serious Dangers Posed To Children.”

What was this? A recall? A warning? Were ALL metoo chairs affected by this?

But the headline was nothing compared to what the release contained. It was terrifying. Among the litany of injuries a child could suffer in a metoo chair were: laceration, crushed fingers, amputation, and head injuries. The CPSC went on to say that phil&teds “has refused to agree to a national recall of their hazardous product that is acceptable to CPSC.”

It sounded bad — really bad. But it also didn’t sound quite right to me. Now I’m crazy about product safety – I’m a mom who sells these products and uses them with my kids – but, like most moms, I also don’t like bully behavior. The tone of the release was uncharacteristically hostile for a government agency, and it was also very light on details of any actual injuries, saying only that the “CPSC staff is aware of numerous incidents involving the affected metoo chairs.”

Frankly, even the timing of the release was troubling, coming right before the weekend, giving the media time to work this story into a frenzy for two full days before phil&teds opened for business on Monday morning.

Last night I wasn’t surprised to receive a press release from phil&teds disputing many of the facts in Friday’s alert.

It’s not a great idea to get into a feud with a government agency, but that ship has sailed in this case. So I’m just going to try to present the key discrepancies, based on the press release, so parents can at least hear both sides of the story.

  • phil&teds knows of only 2 incidents in the United States (out of hundreds of thousands of these seats sold around the world) that involved the injury of a child, and in both cases, they suggest the seat was being used incorrectly, saying the injuries “may have been caused by consumers not tightening the clamps tightly enough for fear of table damage.”
  • The alert from the CPSC suggests that all phil&teds metoo chairs are under investigation, however according to phil&teds the issues are limited to the version of the seat manufactured prior to March of 2010.
  • In February of 2011, phil&teds issued a global voluntary recall-to-repair (“upgrade”) for this older model of the metoo chair. This upgrade (the addition of rubber “socks” on the tabletop clamps) was approved by every other worldwide product safety organization — except the CPSC.
  • Contrary to what the CPSC says in their alert, according to phil&teds, “the company has cooperated fully, and worked diligently, with the CPSC to reach agreement on a recall to repair that is acceptable to the CPSC.”

Here’s the thing: if you don’t tighten the clamps, the seat can fall down. If you don’t buckle in your child, your child can fall down. The CPSC did a blog post about the metoo, along with a video that shows them dislodging the chair with a pencil (clearly the clamps were not tightened), which then snaps in two when one half of the chair falls down.

Why they would use a video that shows improper and negligent use of a product as an example of why that product is dangerous makes no sense to me. Virtually any product can be used improperly in a way that could cause injury.

If I weren’t inside this industry, a CPSC Alert like this would scare the bejesus out of me, so I can understand why this is causing a lot of concern. But based on the facts I’ve seen, I wouldn’t rush to toss your metoo chair in the trash — especially if you purchased it recently. Keep in mind, although the CPSC is vague on this, the known issues are limited to the Version 1 metoo chair, manufactured before March 2010. You can tell which one you have by looking for rubberized “socks” and black plastic spacers on the tabletop clamps (both of which are present in the image above).

Just be vigilant about tightening the clamps and always buckle your child into the harness. And let’s wait and see how this whole mess gets resolved.

As phil&teds says, “If a chair is securely attached per the instructions (appropriate table, and with the clamps fully tightened) the metoo chair functions as intended.”

Watch this video, released last night by phil&teds to show how the chair will perform under stress when properly attached to a table. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words (or 770).

7 comments

  1. Thanks for posting – I love my pre-march 2010 me too, and am still using it despite the reports. I tighten the hell out of it, and unless its a very soft wood, never has left a mark on a table. i also would rather ruin a table than my kid!! It washes easily and I have never had a problem with latch. I haven’t tried it with the new rubber grips yet.

  2. I LOVE the video and how they literally are able to move the entire table via the metoo. Yeah…

  3. We have pre march 2010 me too and love it , still use it for our second child and love giving me too out as a baby shower gift . We lost the metal flat round plates that come in with the screw part but still use without it, never have any issue.

  4. Great write up Sheri. You make us other retailers proud.

  5. Matthew Grocoff

    This video from Phil & Ted is shamefully misleading. Here’s a video of how the chair can sever a child’s finger: http://youtu.be/8_oxgXGuBB8. The woman tugging on the chair clearly shows that the chair is safe, right? Wrong. The older model chair they use is brand new and has the thin rubber pad still intact. What they don’t tell you is that the pad is very thin and is glued on with a very weak glue onto a smooth metal surface. After some use the pad is compressed and the glue fails. The pads can fall off easily without the consumer’s knowledge. Once the pads fail the woman in the video and a small child could easily cause the chair to slip from the table. When the chair does fall, if the child is holding the corner of the chair, the square metal bar can compress and sever the child’s finger. Shame on Phil & Ted for failing to make children’s safety a priority over profits. They could have simply redesigned the chair. They have chosen instead to mislead parents with this video and keep important information from them.

  6. Matthew, thanks so much for your post. I was considering buying 2. We have four children including a set of twin babies. We already own some phil and Ted’s products, but wasn’t sure about the me too chairs. The video looks convincing and if You hadn’t written your post, I’d be buying these seats. With four children, my undivided attention on the babies seat safety, which I would trust to be safe especially considering they are phil and teds, is not realistic. How horrific. Yes, I agree. Shame on phil and ted’s. Thank you again, mommy of 4

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