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Fisher Price Recall

I know, I know. I’m late on this one. I nearly had a panic attack at the gym last night when I saw CNN reporting on nearly a million recalled toys. I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard it was Fisher Price, which we don’t sell in the store. But then I realized that my kids have Fisher Price toys that they’ve gotten from relatives and friends. So even though I don’t usually report on recalls that don’t directly impact our customers, I’m going to make an exception, since every parent should be aware of this one. Mattel, who owns Fisher Price, recalled over 900,000 toys that were found to contain lead paint. To see a full list, go to the Mattel Recall Site.

Just like with the RC2 recall last month, a factory in China was responsible for the problem. This is scary stuff. But Mattel is a very good company, and from what I’ve read, they were able to catch more than two-thirds of the tainted merchandise before it ever hit the shelves. Which only leaves 300,000 or so toys that need to be recovered. Spread the word on this one.

4 comments

  1. It’s interesting that you say Mattel is ‘a very good company’ that was able to ‘catch’ most of the tainted merchandise. It’s as if it wasn’t their fault, per se, and since most everything they do other than the label they put on the boxes is outsourced to lowest-cost external vendors, they pretty much were victimized as much as their customers. I wonder whether this is going to be acceptable behavior for businesses in the long run.

    Recalls like Fisher Price, or the efforts of any inquisitive parent armed with Internet search, often reveal the stark disconnect between WHAT we’re sold and what we KNOW about it. Imagine a web site called ‘wheredoesthiscomefrom.com’ that consumers could use to examine how, where, and why products are created. It would require companies to take responsibility for what they do openly, before any breakdown surprised them (or us). We’re edging closer to this reality every day.

    As a marketer, I posit that this phenomenon should challenge businesses to re-evaluate how brands are conceived and communicated, and I’ve written a bit about it on Dim Bulb, at http://dimbulb.typepad.com if you’d like to check it out.

  2. F-P was definitely quick to assign blame to their Chinese vendor. When you outsource you must implicitely assume responsibility for quality – and I don’t just mean financial responsibility to recall/replace it, I mean ethical responsibility.

    The process for F-P should be simple. Prototype, safety test (iteratively), then lock down the specs and then statistically sample test each production batch for the same safety criteria as the prototype.

    Looks like corners were cut and F-P has prioritized profitability and shareholder value over my kid’s safety. I’ve lost faith in F-P and Mattel and they won’t be seeing my dollar again.

    LF

  3. Jonathan – thanks for sharing that link. When I say that Mattel is a good company, I guess I’m coming at that statement from how I interact with them in a business relationship. Most of the time, big companies make it very hard for small, independent stores to do business with them. Mattel is a huge exception to this rule. But you and LF are both right, they should absolutely be held accountable for their role in this recall.

    This is such a difficult situation, because companies like Mattel have become beholden to Walmart, and are under tremendous pressure to keep cutting costs. We carry certain items from Mattel as a convenience to our customers and because we believe in the products and their play value. Around here, people don’t expect us to be price competitive with the big box stores. But a vast percentage of Mattel’s volume comes from Walmart, because that’s where so many American consumers are shopping.

    I wish that manufacturers didn’t outsource at all, but they do. I love Jonathan’s idea of creating a site that would track exactly where products are made, and supply information about the factory’s workforce, working conditions and safety record. A 3rd party certification and ratings program for overseas factories would help, too. Meanwhile, I’m wishing for some sort of quick, inexpensive and easy way to test toys for lead paint. Like a pen that turned colors, or something. Does anyone know of something like that??

  4. Sheri, I’m with you re Mattel’s ongoing business dealings; I’ve worked with people there, and they’ve always been very professional (and seemed quite smart). And I feel your pain re Wal-Mart. I’ve never been happy when a client got distribution there, even if it meant short-term orders. Long-term, its the Road to Commodification, and it’s not paved with, er, gold.

    Re the wheredoesthiscomefrom.com site, I’ve not been able to find anything like it online. Let’s start a business! lol…

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