Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Toy Recalls Aren't All Bad

Recently, there have been a rash of recalls for lead-tainted toys from China. There has been a huge backlash and boycott against products from China, which I don't necessarily agree with. The mob mentality where French Fries must be called Freedom Fries is totally ridiculous. Assuming that ALL Chinese toys are filled with lead is equally asinine. Sure, Chinese toys are cheap and usually low quality, but most toys are only "temporary" in that they will eventually be given away or donated and don't need to saved to pass down through the generations. Perhaps I am recalling my own bad experience as a baby with a wooden high chair. The babies of my parents' friends had nice cushioned plastic high chairs while I had a hard flat wooden one because it was solid wood and better quality. I didn't care about quality, it was too hard! And it never got saved for my kids (perhaps because of my reaction - could this be why I like cheap plastic toys?). Ironically, Dova seems to prefer sitting on our flat wooden stools without the cushion, but I digress... 

I agree that most Chinese toys are crap, but they give joy and sometimes education to my kids, and as such, have a place in my household. I'm not defending products from China because I am Chinese. I certainly don't condone the corruption in their society and the labor conditions in their factories. However, refraining from buying a few cheap toys will not be changing that. These recalls, on the other hand, may have more of an impact. Recalls cost quite a bit in replacement and public relations costs, as well as a hit to consumer confidence (even me to a certain extent). Eventually, they will force companies to more closely regulate manufacturing processes in China. Sure, they are a pain for consumers, but in the end, products will become safer.
On a personal note, I had an extremely positive experience with a Thomas the Tank Engine recall from RC Corporation. I was surprised to see that these classic wooden trains (OK, not everything I buy is plastic) were involved in a recall. Usually with these recalls, I never see any products that we own being affected. This time, we actually owned one of the larger items, the Smelting Yard. You could put in these transparent blocks, "melt" them, and they would pop out and "glow" red for a few seconds. We shipped it off using USPS Parcel Post, costing us over $7. I promptly heard that they received the package and were sending a replacement product with a bonus train plus a check to cover our shipping costs. A few weeks later, the glowing pieces that I had returned with the smelting yard were returned as they were not part of the recall (my guess is the red paint on the roof of the building). A few weeks after that, we received a new product, the Recycling Center, plus a train we didn't own yet (which is amazing since we have like a hundred of them). This was even better than receiving the exact same product because my kids were already tired of the first toy and now they had a brand new toy. By the way, it is really cool because it "sorts" glass, cans and paper into the appropriate bin. Finally, I received a reimbursement check of $10.20 for the postage, so I actually made money on the deal. Through the whole process, RC Corporation was extremely courteous and good about keeping in contact through email and post.
Images from The Science Shop


Anonymous said...

Oh, what a nice story about the recalls. I am glad you had a positive experience. And I really like the recycling center toy.

I am not mad at the Chinese, but the manufacturers that outsource manufacturing and take no responsibility for the product.

Here from BC carnival.

Anonymous said...

Recalls are SO expensive for companies, and sometimes so silly. My laptop's battery got recalled. Why? Because if you drop the computer on the battery it can then malfunction. HELLO? If you DROP you laptop, what on EARTH do you expect?

That, of course, has nothing to do with plastic toys. My own plastic toy story will probably show up on my blog pretty soon.