From Reactive to Proactive: Redefining Safety Standards in the Promotional Industry (A Four-Part Series)
According to Ellis, running to China for ultra-competitive pricing, and subsequently basing sales solely on the lowest numbers, “dumbs down” the integrity of the industry. “This is a service business, it’s not a widgets business,” he noted. And trust is tantamount to service. With the impossibly high volume of products being exchanged every day, open channels of communication should not be a luxury, but a necessity.
“Out of the 300 some odd items that we sell, maybe ten are domestic-made,” said Arkin. Tafil puts his company’s number of imported products at almost 95 percent, while Zenith Promotions brings in 80 percent of its inventory from China, LaFichi reported. Each relies on its manufacturer to provide testing results, however, there’s not much in place to ensure manufacturers do not misplace that trust.
In a perfect world, there would be penalties and restrictions for manufacturers who are not open and honest, LaFichi said. “If they knowingly export ‘tainted’ products, the U.S. government should punish them by banning their products from entering the United States.” Though that’s unfortunately not the case today, efforts are being made to bring offshore manufacturing under tighter controls. The Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act of 2007, for one, currently is being introduced in Congress. If passed, it would mean more testing dollars and staffing increases as well as bans on lead and stricter product-labeling rules.
Right now, though, the obligation falls on suppliers to know who they’re doing business with. “You need to be aware of and informed regarding your manufacturer’s quality-control process, and their compliance ratings with those processes,” added Brian Smith, chief operating officer at Cleveland distributor Proforma. In turn, each distributor must be cognizant of what its suppliers are doing to uphold the virtues of quality and safety. And it’s not as simple as including it in purchase orders. Marla Kaye, president of You-Name-It Promotions—the distributor involved in the recent California recall—gave a disturbing caveat on that front. She maintained she included the stipulation that products must meet California’s Proposition 65 guidelines in her purchase order, yet somehow that did not occur. Clearly, words and contracts are not enough.