Get the Lead Out!
I also wasn’t really aiming to discuss the reasons why product recalls prompt the stricken company, not to mention U.S. consumers, to point the finger at China and China alone. Incidentally, that’s how Mattel ended up in hot water.
But, nonetheless, the “flaw” in the process that changed my story completely happened on our turf, back in April 2006, when the supplier was informed it was being sued by Oakland, California’s Center for Environmental Health to stop importing lead-laden lunch boxes. What? Exactly.
When I spoke with the company’s vice president, he said the company stopped importing that particular model after they were notified of the suit. Okay, good. But what about the other lunch boxes they imported, like the ones a year later for the CDH? If one model had unacceptable levels of lead, wouldn’t others? If the tested sample was okay, does that guarantee the 55,999 coming off the assembly line after it will be okay, too? And who, exactly, is taking these lunch boxes out of kids’ hands and disposing of them?
There are very real, very serious quality consequences that exist when importing products from a country that doesn’t adhere to our standards and regulations, please don’t get me wrong. But that “gamble” notwithstanding, nobody here—on the frontlines of the promotional products industry—seemed to be able to answer those questions. Blame China? Maybe, but let’s also accept our fair share for the inherent flaw in our “process.” We all know who’s driving this thing when it comes to signing contracts and collecting profits and everyone plays their role well. But who’s performing their due diligence that products and procedures are correct? And, maybe even more importantly, who’s accepting responsibility when things go wrong?
We, as an industry, must own this problem. This is an opportunity for suppliers and distributors to sit down together, come up with some real solutions and make things better—for those who truly didn’t know, those who should have known better and those who did know, and now whose businesses might suffer for the industry’s shortcomings.