Fidget Spinners Are the New Product Safety Concern

Fidget Spinners Are the New Product Safety Concern

Fidget spinners – today’s trending toy – are the latest craze taking over classrooms and cubicles. Perhaps because fidget spinners are so popular and ubiquitous, they are now the target of an investigation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.   On May 13, 2017, a 10-year-old girl in the Woodlands, Texas, swallowed a piece of a fidget spinner and it became lodged in her throat. The girl had to have surgery to remove the toy from her body and is recovering. The Consumer Product Safety Commission told Channel 2 News in Houston that it’s investigating fidget spinners because of the Woodlands incident and another one in Oregon.   “We advise parents to keep these away from young children because they can choke on small parts,” CPSC wrote in a statement to ABC News. “Warn older children not to put fidget spinners in their mouths.”   Somewhere on the planet, there is a manufacturer who’s sweating bullets because of this development with fidget spinners. They are likely worried about a PR/legal nightmare, and they have good reason to be concerned. Today’s companies and consumers demand product safety and compliance—in fact, it’s become the “new normal.”   The news incident is a sobering reminder that we as promotional products professionals should do the right thing for the end-user clients and consumers. It’s our duty to admit that a product has failed and/or poses an inherent danger in some way.   No one wants to buy unsafe products, which is why QCA measures and evaluates management practices, including a company’s policies, procedures and protocols that result in the predictable output of safe product manufactured and shipped under that company’s name.   Making an investment in product safety demonstrates that a company is committed to addressing client product safety concerns, which is why QCA Accreditation is becoming an increasingly sought-after part of that investment process.   Whether it’s fidget spinners, tumblers, bags, t-shirts or any other products that you choose to place your company’s logo on, it’s critical that you know where your products come from and how they’ve been manufactured. Promotional products are the most welcome and appreciated form of advertising. Indeed, no other form of advertising results in a thank you from the recipient.   As with all marketing efforts, the intent is to promote a message that solicits a positive impression and hopefully an actionable response. When done right, the intended result becomes...

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How I Learned What Buyers Want: ISM 2017 Conference Takeaways

How I Learned What Buyers Want: ISM 2017 Conference Takeaways

Last week, I winged my way to Orlando for the premiere procurement event of the year – the Institute for Supply Management Conference. With keynote speakers such as General Colin Powell and former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the ISM 2017 conference attracted more than 2,500 global supply chain professionals. After talking about promotional products with buyers, executives and other decision makers from Fortune 100/500/1,000 companies, I would like to share my takeaways from the event.   For starters, among the people I spoke to, social responsibility was a major concern. Understandably, they wanted to avoid procurement nightmares such as inadvertently associating their brand with products from a vendor that uses slave or child labor to cut costs (there was even a session about supply chain anti-slavery initiatives). Many buyers – especially those for security, health care and insurance organizations – were very aware of the hypocritical nature of offering products to their customers and prospects that do not represent their reason for existence.   When I explained QCA’s role in the promotional products industry, many people were very interested in what I had to say and thanked me for creating this awareness. Others cut me off with comments such as “We limit our use of branded merchandise for just these reasons” and “I have always viewed the tchotchke industry as a dangerous proposition.”   During these conversations with people who had negative preconceptions of the promotional products industry, I persuaded them to see things differently. I explained that QCA’s compliance accreditation program was a simple solution that could help alleviate their concerns. A major selling point was that QCA certification does not require any additional work on their part to vet their promotional partners. In one chat, an SVP from a major health care organization commented, “I guess it’s time to review and update some of our contracts.”   Contrary to popular industry belief, supply chain specialists do want to have this conversation. They aren’t scared off by it because all procurement professionals want to add value to their organizations. The more value procurement can add to an organization’s mission and goals, the more that organization will succeed and procurement will...

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The Hottest Gift, Literally

In a previous article, we talked about Apple and their efforts to eliminate the sale of third party power cords and chargers designed to be used with Apple products. The company then reached out directly to major distributors asking that they pull their inventory and even dangled the threat of a lawsuit for patent infringement. As we have discussed in the past, this whole thing was much more about preventing damage to the Apple brand due to faulty knock-offs and less about potential lost sales. Because margins are so tight, understandably you may have been tempted to source a knock-off of a hot item at some point. The recent Hoverboard craze tempted many this past holiday season, and not long after that we began hearing about Hoverboards catching fire almost every day. As is typical, the real problem was the effort to save a few bucks over making safety the priority. If there is one word to take to heart about sourcing knockoffs because the original is more expensive, that word is “don’t.” Staying with the safety theme, let’s revisit the AnchorIt! Campaign initiated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission that QCA is helping to publicize. The objective of the AnchorIt! Campaign is to inform parents about the importance of anchoring furniture to avoid the risk of injury to children. As part of the campaign, the CPSC asked three moms who lost children in tip-over tragedies to discuss their experience in a video to help increase awareness of the issue. You can see that video here: http://bit.ly/1QkXgYw. The sad fact of the matter is that every two weeks a child is killed because of furniture tipping over or TVs falling. Please take a few minutes to watch the video linked above and then be sure to conduct a safety survey in your own home to ensure everything is anchored down properly. Also, please help us spread the word to your customers, family, and friends. If you’d like to read more on this and related topics, please check out my column on Promo Corner Blog.   photo credit: Self-balanching board via photopin...

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Serving BPA? It’s Really Better for the Boys

In the past, we’ve talked about a concept called “regrettable substitutions” which involves the use of dangerous chemicals in the manufacture of promotional products. The truth is that substituting one ingredient for another doesn’t always improve the safety of products. According to an article entitled “Anatomy of a Statistical Meltdown,” by Trevor Butterworth, director of Sense About Science, USA, when it comes to bisphenol A (BPA), the media suffers from a case of “regrettable statistics.” Butterworth describes what he calls a “statistical meltdown” when it comes to the 17 year battle over the health effects of BPA. To put it another way, if you’ve been around for any length of time, you have been exposed to BPA. It’s even worse if you are a woman and, as the study suggests, could be a reasonable excuse for all those times you were put in “time out” as a child. It’s the opposite case for boys, based on this study’s findings, you can reasonably assume that exposure to BPA is actually beneficial for boys! The FDA has not changed its position on the use of the chemical over the last 17 years. Unfortunately, the media doesn’t always care when it comes to facts. A prime example is this headline from ABC News: “Plastics Chemical Tied to Aggression in Young Girls.” According to the post, “The research showed that hyperactive, anxious, aggressive, and depressed behavior was more common in 3-year-old girls who were exposed in the womb to bisphenol-A than in boys of the same age.” Reuters Health quoted the same study, saying, “In a new study of Cincinnati-area kids, girls exposed to higher levels of bisphenol A before birth had more behavioral problems and were more anxious and over-active than those only exposed to small amounts of the chemical.” While the study is flawed, it continues to be cited by the media as a credible source. If you’d like to read more on this and related topics, please check out my column on Promo Corner Blog.   Photo Credit: biochefkitchenware via Compfight...

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Solution to Toxic Toys: Ban Them All

Since the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act became law in 2008, the dangers of heavy metals contained in promotional products, particularly ones targeted at children, have become well known. Even with this increased awareness, New York’s Rockland County is taking the additional step of enacting a brand new “Toxic Toy” law, which essentially bans all toys that contain any of these seven chemicals—benzene, lead, mercury, antimony, arsenic, cadmium, and cobalt—in any amount “greater than zero.” According to county executive Ed Day, “This is serious. Beyond the disappointment children have when perfectly safe “Happy Meal” toys are now banned by an absurd law, we now have significant economic issues, such as toy stores who are mulling over pulling other toys, clothes and even child car safety seats off [the] shelves too!” The Safe to Play Coalition, which represents the Toy Industry Association (TIA), fought against, and successfully turned back, a similar law passed in Albany. According to coalition attorney Rick Locker, “there is no way to test these chemicals down to zero.” And TIA officials add, “Nothing is more important to toymakers than preserving the safety of children at play. Unfortunately, Rockland County’s so-called ‘Toxic Free Toys Act’ is inefficient, unnecessary, illegal, and does nothing to strengthen toy safety.” What do you think? Too much or justifiable action on the part of Rockland County? Along similar lines, frequent complaints against Alibaba involving the sale of counterfeit goods popped up ahead of an expose´ published in a recent issue of Forbes magazine that asserted that Alibaba’s huge counterfeit issues will never be eliminated. According to the Forbes article, “The scale of the fakery is enormous–at any given time Taobao (Alibaba’s online bazaar) offers millions of suspect goods for sale, from handbags to auto parts, sportswear to jewelry. When Forbes searched for listings on Taobao with the word ‘Gucci’ and set the preferred price range under 300 yuan, (less than $50), well below the price of real Gucci products, 30,000 results popped up.” While the products may not be real, the problem certainly is. Would you agree? If you’d like to read more on these topics, please check out my column at Promo Corner Blog. photo credit: Roswell Incident via photopin...

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Wash Your Hands, or Not

Branded pens, notepads, and goofy sunglasses – these are just some of the promotional items we all are routinely see at events and conferences. In recent years, the types of promotional items we see at conferences have evolved to include more personal products, like lip balm and even first aid kits. Among the most popular promotional products, hand sanitizers have become a prime product offered by distributors because of their decent imprint areas, and branding opportunities. We wrote on PromoCorner that some hand sanitizers contain Triclosan, an ingredient linked to cancer. And we applauded our industry for self-policing the use of potentially dangerous ingredients in promotional items. After that post went live, I heard from Paul Christensen, president of Natural Trends, LLC, one of the first suppliers to bring sanitizers to the promotional products industry. He suggested that we make a clarification regarding so-called ‘instant sanitizers’ and I think it is worth mentioning here: “While some have certainly imported or produced non-FDA compliant product of poor quality and without proper drug facts labeling, I am unaware of a single supplier who has ever offered an instant hand sanitizer in the promotional market containing Triclosan.” Christensen continued, “USA-made instant hand sanitizer, produced in compliance with FDA requirements, and used as directed, is very safe and effective. All instant hand sanitizers must contain one of two active ingredients in their proper percentages – ethyl alcohol or benzalkonium chloride.” According to Christensen, “By definition, instant hand sanitizer is waterless, meaning it does not need to be rinsed off with water after use. The FDA requires products with Triclosan to carry a statement on the label instructing that hands are to be rinsed off after use.” We appreciate Paul’s comments as we strive to provide the most complete information on product safety. On a different topic, I read an article recently about small loaders, also known as “skid-steers.” The Minneapolis Star Tribune, in a series of articles titled “Tragic Harvest,” referenced a trend of deaths and injuries in the Midwest caused by disabled safety devices or bypassed safety features. While I’m sure these skid-steers are not offered as promotional products, a quote from Mark Hagedorn, a Wisconsin agricultural agent, got my attention: “They have built in a boatload of safety features, but ingenious people find ways to work around safety.” It makes me think about the many cases in our industry where the...

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