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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Buying or Selling, and Welcome QLP

At the end of September I had the opportunity to attend the PPAI Product Responsibility Summit in Bethesda, Maryland. Among the many presentations of the day was an interesting panel discussion focused entirely on recalls, featuring then CPSC deputy director of compliance and field operations, Mark Schoem. Schoem left the CPSC in October to become the new head of the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization (ICPHSO). As our ranks continue to grow, it would be wonderful to see more in attendance at these events, where we can renew our commitment to safety and compliance in our industry. Speaking of safety and compliance, the continuing effort we’re seeing today to improve the safety and compliance of promotional products began in 2008 with the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). This is a law designed to establish safety standards for consumer products, especially those for children, as well as to modernize the Consumer Products Safety Commission. It’s no coincidence that the Quality Certification Alliance also began in 2008. On that same topic, Nancy Nord, former acting CPSC commissioner, says that not everyone is on board with recent actions and policies of the CPSC. Since leaving her post, Nord has been a vocal critic of the CPSC. She pointed out that many of the recall strategies employed by the CPSC are over-using, or at a minimum misusing, the recall system. Her concern lies in the way products are distributed, and to whom, and how this can lead to changes in regulatory oversight. For example, when products originally intended to be consumer products are marketed to the promotional products industry, especially if the product design is revised so as to appeal to children, distributors must be aware that could shift the jurisdiction from the CPSC to the FDA. Overall, Nord calls for more vigilance when it comes to the promotional products industry’s awareness of proper recall strategies. On a different topic, I would like to welcome our 14th distributor to the QCA Distributor Advocacy Council, Quality Logo Products (QLP). QLP is committed to achieving a high level of safety and compliance through a collaborative effort among suppliers and distributors. Says QLP co-founder Bret Bonnet, “We are committed to providing our customers with the best items and the best experience. So joining QCA and promoting safety just seemed like a natural extension of that mission.” We’re glad to welcome...

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You Could Be Out Of Business

In the past, we’ve covered what can happen when you do not pay attention to consumer health risks, the challenges of a recall, and the poor publicity that can result, which can potentially cause great damage to your company—and your brand. The recent announcement by the Consumer Product Safety Commission of a 3.5 million dollar civil penalty levied against phil&teds USA is a cautionary tale worth noting. The phil&teds USA situation demonstrates the importance of being aware of the risk resulting from failure of a product designed for children. Equally as important, whether or not your promotional products are geared to children, failure to report is a big deal, and it’s probably worth your while to take note. After phil&teds USA failed to report to the CPSC multiple accidents and injuries occurring from 2009 to 2011 as a result of various product defects with a high chair, the product was finally recalled in August 2011. This was, however, after the company had already imported and sold more than 13,000 high chairs to unsuspecting consumers. When all is said and done, phil&teds USA paid only $200,000 of the total penalty fines. The CPSC waived the additional fines because the company said in sworn statements that the reduced fine payment was all they could afford without going out of business. More important than their payment settlement, phil&teds USA also agreed to implement a new program to ensure compliance with the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) as well as a system of internal controls and procedures. The compliance program phil&teds USA implemented requires certain written standards, policies, and procedures that ensure all pertinent information is communicated to the company’s employees who are responsible for compliance. According to the CPSA, the compliance program also requires: confidential employee reporting of compliance concerns to a senior manager; effective communication of compliance policies and procedures, including training; senior management’s responsibility for, and board oversight of compliance; requirements for record retention. At the Quality Certification Alliance, it’s just this kind of comprehensive compliance program that we expect suppliers to have to become certified. If you’d like to learn more about certification and other topics relating to our industry, please hop over and check out my column at the Promo Corner Blog. photo credit: CLOSED via photopin...

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