Be smart about the toy recalls! Mattel fights back – so should you

It’s been a toy recall after a toy recall. The latest recall making parents across the nation nervous is the Simplicity Crib recall – three babies have died because of poor hardware and crib design.

While the toy safety hearings at the Senate are still going, at least some news of the latest recall mania have come out. The University of Manitoba business school in Winnipeg, Canada has studied the 550 toy recalls reported by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) since 1988, and the study result shows that 77 percent of recalls, were as a result of problems attributed to design flaws – not manufacturing issues.

While it still seems that the lead in the toys was a result of greedy business men, the rest of the recalls were made because of poor design.

While we, concerned parents, have been blaming everything from the Chinese to corporate CEOs, I’d like you to think about what YOU can do.

Pointing fingers is like a barking dog – it won’t hurt you, but it gets annoying after a while. I’ve started getting annoyed of myself by saying too many times how disgusted I am by the greed of big companies.

The good thing is that we can make a difference.

Many Moms like myself have been concerned about China-made products, and are concerned trusting big companies like Mattel again. There is talk we should start making our own toys, like in the old days.

One site, Mums the Wurd teamed up with a Canadian toy manufacturer, Natural Pod, to raise awareness of safer toys. Nature’s Pod produces toys in North-America, out of wood, felt and other natural materials.

I personally think less is more, and much rather spend more for good quality toys like the ones from Natural Pod, which I know will last longer and are safer for my children. Well, except my children still play with the same wooden blocks my mother bought me, when I was growing up in Scandinavia. (My old Barbies are long gone.)

My mother always said “we can’t afford to buy cheap”. Not that we were poor, but not that we were rich either. What she meant was, purchasing a well-made item will last longer, and in the long run it will come less expensive than purchasing a new cheap one to replace the old broken one. Not to even mention the environmental cost of all those Dollar Store items that last for a day.

How many times you have thought “well, it was only a couple of bucks, if it breaks, we’ll buy a new one”?

How about starting to think differently?

Children don’t need a lot of toys. And I’m against most of the toys Mattel makes anyway. Too much stimulation, too little use of imagination. Mattel/Fisher-Price have used their imagination for complex toys, so children do not have to think.

Don’t be fooled by great marketing.

Baby Einsteins and other so called educational toys and videos are not as educating as they promise.

Moms, Dads, Grands and Aunties, don’t get mad at me for saying this, but it is about time for us to start using our noodle.

The only way to receive the toys our children deserve, is to stop buying the toys big giants like Mattel market nowadays. I know, it’s the TV and the constant commercials to blame, and your child begging for the latest Mattel-creations she saw on TV.
How about less TV?

While Elmo might do a pretty good job teaching the letter S, you can do it better. You spending time with your child will create life long memories and a healthy and loving growing environment for today.

Also, we can not just blame toy companies if the toy malfunctions. We need to supervise our children playing. We can also buy smarter, and test the products ourselves. Of course there is no way to see that the toy has lead in it, but we can ask other questions. Does the toy have parts that might come loose? Has it been recalled? Does it have long straps in which my child can get strangled? I don’t put my child’s safety into anyone else’s hands, and you shouldn’t either.

My child deserves better. So does yours.

Buy less. Buy better quality – buy heirloom quality. New isn’t always better, the old comes with memories and stories.

It is our responsibility to raise happy, smart kids. Not just consumers.

What I found really interesting that half of the latest recalls made weren’t actually because of the lead paint, even though the media first made it to sound like it was.

Half of the toys recalled were recalled because of they were falling apart and posing a choking hazard.

The magnetic parts inside the toys can fall out and if more than one magnet is swallowed, they can attract inside the body and cause intestinal perforation, infection or blockage which can be fatal.

It was a designing mistake, not manufacturing.

No, not trying to get points here for the Chinese. China is still the place where the poisonous dog food and toothpaste came from, and the toys with lead paint. Not to even mention what kind of environmental burden all those cargo planes (and the amount of jet fuel used) are for the Mother Earth. After all, China is the number one source of imports to the United States.

The word is out there that we’ll hear more recalls and reasons in the next couple of weeks – after the hearings on toy safety on Capitol Hill are over.

How is Mattel doing?

I started looking back at some of the Mattel’s recalls in the recent years, and also how their stock and revenue had been doing.

Mattel’s stock was pretty steady since the beginning of 2001 until March 2005, when it started going down for a period of six months. By the way, Mattel recalled a Batman Batmobile in April 2004. Guess what? Their stock started going up. Recall press was just good for the business.

But Mattel’s domestic sales started dropping in 2004, and by 2005 Mattel knew it had to start thinking of something new. Even though the total sales still rose from 2004 to 2005, the profits went down most likely due to increased manufacturing costs.

In October 2005 the Mattel stock took it’s 5-year-low-point (14.75), and Mattel started fighting back. Live Barbie shows, new philanthrophic programs, and the company increased its previously announced share repurchase program, and purchased new technologies for the new generation toys like The Fisher-Price InteracTV™ Learning System. And I would guess: re-organizing manufacturing to lower the cost.

Happy times started for Mattel, sales rose significantly, and the stock took it’s 9-year peak (28.30) on April 2007. Then it started going down. But not as significantly as you would think of in the light of all the latest recalls. The first Mattel recall was August 14th, and their stock went down 10% after that, and was at it’s lowest on September 10th (21.17). All this press hasn’t been that bad for Mattel though. The stock started rising again, and acually was higher (23.94) last Friday than it was a day before the recalls (23.57).

Business people say that it doesn’t matter what people talk about you, as long as they talk. My short financial analysis makes me think that this costly recall might become a profitable venture for Mattel in the long run.

There are people who think “poor Mattel” – it was the Chinese who did this to us. Mattel apologized to consumers. Then the Chinese got upset. No worries, Mattel apologized to the Chinese – and made themselves look like the good guy again – the good guys always say they are sorry, right?

So Mattel is working really hard to earn your trust again. I can’t wait to see the sales numbers of the last quarter to see how well Mattel is doing gaining this trust back.

More press releases, more apologizes.
More new toys. Bigger advertisements, more TV commercials.

Mattel is working really, really hard to get you to buy their toys this Holiday season. Why don’t I just quote Mattel’s CEO, Mr. Eckert: “My number one goal is to make sure that this holiday season’s toys are the safest ever.”

The Holiday Season, the jolliest season of the year in the toy industry, and Mattel counts on you to make it a happy and profitable one.

Are you making it profitable for Mattel?
Or are you starting to do things differently?

You’ve got the power.

CNN Money
Money Central Msn
Mattel Inc.
US Consumer Product Safety Commission
Crunchy Domestic Goddess
Adventures in Babywearing
Mums the Wurd

Non-Mattel Toys pictured:
Natural Pod
  1. So true!! Our kids do not need half the toys they have. It is frustrating trying to keep up with ALL of the recalls. Then if my particular toy (same as one recalled) is excluded from the recal I wonder – how do they KNOW it is safe. I have trouble trusting them now!

    Great post!

  2. Katja, this is an amazing post. Very well stated. I’m going to send this to our contact at Natural Pod, as I think she’d really enjoy reading it.

    Will also be linking back to you in our Testimonial page, like Laura mentioned.

    So glad to be associated with you! :)


  3. Kajta! I’m very impressed with this–and I wholeheartedly agree with it all (an not because you’re my Katja–it really is smart!).

    My sister Jamee always purchased my kids art supplies. I like that as well as anything. xoxo

  4. Thanks Katja! I've always been a cautious shopper but now it's ten fold. The good thing, I guess, is that I'm buying less toys, which means less clutter.

  5. this is an excellent article, katja. thanks for sharing it!
    i, for one, am thinking long and hard before i buy my kids any toys these days.

  6. You hit the nail on the head with this post. We all have to remember that NOBODY is making us buy Mattel products, or any other products not produced here in America. Corporations outsourcing American jobs is one of the main reasons for our ailing economy (while China’s economy is the fastest growing in the world!). “Step 2” toys produces about half of its products here in America, the rest overseas. They are considering moving all of their production back home; a move other manufacturers might consider should American consumers start to demand it. Imagine factories opening, instead of closing, and jobs created, instead of diminishing. Let’s all make an effort to buy quality products produced here at home. I’ve been compiling a list of toys made here in America — please visit my website, http://www.toysmadeinamerica.com, for over 100 clickable links to quality merchandise for your kids, made in the USA! I have found TONS of quality-made, educational, creative, and unique toys made here at home. Let’s reward the corporations (and mom-and-pop businesses) who are keeping jobs here at home. Thanks for the informative and intellectual post. Teresa

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