Is Imported Furniture Next For Recall?

with the recent recall of millions of toys by major toy company is the latest string of product recalls that include toothpaste, cosmetics, and jewelry considered to be worse than defective. Is furniture next?

Probably not, but smart importers need to be sure their merchandise is safe in every way
BlogNote: Today's provocative posting is from Calidad, the pseudonym of former retail executive with a top 25 company.

Offering insightful comments to other postings, he possesses impressive professional credentials in areas of quality, logistics and process.

Even though I am not necessarily in complete agreement with Calidad, I agree his contentions need to be presented and debated.

The recall of millions of toys by a major toy company is the latest in a string of product recalls that include toothpaste, cosmetics, jewelry and food items considered to be worse than defective. They are verifiably dangerous.

Will home furnishing items be next? Do we really know what finishes and other processing chemicals are being used in these products and the packaging in which they are shipped? Could there be lead-based paint on infant and childrens furniture? Could toxins in these items be harmful to the people who handle them?

What about other risks? For example, how many importers, and includes retailers, have actually visited off shore manufacturing facilities to confirm processes? Is there a possibility that some offshore producers are outsourcing themselves to suppliers whose processes are unknown?

Having worked at a major retailer, I remember incidents in which the warehouse employees would report suspicious orders after opening an overseas-loaded container. Also, there were incidents in which we found infestations of insects in upholstery, sometimes after the sofas and chairs were delivered to a customer's home.

What happens to this defective merchandise? Even in the rare case in which the manufacturer or distributor takes it back, do you really believe they destroy or even repair it? Of course not, it is typically resold at a lower price to a low end retailer or a clearance store buyer where it is will be marked down.

Some retailers blame the consumer for wanting low priced merchandise and say they have no choice. This is completely inappropriate. Retailers have blasted the public with ads screaming low price and no interest for so long that the shopper has been brainwashed into thinking that price is the only differentiator.

Many manufacturers and retailers have done very little to communicate the value of goods made to a standard. (In fact there is no standard for residential furniture in this country.)

Regretfully, theyhave done a poor job of training sales people to differentiate product quality to customers. Why? Because they are so eager to get the sale, any sale. The public be damned, some are saying.

Too many retailer buyers continually shop for lowest price, not the best value. They resist anyone from the quality department interfering or even questioning their choices. Get that sale, any sale, for any reason.

Consumers shop price out of ignorance. Some retailers shop price out of greed.

Should we be surprised when we find incidents of child labor in the production of athletic shoes or incidents of toxic chemicals in other consumer goods?

Do we care as long as the recalls don't wipe out profits? Do we even think to care about the workers in these foreign factories? I sure hope we do, and more of do.

It was pretty pathetic to hear news reports blame poor government oversight. Forgive my idealism, but don't corporations have some responsibility to the community, the global community?

I get the feeling that some executives scoff at the idea that there be some minimally acceptable set of ethical behavior? Do these things only matter when we get caught?

When will the furniture industry wake up to the need for standards? Wouldn't it be great to have a hang tag (like the UL tag on electrical appliances) that tells the potential buyer that the product meets a minimum standard for safety and performance and that the manufacturer adheres to that standard?

Isn't it just possible that this approach might introduce some confidence and trust into the buying experience?

If standards don't emerge voluntarily, a furniture recall or problem could force the government's hand, which could be a hard slap and not a tap, in this changing business climate.

Ivan Saul Cutler
Inside Fruniture

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