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Mattel Mea Culpa

August 19, 2007

Bob Eckert the Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Mattel posts this video apology for the recall of the millions of toys that could have been tainted by lead paint or have magnets that fall out and present as a choking hazzard. 

 On the one hand, as a marketer, I see this as a heartfelt apology, and a great use of video as a medium to reach the customer.  They acted fast, came clean, and had a responsible and decisive solution. 

 On the other parenting hand, however, I have to ask myself:  You manufacture toys half a world away, and only when something bad happens do you decide to institute quality control checks that could have prevented this in the first place?  NOW they are checking every contianer of paint and requiring subcontractors to use the paint as provided. NOW they are checking all the magnets. This is the second “oops” product disaster to come out of China.  Maybe now is the time to think about bringing some manufacturing back to the good old USA?  I’m not xenophobic, but if that means insuring that my kids’ toys were not going to harm them, I’d gladly pay double to do so.  We’re so caught up in having things manufactured overseas to save a few bucks, but at what cost? It can work, if certain standards are adhered to which appears not to be the case here, or with the pet food nightmare.

After that recall, the Chinese government executed the top food and drug regulator to show they were serious about improving the safety of products from that nation. Hello? Executed??? Communist government takes a hard line here. Imagine if Bush had that power! One article I read said that 80% of the toys sold in the US are made in China. With those percentages, it will be hard to avoid those toys, but I’m not sure how the confidence of consumers will be affected. I was at a toy store today, and saw a lot of products that should have been recalled (according to the web sites from Mattel) that were still up on shelves. I thought Toys R Us acted fast when they pulled ALL vinyl bibs from shelves to avoid having any confusion between the made in China ones and others. Fast and decisive actions like that will go a long way to restoring the now fragile trust that parents have in toymakers and toy sellers.

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