Thrift stores and garage sales beware: Better make sure items haven't been recalled

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    Posted Thursday, Sep. 17, 2009
    By ANNA M. TINSLEY, Star Telegram
    [email protected]

    Lauren Burdett regularly uses the Internet to check the list of children’s products that have been recalled.

    If she finds any of those items — from play yards to toys with tiny magnets inside — she quickly takes them off the floor at Rugrats Resale and gets rid of them.

    "I don’t want anything like that, that has been recalled, here," said Burdett, owner of the resale thrift store. "I would be devastated if I sold something and it hurt someone."

    That’s the attitude federal officials hope to see during Resale Roundup, a new effort to crack down on people who sell secondhand products that could be defective and hurt children.

    The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is enforcing a new measure that makes it a crime to sell anything that manufacturers have recalled, whether at thrift stores, garage sales or even on eBay or Craigslist.

    "Our goal is to make sure that [people] are not passing along a hazard to another person," said Patty Davis, a spokeswoman for the commission. "Recalled products are recalled for a reason.

    "You don’t want to pass along a hazard that can be deadly to another person."

    'Protecting consumers’

    Last year, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which President George W. Bush singed into law.

    The new law has several measures geared to protect consumers, from making it a federal crime to resell recalled products to implementing tougher standards for selling children’s products (from books to ATVs) that contain lead.

    It has prompted outcries from parents, librarians, motorcyclists, business owners and more. The Coalition for Safe and Affordable Childrenswear Inc., the Coalition for Safe and Responsible ATV Use and more than 100 small businesses echoed the outcry last week. Many say the law doesn’t let the commission use common sense when enforcing provisions.

    "As a result, products ranging from library books, pens and socks to bicycles and ATVs have been pulled off the shelves, not because they cause any danger to kids, but because of the way Congress wrote the law," said Rick Woldenberg, who heads the Alliance for Children’s Product Safety. "Even rocks and fossils must be tested for lead if they might be handled in class by a child 12 or younger."

    Despite the complaints, the commission is moving forward with Resale Roundup, traveling across the country to train thrift store workers and do unannounced safety spot checks.

    The commission also has an Internet surveillance team monitoring Web sites and looking for recalled items up for sale.

    The team is working, for instance, with eBay officials to put up filters to show when items put up for sale have been recalled.

    "EBay works closely with the CPSC and takes their lead when it comes to recalled items and how best to protect eBay users from receiving potentially dangerous goods, especially toys," said Evonne Gomez, an eBay spokeswoman. "We take steps to give eBay members a wealth of information about recalled goods and in cases where all or most of a product line is recalled we will prohibit sales on eBay."

    Davis said the commission wants to work with Web sites, resale stores and those who hold garage sales and realize some items may accidentally slip through.

    "If we discover a violation, first and foremost we will work with that store to make sure they comply," she said. "Our goal is not to shut down stores."

    Violators could face a fine of up to $100,000 per violation.

    Checking for recalls

    Checking for recalled items is a regular habit at local Goodwill stores, said David Cox, senior vice president for retail sales and market for Goodwill Industries of Fort Worth Inc.

    Information about newly recalled items is quickly distributed to each store so workers can check.

    "We deal in millions and millions of pounds of merchandise locally each year," said Cox, of the 15 Tarrant County stores.

    After the law went into effect, workers went through stores looking for items on the recalled list as well as items such as clothing that included rhinestones or metal, ornate buttons that could contain lead, Cox said.

    "Our ultimate goal is the safety of the customers and to abide by the law," Cox said. "We are doing everything in our power to be diligent and make sure those items don’t make it onto our shelves."

    But some items do slip by, even if workers are conscientiously looking for them.

    Burdett said she sold an item about three weeks ago that was returned the next day when the buyer said it had been recalled.

    "When I got it, it wasn’t on recall," Burdett said. "But I looked it up, and it was on the list. I gave her the money back." People who hold garage sales also have to be on the lookout, Davis said.

    People involved with those sales need to check the commission’s Web site, especially the top-10 list, at

    "People pass these things along . . . and you really need to be careful with what you are selling now," Davis said. "You can save someone’s life by doing this."

    Top 10 Recalled Items
    The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s top10 list of recalled children’s products:

    Product and date of recall

    Playskool Travel-Lite Play Yards: March 10, 1993

    Evenflo Happy Camper Play Yards: June 25, 1997

    Baby Trend Home and Roam and Baby Express Portable Cribs and Play Yards: Jan. 3, 1995, and Feb. 28, 2001

    Magnetix Magnetic Building Sets: March 31, 2006, and April 19, 2007

    Easy Bake Ovens: July 19, 2007

    Polly Pocket Dolls with magnets: Aug. 14, 2007, and Nov. 21, 2006

    Simplicity Drop Side Cribs: July 2, 2009; Sept. 17, 2008; and Sept. 21, 2007

    Simplicity Bassinets (also includes bassinets with Graco or Winnie the Pooh motif): Sept. 11, 2008; Aug. 27, 2008; and Aug. 28, 2008

    Hill Sportswear hooded drawstring sweatshirts: Feb. 12, 2009

    Evenflo Envision High Chairs: April 2, 2009

    For more information, go to To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, call the CPSC Hotline at 800-638-2772 or go to https:// Consumer Product Incident Report.

    Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

    ANNA M. TINSLEY, 817-390-7610
    Reference: Thrift stores and garage sales beware: Better make sure items you are selling haven't been recal...

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