How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Recall


With the rash of toy recalls recently, I have heard a lot of parents say they have sorted through their kids' toys and thrown away anything even close to the ones deemed dangerous. That's silly, for two reasons: One, most recalls are for a very specific product manufactured during a limited date range. Two, most companies provide a way for parents to get a replacement toy or a refund instead of just throwing it away.

When you hear about a recall in the media, the first thing you should do is check out a detailed source. The newspaper or TV news usually doesn't provide enough information for you to know what to do. A great place to start is, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission site on this topic. Alternatively, you can almost always find a detailed release on the site of the toy manufacturer, such as this page set up by Mattel. Compare the photo and description of the recalled product to what you have. Some manufacturers provide helpful yes/no "wizards" to help you determine if your toy is part of the recall. Often the release provides certain serial numbers, found on the packaging or the product itself, or a date range.

If you bought the product after the date range, the problem has likely already been fixed. Often it will have a new feature that shows it's been fixed, for example, an extra strap on an infant carrier.

 If you bought the product before the recall date range, it's trickier to know what to do: Personally, I took away a Baby Einstein block from my baby that was manufactured before the recall range began. Could I really trust that the blue paint on that block was lead free, or did they just not test any blocks from that range? As I parent, I felt it wasn't worth the risk in that case, so I'm getting rid of the block.

Once you determine that you really do have a recalled toy, get a replacement or get your money back. The easiest way to do that is to shop at a store that promises up front to take them back, like Target. On this recall notice, see where it says, "return the item to the nearest Target store for a full refund"? I returned a recalled puzzle table to Target a couple months ago, and I didn't have a receipt or even have all the pieces. I had bought it in another state years ago. The Target employees couldn't find it in the database, but I told them it was recalled and they took my word for it. 

 Wal-Mart also said in press releases about specific recalls that customers can return the affected toys for a full refund.

You can generally also contact the manufacturer about a fix, replacement, or refund. Check the press release for details on how to do so. 

To tell the truth, I'm usually kind of happy when one of my kids' toys gets recalled because it means I can turn in something they're already tired of and get something new. Of course, some products that have caused tragedies, such as the Simplicity cribs recently recalled, and I do not mean to make light of that. But I'm not the type of parent to freak out over a little lead paint (doctors will tell you that it's more crumbling, peeling lead paint, lead dust, and cumulative exposure you need to worry about) or a toy that might break.

Not all recalls are reported in the media. In fact, I found out about a recall affecting one of my daughter's toys while researching this post. You can stay on top of them by signing up for the CPSC's recall email list.

Keep these resources handy when you go shopping for second-hand children's products, too, whether on EBay or at a garage sale. There's no need to fear buying even a crib second hand (as long as it was made after 1991) -- but I would never buy one without checking the manufacturing information sticker, found directly on the crib, and looking it up online.

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Guest's picture

Just subscribed to this thread yesterday and today I get a picture of The Blue Block. We have this very same Blue Block Now with Excessive Levels of Lead. I looked it up and it has been recalled. Thanks Wise Bread!

Linsey Knerl's picture

You totally took the words right out of my mouth.  Last year my son got an activity toy from Target for Christmas.  Right about the time he grew tired of it, and it ended up at the bottom of the toy box, Target issued a recall.  They are awesome about recalls because they usually offer a gift card for the amount of the toy at it's highest shelf value.  So returning the toy that I bought on clearance for $6, got me a $15 Target GC.  Which means newer, pricier toys for FREE!  (I didn't have a receipt, and had lost most of the accessories that went with it, but they took it back no questions asked!)

And the recall was over something that really wasn't all that serious, so I wasn't freaked at all. 

Myscha Theriault's picture

Too bad there aren't as many pet toys being recalled. Although most of ours wouldn't apply anyway.

Cool to know though, that you often get the rebate back for the full price amount.

I'll bet plenty of parents are psyched about this post!

Guest's picture

Just by reading this I can tell you are a positive person. We need more Carrie Kirby's in the blogosphere! However, I fear the recalls will only get worse as stores like wal-mart continue to pressure its Chinese suppliers to cut costs (and corners). There comes a point when safety outweighs savings, at least it should. I'm a part of and we issued a report that describes Wal-Mart's joint venture with China.

Will it take loss of life to get Wal-Mart's attention? Let's hope not. In the meantime, we'll all heed your advice.

Guest's picture

I subscribe to the blog and press release feeds on US Recall News. The blog is usually updated every day with new recalls and the newsletter goes out once per week. There are also feeds from the FDA, CPSC, USDA and other agencies that you can subscribe to. Here is a list of all the recalled toys so far:

The blog action day post brought up a good point - what is going to happen to all of those lead-contaminated toys? Millions of them... are they just going to be thrown into landfills?

Guest's picture

It seems like there is a new product recall everyday. I am especially concerned about all the recalls on children's toys and household products. I set up a personal file that alerts me to all product recalls and it sends me a timely notice when one of my products has been recalled.

Guest's picture

Filling out the 'warranty registration' cards that come with pretty much every product sure help with the companies being able to find you in a timely manner too. Like when our Xbox cord was recalled they called to say we'd like to send you a new one, let's confirm your address.

Guest's picture

Last year I learned that our Black & Decker cordless mower had been recalled for something that could cause the motor to catch on fire. Our mower wasn't working at the time because one of the batteries had burst. In talking with a Black & Decker rep we were told that the motor problem might have been responsibility for the burst battery. We sent the mower in at their expense and after many weeks went by we got a postcard saying that we owed a a few hundred dollars for replacement of the batteries and for shipping the mower back! Ack! After a very unsatisfactory telephone conversation all we could get out of them was to drop the shipping charges, and we opted to find new batteries on our own. We were dismayed to find that Black & Decker had not reassembled the mower, some of the parts were broken, and a plastic key that is necessary for the motor to start was missing. And we aren't even sure they fixed the motor problem! So although we managed to find batteries for much less than what Black & Decker was charging, and managed to jury-rig them into the mower despite the broken parts, we can't start the mower without that missing piece. I wish Black & Decker were as helpful as Target and other toy sellers!

Guest's picture

This month alone there has been two recalls, one on the Graco Stroller that I just brought. Without hesitation, I stop using the product immediately because it's just not worth the risk. Target here in Ct. has been very responsive and quick with the refund. My fear, like you stated, all recalls aren't always reported on The Morning Show.

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