Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Mattel recall yet more toys ...

... but still miss the point.

This time, the recall is even bigger than before (1). Again, they are manufactured in China. Again, Mattel says it is seeknig to improve safety standards. This won't make any difference.

The problem is that Mattel is constantly looking for ways to increase profitability. This is why it is in China, because labour is cheaper. Their contracts are awarded to vendors that can fulfill them as cheaply as possible. This ensures that, soemwhere along the line, corners are going to be cut and there are only two areas where this can realistically happen.

Mattel isn't going to award the contract to someone who charges more. The competing vendors aren't going to take a cut int heir own profits - Hell, they are in this to make money, just like Mattel is. The only areas where real savings can be made is labour costs and quality. For the former, read human rights, for the lateter, read our children's safety.

So the vendor pays lip service to safety standards demanded by Mattel. Mattel pretends to believe that they are being met. Then, when some egregious failure forces Mattel to take action - a mass of magnets tearing through a child's stomach, for example (2) - the company can pass off responsibility to the Chinese vendor, and make fine sounding pledges to put children first.

Point is, this will happen again, because in a short while Mattel, driven by the need to remain competitive and profitable, will forget the promises to be made in the wake of this latest recall. It will be decided that such-and-such a vendor is now trusted, and inspections or tests will be forgotten. After all, these tests cost money. Then the vendor, in turn, will source cheaper components. Then there will be another shock recall, more mealy mouthed professions of horror and disbelief, more claims that "absolutely nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our children" (3), and so the cycle repeats.

1 - "Mattel Does Damage Control After New Recall," by Nichoas Casey and Nicholas Zamiska, in The Wall Street Journal, 15th of August, 2007. (
2 - As happened to Kenny Sweet, described in the article.
3 -ibid.

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