CPSIA Regulation

Have any of you ever endured an inspection by the CPSC police?

Behind bars
Creative Commons License photo credit: jglsongs

Someone posted this on the site today as a comment but I think it’s worthy of a post of its own.

This comment came from Charlotte Reppy, of Grammies Attic in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Enforcement is a joke. Have any of you ever endured an inspection by the CPSC police? I was paid two visits by their kind folks when one of my friendly competititors turned me in for selling custom made cotton nightgowns that were primarily sold to little girls who were dancing the part of Clara in the Nutcracker Suite ballet. (Others were sold to parents for their children to ride Polar Express trains and for Christmas Card portraits. ( None were sold as sleepwear.) CPSC hauled away $1000 of beautiful gowns, not mass made in some lead-laden China sweatshop, but each individually sewn by a US seamstress sitting at her sewing machine using a vintage pattern. Three years later, the case has never been resolved, so I am still subject to product recall, fines, and imprisonment for violating flammability standards.

Now Iâ??m sitting on $150,000 of uncertified inventory, most of which is cotton and linen christening apparel. By the way, Iâ??m 5 miles away from CPSC headquarters. Guess who is going to be the first one visited on February 10? Anyone know where I can get some yellow Police Hazard tape to mark off all the â??Hazardous Wasteâ? that I canâ??t sell in my store?

Simply stunning.

CPSIA Media Retail Small Business

WSJ speaks out on the CPSIA

shoes and pipe
Creative Commons License photo credit: carboila

The Wall Street Journal opinion page finally sounded off on the CPSIA yesterday. Pretty good discussion, though they didn’t really get into the ripple effect of the CPSIA. 

That’s the part that concerns me long-term.


Two More Real Businesses. Profitable. Dead due to CPSIA.

Road Closed
Creative Commons License photo credit: MobilFunk7

Today, baby clothier Whimsical Walney announced that they will be closing at the end of business on February 9, 2009 as a result of the impact of compliance with the CPSIA.

Later in the day, the owner of Bella-Bambini, maker of elaborate but reasonably priced girls dresses, emailed to say they were also closing because of CPSIA.

These aren’t businesses that want to poison kids. They aren’t businesses that use lead. They make baby clothes from organic fabric and other natural materials.

Again…how many businesses have to fail before you pick up the phone? See the picture above. Is that what you want your downtown to look like?

Appalling. Simply appalling.

CPSIA Homemade products Manufacturing Media Regulation Retail Small Business Social Media Video Web 2.0

CPSC’s Vallese interview review re: CPSIA

Tonight I managed to get around to looking at the raw footage of CPSC spokesperson Vallese’s interview with KBAL (Baltimore) regarding the CPSIA.

The reporter did a nice job of trying to pin her down on specific issues. It was a shame that the interview ended without a discussion of component testing or homemade products for kids.

The whole interview was more or less about the impact on thrift stores.

A few quotes stuck out in the seven minute video.

“That law is not defined”

The reporter asked Vallese how thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army are supposed to deal with the CPSIA. Vallese replied that testing is not required by thrift stores and resellers, but that  “there is a lead level limit of 600ppm that has to be met”.

When pressed on how a thrift store is supposed to figure out what to do (in the face of that apparent contradiction), her comment was “that law is not defined”.

I felt it was too bad that the reporter didn’t ask her “How do you enforce a law that is not defined?”, but she did continue down a parallel trail, pressing the CPSC spokesperson for a usable strategy for thrift store businesses.

“a level of confidence”

At that point, Vallese indicated that the business owner needed to arrive at a “level of confidence” regarding the lead content of the products they are selling. The reporter clearly wasn’t satisfied with a partial reply and repeated the question a bit differently.

Vallese replied “they simply need to make a business decision at a level of confidence that the products that they are selling meet the law.”

When asked how they could determine if items met the law, the reporter pressed on, asking what Vallese would suggest to arrive at an acceptable “level of confidence”.

Vallese’s response offered three alternatives:

“they can look at it and make an informed decision”, “they can call the manufacturer”, or “they can test”.

Gee, that’s pretty helpful. I’m no lawyer, but I’m guessing that isn’t something I want in my arsenal when I go to court:

Well, I looked at it and made an informed decision. I tried to reach the manufacturer of this 9 year old item (who was in the Philippines) but they didn’t reply. I didn’t have $38,000 for a XRF scanner and I can’t afford to send every piece in my store to Jennifer, so Vallese’s ‘informed decision’ was the only option I had left. Have mercy on me, your honor!

“screening but not a deciding measure”

That opened up the discussion of testing (again, a shame that the issue of the cost of testing did not come up).

When the reporter asked about testing technology, Vallese indicated that the suggested screening technology is XRF.

When pressed about how the CPSC uses XRF, Vallese indicated: “We use XRF technology as a screening tool but not a deciding

Wasn’t that useful? You can use it, but we don’t make decisions based on it.

“mommy bloggers spreading misinformation”

Oh yeah, there was also that “mommy bloggers spreading misinformation” comment.

<Captain Kirk voice>Must. Use. Restraint.</>

As I noted a few days ago: Motrin and many others have learned this lesson the hard way. They could have avoided all that simply by asking the nearest married man.

Husbands like myself already know the “DONT TICK OFF THE MOMS” rule. Not only has the CPSC torqued the so-called mommy bloggers AND the moms and others who own businesses affected by the CPSIA, but they’ve called them out by specifically insulting them.

I think there must be a tad too much lead in the paint in the CPSC offices. Maybe that’s why Vallese resigned.

CPSIA podcast Public Relations Regulation Retail Small Business

6 month old raises awareness for CPSIA

CPSIA makes me mad!Over Christmas, my grandpa told me all about the CPSIA. Big people probably know it as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Do you have any idea how long it took me to learn to say that without messing it up? Those are big words for a 6 month old, even a cute one like me.

I learned the big words from my grandpa. He came to see me over Christmas and I overheard him talking to my great-grandpa about this new law.

When they talk while they’re holding me, I look up at them and bat my big blue eyes. It makes them talk funny to me. When they go back to their conversation they think I’m not paying attention, but I am.

I could tell you their checking account numbers, but I wont. We girls know everything about our men – even the grandpas.

The CPSIA is like a poopy diaper that’s leaking around the edges. It irritates my bottom and it gets all over everything. It gives me a world-class case of diaper rash. So bad that not even Gold Bond medicated powder makes it feel better.

Why the poopy diaper?

Well, my grandpa gave me lots of reasons to be cranky by talking to great-grandpa about the CPSIA when I was in the room. He said they forgot to think about the nice mommy who sits at home and takes care of her kids. In her spare time, she made my little homemade baby booties.

He also told my great-grandpa about all the other moms who make nice stuff for babies like me. Pretty dresses, books, booties, furniture, and a whole bunch of things for older kids like my cousin Daniel.

Grandpa talks about XRF

Grandpa made me laugh, but I didn’t let him notice. He only thinks I can smile right now. I heard him talking about all the things that small retailers and kids product makers could do to get attention from important people about this CPSIA thing.

A couple of his ideas sounded like good ways to get the local media interested in the CPSIA. He said they really like stories with irony. I’m not sure what irony is, but hey, I’m only 6 months old.

Grandpa said the press likes stories about politicians. I like it when grandpa tells me stories. There’s always nice people and animals in them. Politicians must be nice people if the press likes stories about them.

One idea he talked about was getting someone to use a XRF scanner to test all the kid toys in the gift shops in the Senate office building, House, Smithsonian and other Federal buildings that tourists like to visit.

Another idea I heard him talking about was getting a Senator to pose for a video or photo while giving a flag to a young kid – and then testing the flag with that XRF thing. He sure says “XRF” a lot these days.

It sounded like the thought he wouldn’t be able to take the XRF thing into those fancy buildings, but he said they could just buy some stuff inside, walk out front and test them while on video. He said to be sure and have some local press on the scene.

He didn’t explain what all that XRF stuff meant, so I urped on him just to remind him to explain everything. A girl has to know what her grandpa is up to.

Grandpa’s meeting

After he cleaned up the spitup, grandpa talked about what to do in a meeting of people who weren’t aware of CPSIA. He said something about a chamber of commerce meeting. At the beginning of his meeting, everyone in the room is sitting down having lunch. One at a time, they stand and introduce themselves, then they sit back down.

When he got up to introduce himself, he asked for the group’s patience to go through a quick exercise.

He asked them these questions:

  • If you make or sell toys, shoes or clothing for kids, please stand up.
  • If you write, illustrate, sell or distribute books, please stand up.
  • If you make or sell diapers or diaper covers, please stand up.
  • If you make or sell home furnishings, bean bag chairs, bedding, cribs or anything else for a child’s bedroom, playroom or nursery, please stand up.
  • If you work in a library, please stand up.
  • If you sell used childrens’ books printed before 1985, please stand up.
  • If you have a gift shop in your hotel, campground, resort or bed and breakfast, please stand up.
  • If you create, sell or rent outdoor gear or backpacks for kids under 12, please stand up.
  • If you create or sell jewelry or accessories for kids, please stand up.
  • If you create, illustrate, make music for, sell or rent electronics or video games, please stand up.
  • If you run an antique store that sells anything for kids under 12, like toys and clothes, please stand up.
  • If you write, publish, sell or distribute school supplies, educational materials or science kits, please stand up.

He pointed at the group standing and said, “All these people are affected by the new children’s product safety law”, noting that he had left some brief info on their lunch tables to look at after the meeting.

He told them that as of Feb 10 if they had anything in their stores that didn’t have a CPSIA compliance certificate, they could be fined $100k for selling non-compliant items – even if they were already in inventory before Feb 10th.

I’m not sure what that inventory thing is, but it sounds expensive. I need to ask for one when I learn to talk. Grandpa loves to buy me stuff.

The other shoe drops

Grandpa’s questions got worse. He asked everyone in the room to look around at the people standing.

He said “If you have a client, dealer or a supplier standing, stand up and join them.”  Next he said, “Look at all the people standing. If they or any of their employees spend money at your business, please stand up.”

Then he told them that everyone who wasn’t standing probably wasn’t affected by the CPSIA – except that all the people standing might have a lot less money to spend around town because of the impact of CPSIA testing and compliance.

Finally he said “If you have any questions, see me after the meeting”, thanked the group for their cooperation, and sat down.

That’s how I remember it, but I was kind of distracted by a bottle when he was talking to great-grandpa.

Small business colic

I’m so colic-y about the CPSIA, I just wanna spit up all over the people who voted this in without thinking about all the moms who stay home with their little kids and make pretty dresses and things for girls like me.

PS: No, I’m not 6 months old in that photo, are you kidding? I’m so much bigger now. My grandpa really likes that picture. It’s from back when I was 2 months old, just a baby, not a big girl like I am now.

CPSIA Regulation Small Business

Comment period on Component Testing for CPSIA

The CPSC has opened a comment period for component testing (as opposed to testing each variation of a final product).

For details, see the pdf here:

On the surface, this seems like a much better solution for small, homemade product designers. But, it isn’t as simple as it seems. Most importantly, it might allow for a central database (vendor by vendor at least) of GCC/test data that makers of childrens products could use for references and compliance.

Time will tell as the implementation is everything.


CPSIA closure hits the TV news

The impact of CPSIA hit the TV news today in Houston, where the ABC station covered the soon-to-close Pink Zebra Boutique that I mentioned here the other day.

If it’s on TV, is it real enough for you?


CPSIA Retail

Another product line falls to CPSIA

Learn more here: 

How many small businesses have to fail or see their revenue fall before it impacts your business? I’ve only listed 2 so far, but there are many more.

Pick up the phone and call your Senators, House rep and the CPSC.

CPSIA Management podcast Regulation Retail Small Business Strategy

Forging ahead despite the CPSIA

metalworking weekend
Creative Commons License photo credit: hans s

This week, a series of #CPSIA posts about what to do next and how to get the word out to other manufacturers, retailers, the media in your area and perhaps most importantly – to your elected officials. If you want to forge ahead with your homemade products business despite CPSIA, then read on.

If you don’t have any direct reason to care about dealing with the CPSIA (you should have an indirect reason to care), don’t worry – there are other posts this week that will help you with your business. I haven’t forgotten about the rest of you, it’s simply that this CPSIA issue is very time-bound and it’s important to deal with a number of issues relating to it before Feb 10 arrives.

If you’ve given up, read on anyway. You might develop enough hope to get back in the game. 

Surviving the February 10th deadline

I’m assuming that you got this far because you haven’t given up and you’re wondering what to do in the next few weeks before the CPSIA kicks in.

Before Feb 10th gets here, you’ll need a few things in your quiver.

If you’re a retailer, you’ll need a CPSIA General Compliance Certificate (GCC) for every item (or every lot of items) that you sell. The manufacturer of the items should provide these, it is not your responsibility as a retailer to test and create the certificates (sort of).

Why “sort of”? Because it IS your responsibility after Feb 10 to sell only those things for which you have GCC coverage. A nice catch-22. If you buy items from the same lot, each item is covered by the GCC for that lot. Still, each lot must have a GCC.

Yes, you’re right – there is a significant paperwork tracking issue here: You get to keep track of a form for every lot of every item you sell or have sold. We’ll get to that later in the week.

As for the items that won’t comply as of Feb 10, big retail (Wal-Mart, etc) is handling this by demanding that manufacturers accept returns on unsold merchandise that doesn’t comply. You may not have that option with your suppliers, but it is worth checking into. 

CRITICAL: You should be sure that all future contracts to purchase from your distributors and wholesale suppliers include a clause that allows you to return the items at the manufacturer’s cost (and for a full refund) if they are not CPSIA compliant.

What if my manufacturers say that providing the GCC isn’t their responsibility? Or what if they say they haven’t tested. Obviously, your actions here will depend on how bad you want their merchandise, but the bottom line is that while they do have to provide you with a GCC, finger pointing will do you no good if a CPSC inspector walks in your door.

You either need to get the manufacturer’s GCC, have the items tested yourself, or simply don’t buy from that manufacturer. If you sell those items, you’ve got the ultimate responsibility to have a GCC for each item or lot of items. 

What about my existing inventory?

For retailers, the choices here are slim: Either discard the items, return them to the manufacturer (if you can) or have them tested.

You can’t legally sell them if you don’t have a GCC. It might be tempting to simply sell them and try to run the non-compliant items out of stock after Feb 10. I wouldn’t advise that. Fines are $100,000 for violating the CPSIA.

Sure, it’s a roll of the dice whether you see an inspector or not, but if you do see one, it’ll probably be when you least expect it. Most small retailers I work with are not in a position to handle a rand0m $100,000 fine. Even if you are, you probably have better things to do with that money:)

If you are a manufacturer, you must test items and provide GCCs to your retailers on a lot by lot basis. If possible, provide an online area of your website where retailers can look them up by SKU and by lot number. Easy for you, easy for them. By the way, if you import items from outside the U.S. – you’re the manufacturer, so don’t assume you can skirt the issue that way. 

As for those GCCs, I’d also consider including a copy in every shipment’s paperwork, since one must be provided for each lot. Be sure that lot numbers appear on invoices, bills of lading and packing slips.

If you have an online system to look up your GCCs, I’d suggest that you print the URL of the GCC for that lot on all that paperwork as well. It gives the retailer no excuses when it comes to recognizing that you’ve provided a GCC. In fact, doing this offers your clients some options that your competition may not offer.

Always look for an edge – and making CPSIA compliance easier for your retailers is certainly a plus at a time when they are all pretty worried about how they are going to deal with this unfunded mandate on their time and record keeping resources. 

If you are a manufacturer who sells retail (ie: most people who make things in their own home, shop etc), then you still need to have your items tested. There are some exceptions, but they are pretty slim pickings, like natural fabrics that haven’t been dyed, inked or coated with any other material. If you are unsure, I suggest talking with an attorney who is familiar with the CPSIA. 

So…whether you are a retailer, manufacturer or both, that’ll get you working till August.

What about August?

August is “tomorrow” in the real world. You know that you’ll blink and it’ll be here. 

So what do you do to get ready for August? Well, it really depends on your products.

XRF testing is – so far – off the table as of August, when your merchandise must be tested by a certified third party testing lab. Problem is, the CPSC doesn’t have to issue the rules for a post-August CPSIA world until May. Until then, choose your merchandise wisely. As the rules flesh out over the next few months, we’ll come back to this topics from a post-August retail worldview.

That means you have that 100% inventory turn challenge twice this year. Don’t wait till the last minute – and again, if you are a retailer, be sure your purchase agreements with suppliers are iron-clad. I’d suggest that you try to stock your store with merchandise that is already compliant with August’s rules if at all possible.

CPSIA Management Politics Retail Small Business

#CPSIA – Got a little Howard Beale in you?

That scene in Network where Howard Beale goes a little nuts pretty well describes my attitude regarding the CPSIA and those who continue to ignore it (and the calls to Washington about it). No, the clip isn’t G-rated, sorry.

I realize this issue has pretty much pegged my blog-o-meter lately, but I ask you to think about it – If thousands of these artists, craftspeople and such go out of business, who does that hurt besides them? 

Other small businesses. Which hurts other small businesses. And so on. 

Like it or not, you’re in that food chain somewhere. 

Meanwhile, 345 people in and around my town were yesterday and today. In a town of 4500, that hurts – particularly when there were several hundred other others laid off indefinitely just a week or two earlier.

I’ll say it again: Get off the couch, pick up the phone and call your Senators, US Representative and the CPSC. Do it before your business is the one that’s closing or laying off people. 

As for you… the one who thinks it doesn’t apply to you, I have a word for you: Pink Zebra.

Feeding the Pink Zebra

Pink Zebra Boutique is the name of a mom-owned boutique in Katy, Texas. She just made the tough decision to get out of the “stuff for kids under 12” market. Just because of the CPSIA. She’s not closing her business, just giving up a big piece of it for no other reason than the CPSIA. 

A real mom. A real business in small town. A retail storefront that now has to figure out how to replace that revenue because they have to shut down part of the business. There will be more.

Just a reminder in the meantime: Don’t tick off the moms.