So this morning, I get this email in my inbox, from the CEO of Toys R Us himself, Gerald L. Storch. “Nothing is more important to our company than the safety of children,” he tells us parents. “It is at the heart of who we are as a company.” And he promises us they are really, really going to do better from now on:
Please know that we will continue to work tirelessly to guarantee we are doing everything we can to provide only the safest shopping environment for all families.
Well, OK, I thought. I am still angry that they can find my email address when they want to send me these platitudes, but not when they have actual information about unsafe toys to disseminate. But really, they’re going to do better now. They swear to God. Last week, the Toy Industry Association actually asked the federal government to do a better job of enforcing safety standards upon them. Like unruly teenagers, the toy companies are saying: show us boundaries, Mom and Dad, because clearly we cannot be trusted.
This is all meant to reassure parents, who presumably buy the vast majority of toys. And it did make me feel better, until I read E. Marla Felcher’s article in Slate, What it would really take to make toys safer (credit also to daddytypes.com, where I found out about this article). There’s a big problem with this “sudden hankering for regulation,” according to Felcher:
The reason so many toys were recalled this summer is not that there weren’t enough regulations. It’s that toy makers were ignoring the regulations that are already on the books.
What we can hope will improve, apparently, is the rate of removing dangerous toys from the shelves. Right now
Toys R Us isn’t doing so well there:
Curious George spinning tops, recalled last month for their high levels of lead, were on the market for six years before anyone noticed the problem.
And that’s not including toys with design flaws (read: choking hazards), which aren’t even on the list of things the Toy Industry Association wants the government to test.
Felcher suggests that the toy industry’s sudden penitence is mostly for show, because Christmas is only a few months away and they’re afraid none of us are going to buy anything from them. They should be worried. After reading this article, this Santa might be stuffing stockings with crayons and books this year.