When Recalls Get Personal: A Family Affair

It is generally understood that there is no such as thing as universal perfection when it comes to modern manufacturing. Design flaws in parts, or in the machines that make them, are as much to blame as operator error, relative humidity, planetary alignment or anything else that can make products occasionally go awry. Variations in the properties of metals and polymers and the materials from which they are derived can also play a part; in short, nothing’s perfect.

Booster Shot

It may be a minor inconvenience to wake up one day and realize that your egg-beater has been recalled due to a loose wisk wire. It is a more concerning matter altogether when the product that is being called back to the shelves is something as vital to your family’s well-being as a child’s booster seat. Consumers might take that more personally than they would the aforementioned egg-beater. This is a dilemma that is currently being managed by the Minnesota-based retail giant, Target.

Target On Their Backs

Having sold 375,000 Circo Child Booster Seats since 2005, Target officials up and down the line must be feeling quite sick about this. The Chinese-made Circos have belt buckles which can open unexpectedly, allowing their contents – a baby or child – to fall forward. They are described as a booster seat that attaches to a regular-size dining table chair, blue in color with green trim and a white plastic buckle. Owners are asked to stop using the seat immediately and to return them to any Target store for a refund.

Large corporate stores can be immensely damaged when the products they import turn out to be flawed on such an extensive scale. The ensuing “fear factor” can send customers to other vendors, causing a company like Target to suffer due to no actual wrongdoing on its own part. That’s why they (like most companies) are voluntary partners in the recall effort led by the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Harbinger of a Recall

The dictionary defines the word harbinger as “an omen or a sign that foreshadows a future event.” It’s too bad, then, that Harbinger Fitness of Fairfield, California couldn’t have foreseen the recall of their Ab Straps. Their device (comprised of two 17.5″ straps made of nylon webbing) is one that is suspended from an overhead surface, with the user holding onto straps in order to elevate him or herself for the purposes of doing abdominal exercises.

In the Interests of Good Health…

It might well be that the Ab Straps do, in fact, help tone and sculpt one’s abs. Unfortunately, though, they are being recalled due to a defective buckle that has exhibited a tendency to break during use, which has resulted in two people sustaining lacerations to the head and neck. They have been sold in such stores as Play It Again Sports, and online on sites such as Amazon.com, in the $20 price range.

Better Safe than Out of Business

Manufactured in China, the Harbinger Ab Straps that are subject to recall have been sold since 2006. The Consumer Products Safety Commission recommends that anyone who owns this product stop using it immediately, and contact Harbinger Fitness for an upgraded replacement model. Harbinger can be reached at (800) 729-5954 or their website, www.harbingerfitness.comwww.harbingerfitness.com .

The CPSC estimates that over 4,100 Ab Straps may have been purchased, and both they and the manufacturer are hopeful that nobody else’s pursuit of health and fitness will be compromised by an injury sustained while using this exercise device. With only a couple of injuries having been reported so far, some may say they are exhibiting an undue amount of caution. Harbinger, however, would likely tout their response as the actions of a concerned corporate citizen looking out for the well-being of its customers.

Recall On Husqvarna Lawn Tractors

In the flood of manufacturing that has come to symbolize the global economy, Americans are always looking for products that are made in the United States – even though most people would be pressed to come up with more than a handful of goods that are still produced in their homeland. It isn’t even a matter of hoping for a return of factory jobs so much as it is about nationalism and pride.

Home Grown and Self-Effacing

One of the few companies that didn’t look overseas for a cheaper employee base is Husqvarna, the maker of lawn tractors and other light-industrial motorized equipment. Based in Charleston, North Carolina, their bright orange lawn tractors have long been recognizable upon rolling expanses of lawn throughout the country. It is especially concerning, then, when a home-grown business is forced to go through the pains of a recall process.

Culprit: The TuffTorq Transaxle

In conjunction with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Husqvarna has issued a recall on its YTH23V42LS and YTH24V48LS models with serial numbers in the range of 050110A001000 to 123110D999999 featuring the TuffTorq K46LD transaxle (model and serial numbers can be found on an ID tag attached to the underside of the tractor’s seat). The problem is that the TuffTorq transaxle can experience intermittent malfunction, which may lead to failure in the braking system.

The lawn tractors in question were sold by authorized Husqvarna dealers from May through December 2010, costing between $2300 and $2800. No injuries have been reported thus far, but the recommended remedy is to contact Husqvarna to schedule a free repair. For a company with a long track record of quality and performance, Husqvarna deserves a second chance from the consumer, as they seek to correct this potentially serious problem.

Cadillac Issues Recall

Uncertainty abounds in the automobile market – it is, in fact, that sector’s only certainty. U.S. automakers appear to be charging ahead, aided in no small part by mechanical problems that beset Toyota, and then the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan’s physical and economic landscapes. The Big Three’s quest to reclaim the top of the market heap has been dragged down somewhat by less expensive foreign competitors like Kia and Hyundai; still other stumbling blocks can be found in the form of consumer recalls.

Air Bags In Focus

The latest malady has hit Cadillac, normally a brand whose very name exudes confidence where quality and safety are concerned (and no wonder, as it remains GM’s most expensive badge). Cadillac’s popular crossover SRX, or at least 47,000 of the 2011 models, were determined to have faulty right-side air bags which do not deploy unless someone is sitting in the front seat of the vehicle. This places rear-seat passengers at risk of being left unprotected in an accident.

Heading It Off at the Pass

Fortunately, as with many recalls these days, the problem is being addressed by the factory before any injuries have taken place. This, Cadillac hopes, will assure current and future customers that they are a forward-thinking company that keeps the best interests of the consumer at the top of the priority list – after all, they wouldn’t want the buying public to think about them in any other way.

While Cadillac executives may not be feeling the heat from lower-priced imports, they do have to worry about losing ground on the field of perception, with German and Japanese auto makers always looking to gain a competitive edge. A recall involving such safety devices as air bags has to be handled carefully and responsibly, less they should cede their hard-earned place in the Pantheon of luxury automobiles.

Bicycle Rack Recalled – Before the Nick of Time

In a country where more than 40,000 people are killed each year in traffic accidents, one would surmise that it would be safer to ride a bicycle instead of driving a car. Or it could be that someone chooses pedaling over accelerating for the purpose of healthy exercise. As long as one is following proper safety procedures, these things are generally the case, and many people enjoy cycling on a daily basis.

The Government Takes (and Serves) Notice

Even so, in a relatively unnoticed recall brought about in conjunction with the Consumer Products Safety Commission, an obscure bicycle add-on highlights old Murphy’s Law – than if something can go wrong, invariably, it will. Quality Bicycle Products of Bloomington, Minnesota has admitted to selling a number of faulty Civia Loring racks, which mount to the forks above the front fender of most bicycles.

Nipped in the Bud

Acting upon just one reported injury accident involving minor lacerations, the government and the corporation decided it was best to recall the racks (which are made of black aluminum tubing with bamboo side panels), as their mounting bracket had a tendency to crack and then give way so as to obstruct the front wheel of the bicycle while in motion. The units sold in stores across the country, for roughly $175, from
December 2009 through February 2011.

The first instinct of many consumers is to blame faulty products on cheap materials and labor from countries of origin like China, but the Civia Loring bike racks were actually made in Taiwan. Quality Bicycle Products has set up a toll-free hotline for consumers (1-877-311-7686) and also has information about a refund or exchange on their website. Despite their dedication to resolving the problem, the CPSC remains interested in any complaints or claims that might arise.

Home Depot Issues Bunk Bed Recall

It is often the case that large corporations will issue a recall on a faulty product before anyone gets seriously injured or killed. Tragically, this was not the case with Home Depot’s recent reeling-in of their BFB1008GE bunk beds, which comes long after the wake of a Burlington, Iowa boy’s death in March of 2010, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Tragic Mishap Leads to Action

The boy choked to death when his head and neck became trapped in between the futon mattress and the top rung of the bunk bed’s ladder. Why it took more than a year for the recall to take place is a question best left to Home Depot’s legal staff and the bureaucrats at the CPSC. Home Depot was the exclusive seller of the bunk beds, which sold at outlets nationwide for around $200 between January of 2009 and June of 2010. Consumers who have the beds now should stop using them immediately and contact Home Depot for a free repair kit.

Lost in the Big Picture

Of course, nobody is guaranteed anything in life, but proper safety guidelines and other concerns can often get lost along the way to such lofty goals as market share, profits and dividends for stock holders. Consumers have come to rely on such Big Box stores even as they have moved in and put their locally-owned stores out of business – they have very little choice when shopping for certain items, especially in distressed economic times when they are looking to spend as little as possible.

Ceasing sales of the model and recalling those which have already been sold, and issuing repair kits to all who request them, are responsible steps which anyone would want to see taken by any corporate citizen, but they won’t bring back a little boy in the Heartland whose parents only wanted him to have a new bed. Hopefully, Home Depot has learned that an ounce of prevention is often worth unfathomably more than any mere pound of cure.

Chrysler Steps Up to the Recall Plate

Out of the “Big Three” U.S.-based automobile manufacturers, it would be a purely subjective call to say which one produces the best cars and trucks. When it comes to bad luck, poor sales and questionable management decisions, there is a definitive Third Place finisher, and it would be Chrysler. The venerable car company has been in a slump that dates back to before its sale to German maker Daimler-Benz.

Times of Tumult

Lee Iacocca, after having brought Chrysler back from the abyss, left on a note that sounded very much like a death knell for the company. Their highly-publicized “cab forward” design let to a sales thud that the industry hadn’t heard since Ford named a car after Henry’s son Edsel. Chrysler’s minivans and trucks comprise the company’s backbone, and since being purchased by Fiat as part of their bailout-related restructuring, they have made quality improvements, if not sales traction.

A Long Road Back

Just when their journey seemed to be smoothing out, however, Chrysler hit a bump in the road. Hoping to make lemonade out of lemons this time, Chrysler made sure to get out in front of a recall that involves (so far) only about 11,000 vehicles. Still, there are two factors that make this recall a bit sticky. One, it involves a steering column defect that the NHTSA says could “compromise the ability of the steering column to support the occupant loads” – a roundabout way of saying one could be impaled in the event of a front-end collision.

The other problem is that, while few in number, the flaws affect almost the entire array of Chrysler’s 2011 fleet, including the Chrysler Town and Country minivan and the new 200 (both sedan and drop-top models), the Jeep Liberty, Wrangler, Compass and Patriot; and Dodge’s Caliber, Nitro, Journey and Avenger. No actual injuries have occurred, and Chrysler seems to be throwing good money before bad, perhaps having taken notes when Toyota went through a disastrous spate of accelerator-pedal problems despite having undergone no recall whatsoever.