Danny Tyree, 11/26/2014 [Archive]

Let's Get Serious About Product Recalls

Tyrades!By Danny Tyree

"I've gotta get it right the first time. That's the main thing. I can't afford to let it pass." — Billy Joel.

"Graco recalls almost 5 million strollers in the U.S. due to fingertip amputation hazard." "Craigslist founder dodges questions on recall policy." "Safety agency admonishes Chrysler for handling of Jeep recall."

And that's just a sampling of recent newspaper headlines. Some combination of poorly trained or lackadaisical workers, unreasonable production schedules and careless miscommunications keep the consumer safety folks on constant alert.

For years there has been a rule of thumb about "never buy a car made on Monday or Friday" (because of the danger of either hangovers or preoccupation with the upcoming weekend), but in 2014 (whether we're talking about pharmaceuticals, toys or appliances) we seem to be tiptoeing through a minefield.

Granted, "stuff happens," no one is perfect and good help is hard to find. But given the frequency and magnitude of recalls, I doubt I'm alone in thinking that recall notices should be less cookie-cutter ambiguous. We want you to name names (and salaries), elucidate on how things went wrong, reveal punishments and corrective measures and let us know if we need to donate service dogs to a company where (hypothetical situation) people can design, test, manufacture, package, store and ship out five gazillion widgets that may cause spontaneous combustion in Caucasians under six feet tall AND NOBODY NOTICES UNTIL THEY HIT THE STORE SHELVES!!!

Remember the old Ford Motor Company slogan "Quality is Job One?" Now workers at whatever company (commenting off the record) will say, "Quality? Oh, that's the department where the boss's nephew is always flirting with the receptionist."

Remember when R&D stood for "Research and Development," not "Rushing and Dismemberment"?

(When my wife the college biology teacher was in manufacturing, she became persona non grata because she wouldn't rubberstamp approval of behind-schedule products that hadn't been properly tested yet.)

Craftsmen used to "measure twice and cut once," mindful of their reputation. Mass manufacturers are more worried about the reputation of their liability lawyers.

Henry Ford famously stated that the consumer could purchase any color of vehicle he wanted — as long as it was black. Modern manufacturers promise, "You can purchase any color of car you want — as long as you don't sue if the engine catapults out."

Don't you wish manufacturers had something more like the Hippocratic Oath ("First, do no harm...") instead of a mantra like "First, get this new cat toy to the stores before the competition NO MATTER WHAT, or Armageddon will strike, you morons"?

Sometimes a recall notice leaves us sighing, "Yeah, I can see how that mix-up happened," but other times the errors go above and beyond the call of duty. ("We regret that Yeti hair and out-of-date wine from the Holy Grail somehow got mixed in with our infant formula.")

At least there's a certain amount of karma involved. Corporations may try to sweep bad news under the rug, but they wind up using a defective broom that severs an artery.

"What could possibly go wrong?" should not be a cheerful rhetorical question, but a challenge to examine every contingency.

It's time for zero tolerance of incompetence and subterfuge. Let's bring some real penalties to bear on those who foist stupid mistakes upon the public. Please join me in petitioning President Romney on this important matter.

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© 2014 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at tyreetyrades@aol.com and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades". Danny's' weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.



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