Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"That’s A CPSIA Toy, We Can’t Sell It To You", Says Store Clerk To Customer

Continuing my transcript of Hugh Hewitt's radio program from earlier this evening, where he spent the first hour of his show discussing the economic implications of the disgraceful CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) with writer/scholar/blogger Walter Olson and lawyer Gary Wolensky.

The audio of Hugh's show is here. Part one of my transcript is here. Now part two [corrections welcome]:
[20:58] Hugh Hewitt: Gary Wolensky, the CPSC, the Consumer Products Safety Commission, yesterday told libraries they had to take all old library books off their shelves, and today they reversed themselves. This is an agency that is melting down.

Gary Wolensky: That’s exactly right. This demonstrates the problem of giving, of conflicting advice to businesses, and this has been going on since August. Fact of the matter is, Wolfson [Scott Wolfson, spokesman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission] came out yesterday and said, “Pull all the books, children’s books manufactured before 1986, off of the shelves.” And there’s no reason for that. And then the CPSC reversed themselves today.

HH: In the meantime, every librarian in the country is walking around wondering, when will the plaintiffs lawyer decide, there was a predicate for doing this, because the CPSC cannot immunize them unless they pass an exemption. And if they’re selling those books… you know, a lot of those libraries do the ten cent book giveaways sort of thing, I begin to worry if I’m a school district, I go out and get cautious because, again, private lawyers can bring… that’s what I want to drive home right now. The big danger to Malcolm Smith, and to everybody, is not the Consumer Products Safety Commission going to send out some lawyer from Washington DC, it’s some desperate lawyer who hasn’t worked in a while, who decides, I’ll take a swing at that, I’ll get my attorney’s fees.

GW: You’re going to have a cottage industry, no question that these industries will need an exemption. But let me just say one thing to all the librarians out there around the country. Don’t do anything. Don’t pull your books, your kids books, off the shelves, don’t quarantine them, don’t burn them, just leave them where they are.

HH: I got another e-mail today. From a consumer who went to Toys ‘R Us. Major retailer. Now, I’m not the kind of guy who goes in to Toys ‘R Us, I don’t have to buy any toys for kids. But, they had gone in to buy a present for a nephew, and they tried to take something off the shelf, and were told by a Toys ‘R Us employee, “we can’t sell you that, leave it on the shelf because we’ve got bare shelves; that’s a CPSIA toy, we can’t sell it to you.” Is that urban myth or is that happening?

GW: That is happening. For anyone who does go in to Toys ‘R Us to buy gifts for kids, they will see that in just about any Toys ‘R Us store, that there are shelves that are empty, or half empty, and that is directly related to this Act.

[commercial break]

[28:07] HH: [taking a call] Steve in Tuscon, welcome to the program, you’re on the Hugh Hewitt show.

Caller: Hey Hugh. … I work for a privately held company, so I can’t mention the name on the radio, but we’re the world’s largest wholesaler of library books. To school libraries, and public libraries. We represent every large publisher… so, this has created quite a problem, especially for a company like ours, the inventory that we hold, we have to start looking at the huge, millions and millions of titles and decide which ones schools may not order, if this continues. And the loss of the inventory there. Also, your comment about, it is true: “hey libraries, you’ve got to take these books off the shelf”, and not one library that we know of even took that seriously. It was just the dumbest thing they’ve ever heard. I mean, how are you going to go through your whole library.

HH: I know! It’s an insane law.

Caller: And one of my customers pointed out to me, yes this is costing a lot of money, from the manufacturers’ point of view, of toys, books, whatever; but think of the manpower dollars it would take up if we had to start doing some of these stupid things.

HH: Gary Wolensky? Non-compliance is actually… you can’t recommend non-compliance but it sure is rational in some instances.

GW: It is. What you need, what your company needs, what the industry needs, is to try their darndest to get an exemption. Short of that, then the way the law reads right now, is that you have to look and figure out which books are written for kids under thirteen years of age, and then you need to make sure [laughter], that it complies with the lead content and lead paint standards.

HH: One more call on this. Teresa, also in Tuscon. Hi Teresa…

Caller: Hi. As an adult, can I walk in to Toys ‘R Us or one of these stores and buy one of these toys for myself, let’s just say that I collect toys or I like toys, as an adult.

GW: The answer to that, is no. Because, even if you tell somebody at Toys ‘R Us that the toy is for you, they’re never going to believe it, and if the toy is not off the shelf, they’re just going to say that they can’t sell these toys.
By the end of the show, both Hugh and his in-studio guest Gary Wolensky were laughing and sounding like they were having a bit of trouble suppressing a collective case of the giggles. Who can blame them, the subject is so idiotic that, when the story is laid out in detail, it almost defies belief. Sometimes truth is not only stranger than fiction, it's also much crueler.

[thanks to the watchful Overlawyered.com for many of the links]

4 comments:

Dag said...

It hurts. I can't stand this.

Another four years of this foolishness and we'll all be starving in a perfectly ordered kindergaarten for adults.

tnomeralc web design toys said...

I totally agree with Dag here. or maybe it won't even take us 4 long years. Say, maybe about a year or so would be possible.

Charles Henry said...

Just to be clear, this short-sighted, ill-conceived law is a moral and legal Frankenstein's monster created in, and by, US Congress, not President Obama.

Obama's guilt is that he's simply voting "present" on the CPSIA's foul existence by paying it no attention whatsoever, finding time to cook up fantasy basketball results but no time to comment on how damaging his fellow Democrats' over-reaction to threats of lead poisoning from imported toys manufactured in China has been.

What increasingly concerns me is the precedent that it sets for civic-minded citizens. We expect justice in our laws, and when faced with such clear, obvious insanity being legislated by people like Hollywood's Congressional representative Henry Waxman, who place themselves outside the reach of accountability for their actions, what other response can there be but civil disobediance.

It's one thing to pick and choose what laws to follow, when it comes to an empty intersection in an empty field at four in the morning; I can permit myself the luxury of ignoring a red light at such an intersection, and not have it weigh on my conscience, since the spirit of the law is not being broken, just the letter. (for the sake of my analogy, let's pretend there are no cameras to take my picture as I cruise by..)

But when the very spirit of the law is unjust, how much more resentful do we become about having to follow it to the letter? And how short a distance is it towards feeling the same towards a second, then a third, then most, laws that supposedly link us together in spirit? Pretty soon we'd find ourselves engaged in the equivalent of ignoring red lights in the middle of downtown at rush hour.

I don't expect perfection on the part of the human beings we choose to represent us in government, but I do expect accountability, and an examination of conscience. What Congress has done in originally passing the CPSIA, and what they now are doing through their inaction, is unconscionable.

Dag said...

Law is important to us as people. It gives us order and safety so we know in advance what is right and wrong within the community and the greater world, what our rights and responsibilities are to ourselves and our fellows. We know we can arbitrate our disputes peacefully so we aren't shooting each other to get results. Law is good in itself. But lawyers?

Douglas MacArthur says, "Do not issue commands that won't be obeyed."

To do so is to ruin respect for the law and for the authority of the lawgivers. Moses came down with ten laws. That seems to me sufficient for most occasions. The madness of over-legislation, such as we have now, is anarchy. Too much law is no law at all. It forces people to be law-breakers just to survive.

No, this is not an Obama law. This is a Democrat/moral-bully law. Four years of this and we'll just be starving and criminalised. Not even order around us, the false order imposed by the moralistic. We're being pushed too far.