Monday, March 16, 2009

Why do XRF testing?

On a resalers message board someone asked "aren't we shooting ourselves in the foot by promoting the XRF testing parties? A shop in Bend did this and publicized the results; being that 30% of her used clothing tested positive for lead. We aren't "required" to test, so why are some of you doing so and publicizing it? I feel it adds to public fears and makes our case weak. That is, if we are, in fact, trying to salvage our rights as resellers."

Here is my response:

In my opinion, testing is about education and doesn't add to public fears. Some want to talk about this topic in depth and others just dismiss the entire thing and that is individual choice. Many people are justifiably concerned about lead in children's products and I am trying to make information available to these people. Not doing so would be sticking my head in the sand and pretending the issue doesn't exist. Not knowing the facts don't make them any less factual. By testing, I can tell my customers more about the specific lead levels that are being found and the items in which lead is being found. I went a step further and invited the public to bring in items of concern to have them tested for lead. I'm pleased to report that some volunteers at a local thrift shop came to learn more. I even invited Nancy Cowles, Executive Drector of Kids in Danger (one of the organizations behind CPSIA), and was delighted that she came.

I believe that people are entitled to make decisions for themselves (and their children) and some may want to avoid items that contain lead. The few that have indicated that they concur with the CPSIA can choose to buy only items that are certified lead-free just as many choose to buy organic food. Many people don't believe that the levels of lead we are finding are dangerous and so choose to continue to purchase these products. So as I see it, my job is to give them the best information that I can so that they can make their own decision. In this way I hope to earn their trust and respect. This is my effort to refute the statement that resale stores put profit over safety. The rights of resellers to sell things don't trump the rights of buyers to have as much information as I can give them about the items they purchase.


Wacky Hermit said...

I think it's a fine line to walk, but ultimately it comes down to: Do you believe that customers are rational, or do you not?

If customers are irrational, they tend to react to the realization that there is lead in 30% of everything with "OMG, my kids are UNSAFE!!!" But if they are rational, they tend to react with "But my kids are safe... and yet there are lead levels... therefore my kids' safety does not depend strictly on lead levels. Hmmm..." and think it through.

cmmjaime said...

I made the choice not to test before February 10 -- and instead gave away over $4,000 worth of used inventory from my Consignment Shop at the last minute. In hindsight, maybe testing would have been cheaper. But we found out about the law and had less than one month to become "compliant" (even though almost every thrift store in our immediate area is still ignoring the law...).

My customers, with very little exception, understand that the law is CRAZY. Most have offered to sign a waiver if that would help us be able to continue to provide the variety of educational items we have carried in the past.

We ran a BIG sale just before the deadline, and most customers were thrilled. We had ONE customer react negatively when we explained why we were running the sale -- and she actually put back an item that we couldn't guarantee was lead free. But she was the only one to react that way.