Fair is fair: Blaming China?

I’m slightly annoyed about something I read on another site. Before I get into that, I want to ask you a related philosophical question.

Would you say a good contractor is someone who does what you say, no ifs and or buts? Yes? No? I say no. In my opinion, a good contractor (supplier, pattern maker etc) will refuse to do certain work, they should turn it down.

This is my case in point. It’s a blog post from NTA (National Textile Assoc) about four more recalls of hooded sweatshirts. Here’s an excerpt, emphasis is mine:

Children’s Hooded Jackets about 2,400 units Manufactured in P.R. China.

…These latest recalls bring to almost a quarter of a million of number
of articles of children’s apparel recalled so far in 2010 due to health
hazards. All recalls so far this year have been of foreign-made

I’m not happy that most of the business went to China but fair is fair and this isn’t. For each recall, the country of origin (contractor) was cited, namely China. Completely off the hook -in this entry, but not for the purposes of sanctions and penalties- were the responsible parties, i.e. the importers (manufacturers) and retailers of record. In other words, all were US companies. This entry should have said something like this:

Children’s Hooded Jackets
Responsibility: Franshaw Inc., of New York, N.Y. USA
Retailer: Burlington Coat Factory USA

Back to whether a contractor should do whatever you say, the Chinese contractors were merely fulfilling the requirements of the job they were given. But then we’re back to my opinion that a good contractor won’t. I can’t tell you how many jobs I’ve turned down because of this.

One thing you all must understand is that most DEs aren’t like you. F-I isn’t exactly a bastion for people who don’t like to think or read. Most DEs are heavy handed and unreasonably demanding. We have to go through 20 of them to find one of you.

We need the work, we have to make payroll and rent. Some contractors will weigh the value and take it or turn it down depending on their priorities. So in this case, I would say that a good contractor won’t necessarily do whatever you want. I don’t know where the balance lies but I would avoid recommending someone who let their customer do something like this even if the consequence meant losing the job -but in which case they wouldn’t have been a bad contractor and I wouldn’t know about them after all. Just another reason why a good contractor won’t take someone’s work…

There’s another reason this post from NTA annoys me. NTA has its own problems and misplaced priorities. Being a horrible, heartless, callous person, I’m having a hard time stirring up any sympathy for them. If NTA thinks the problem is foreign made products, it’s certainly within their purvey to help turn that around. So,  the myopia isn’t just on our side of the aisle. There’s plenty of blame to spread around and neither wants to meet in the middle. I  can’t get them to talk to you or you to talk to them because both parties have respective targets in their sights. Marvelous.

As an aside -here’s the heavily edited rant- how many recalls have affected Burlington Coat Factory over the past year? This is beyond a bad joke. BCF has a serious problem in their buying office, there are no two ways about it. Forget poor buyer training. At this point I would think that corporate policy should dictate that buying children’s garments with drawstrings would be a firing offense considering they have been banned for 14 years. Is there no oversight authority? I’m not saying manufacturers should not be levied with the final responsibility but the number of recalls affecting BCF are over the top.

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  1. Rocio says:

    My business partner and I were having a conversation about the reasons why we think US retailers NEED manufacturers in this country…

    In theory, if you’re an established retailer with huge volume it would be cheaper to deal with the factories direct….
    In practice, however… when something goes wrong, the manufacturer can be penalised (charge back, lawsuit, etc) but try going after an off-shore factory and it’s a lot easier said than done…

  2. Esther says:

    I have followed the draw string recalls for years now and I just don’t get it. There must be a lot of turn over with buyers, sales reps, and DE’s who just don’t know better. And they don’t know what they don’t know and there is no where for them to learn it. The Big Box stores all have Technical Designers on staff – they should know, but how is it not filtering down. This is one area where the CPSC could do instructional seminars about SAFETY rather than writing more rules.

  3. Julian Hill says:

    I agree that we need to do more manufacturing in this country. Yesterday, Yahoo News ran this article:


    Clothing manufacturing was listed. They said it was due to lose 57% of its jobs. That’s both a sad and a scary statistic to me.

    I agree with your view that we do not place enough blame on the US companies during these types of recalls. When there were all the toy recalls over lead and choking hazards, the focus was on the chinese manufacturers–not the US companies that should’ve been double checking and making sure they were up to standards. I really don’t understand how all the responsibility gets shoved off on the foreign manufacturer. Incidentally, I think that if we did hold the US firms accountable, it would be a huge incentive to companies to do more of their manufacturing here where they can easily keep on eye on whats going on.

  4. cdbehrle says:

    Does Burlington Coat factory even have Designers? Merchandisers? Anything past accountants?
    (Look at who owns Burlington Coat Factory) There are no “buyers” here with any sort of idea or plan- past filling up racks with cheap and ugly goods.

    Based on the photos of the garments in question, they simply go to a supplier and say we need this or that many of whatever, and are just handed whatever comes down the pike. Stuff made for whatever markets they are filling orders for. What exactly does a recall like this cost Burlington? (really, the LBO /Private Equity firm) Besides the insignificant cost of the goods?

    Obviously not enough. But they don’t care anyhow, since they are not in the garment business….

  5. Mary Lombard says:

    Thank goodness vendors don’t do exactly what we request! There has been many occasions when our overseas vendors have made good suggestions for construction and grading. Good mfgrs will refuse to do substandard work.
    On the subject of the drawcord, doh! If a company is producing children’s wear and doesn’t know about the CPSC guidelines, they shouldn’t be in business.

  6. Marie-Christine says:

    A good contractor, like a good friend, should occasionally tell you where to get off. But how many people actually welcome that faculty of a good friend, how many people can give needed advice tactfully enough? If you add the barriers of culture and linguistic gap, and desperate economic motivation, it’s not likely to happen. Esther is right too, there doesn’t seem to be any central place for people who wish to know to make sure things are being done well.

  7. Mary Allen says:

    Enlightening commentary. Thanks for the great topic Kathleen. Blaming China is not fair. I agree with cdbehrle’s comment: Burlington Coat Factory is like a Walmart. They just fill up the shelves and buyer beware. We are at fault as a society for wanting too much of what we dont need, and when we purchase it we don’t expect it to hold up so we buy with that attitude, dispose of and re-buy again and again and again. My great great grandchildren will visit museums filled with t-shirts and jeans. We’ve become a nation of t-shirts and jeans (already distressed) so what’s another 100,000 pieces of more raggie and tasteless clothing.

  8. Kathleen says:

    BCF has been affected by four more recalls in the month since I published this. The voluntary recall announced today affects 23,000 units sold exclusively at BCF through Sept 2009, fully seven months after CPSIA was enacted. I just don’t get it. I believe it was last July or so when BCF announced that their suppliers had to supply GCCs for any products they’d sold BCF since 2005.

  9. Kathleen says:

    CPSC issued three more recalls today involving guess who? Yep, it’s Burlington Coat Factory! I believe that makes …10… recalls for them regarding children’s garments with drawstrings just since February. And true to form, the National Textile Association duly reports these as garments made in China etc with nary a word of our friend BCF.

  10. Kathleen says:

    The CPSC announced yesterday that Burlington Coat Factory has been assessed a 1.5 million dollar fine for failure to report drawstrings in children’s outerwear and for selling recalled outerwear. Here’s a quote from the source:

    The settlement resolves CPSC staff allegations that from 2003 to 2010, Burlington knowingly failed to report immediately to CPSC, as required by federal law, that it had sold many different children’s sweatshirts and jackets with drawstrings at the neck. Children’s upper outerwear with drawstrings, including sweatshirts, sweaters, and jackets, poses strangulation and entanglement hazards to children that can result in serious injury or death. The settlement also resolves CPSC staff allegations that from 2008 to 2012, contrary to federal law, Burlington knowingly sold or had in its store inventories many of these garments after they had been recalled.

    The penalty is the highest that CPSC has ever assessed for violations involving children’s upper outerwear with drawstrings.

    A chart on the same page shows that BCF sold more than 24 different products that had been recalled since 2010.

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