Mattel Toy Recall

The 2007 Mattel Toy Recall RESEARCH About Mattel Mattel, ³the world¶s premiere toy company,´ began in Southern California in a garage workshop that manufactured picture frames. When the company started selling dollhouse furniture made from picture frame scraps, they realized the market potential and decided switch to toy manufacturing. In 1959, Mattel created their most popular toy, the Barbie doll. Inspired by paper dolls, Barbie was a three dimensional doll with which ³little girls could play out their dreams.´ Throughout the decades Mattel has continued to create and market popular toys, (Hot Wheels and He-man) merge with successful manufacturers, (Fisher Price and Tyco) partner with children¶s program companies, (Disney, Sesame Street, and Nickelodeon) obtain licenses and rights to manufacture popular lines (Cabbage Patch Dolls and Harry Potter merchandise) and acquire other companies (Pleasant Company). Since its conception, the Mattel Company has done a lot to make sure it is considered a trustworthy company for children and the community. The corporation established a children¶s charity, called the Mattel Children¶s Foundation. In 1997 the company created the Global Manufacturing Principles, making them the first company to create a framework to ensure manufacturing would be conducted through consistent standards on a global level. In 1998 they started a $25 million multi-year donation to the UCLA children¶s hospital, which is now called the Mattel Children¶s Hospital at UCLA. However, Mattel has not always been able to maintain their image of child-like innocence. The corporation has had numerous complaints that they¶ve stolen ideas for their toy-lines from children who have entered their competitions. In the mid 1970¶s, it was uncovered that company officials had lied in press releases and financial information to make it look like the company was continuing to grow corporately. The company has also had its share of recalls. Depending on who you ask, the number ranges from 17 to 28. And from August to September of this year Mattel has faced the biggest recall in the company¶s history. Reasons for Recall There are two separate reasons why Mattel recalled 19 million toys from August to September of 2007. The fact that both recalls occurred at the same time makes this the biggest recall in the company¶s history. The first reason toys were recalled was because of faulty magnets. The design of these toys included parts with high-energy magnets ± magnets normally used for industrial purposes ± that can easily come loose. These magnets pose a threat to young children and infants who could easily ingest the parts and have them bond together along their digestive tract. If several magnets were swallowed they would pull together in the stomach and rip through stomach tissue. The strength of the magnets combined with Mattel¶s poor design of the toys made these products a serious hazard for young children. On their website, Mattel listed 71 models and makes of toys that are recalled because of faulty magnets. Toys affected by this problem included Polly

brain damage. death. many that had been available since 2003. subcontractors used unapproved suppliers. the body of Zhang Shuhong. Mattel recalled several Polly Pocket sets sold with magnets that could pose a threat to children. 2007 because of the possible hazards they could pose to children swallowing faulty magnets. Mattel recalled 848.Pockets. There are 91 models and makes of toys that Mattel placed on recall because of harmful levels of paint. The products containing lead paint were mostly from this division of Mattel and were all manufactured in China. and in extreme cases. and Barbie and her dog Tanner. seizures.Hansheng Wooden Products Factory and Lida Toy company. Batman action figures. Leadbased paint is dangerous for children because elevated levels have been shown to create learning and behavioral problems. Some Polly Pocket sets had been recalled as early as November of 2006. The other reason Mattel toys were recalled was because high levels of lead-based paint were found on the surface of many toys. Mattel began an investigation and halted operations at the factory that produced the toys. toothpaste. Senate Committee began scrutinizing American safety standards for children¶s toys and clothing on August 28. In some cases the lead content was over 180 times the legal limit. China Recently. Pet food. slow muscle and bone growth. Fisher-Price started the recalled with 1. China has had numerous problems with the quality and standards of the products manufactured within the country. hearing loss. In early July of 2007 a retailer in Europe discovered a high lead content on some Mattel toys. the boss of the Lida Toy Company. Reports said that he committed suicide by hanging himself in the factory. coma. 2007. And on September 4. and before this recall was a company others wanted to model in terms of their global manufacturing. but in order to cut costs. Recall Timeline In November of 2006. 2007. China cancelled the export license of two of the factories linked to the recalls . it seems that Mattel will continue to work with the same manufacturers in China because their options are limited. Mattel recalled 18 million more products on August 14. seafood. Four days later.5 million toys on August 1. On August 9. anemia. The business relationship between Mattel and China seemed to be a text-book partnership that started over 25 years ago.000 more toys globally because of high levels of leadbased paint. and toys are some of the products that had to be recalled from homes in the United States because of serious ± and possibly deadly ± manufacturing errors. tires. Mattel has been criticized for placing too much confidence in their relationship with China and slacking on quality checks at the manufacturing sites. During this investigation it was discovered that there were millions of products that didn¶t conform to safety standards. After further investigation.S. The U. Upon notification. was found in the factory workshop. 2007 due to high levels of lead-based paint. At this point. Many of the toys coated with lead-based paint were from Mattel¶s Fisher Price line. Mattel currently does 65 percent of their manufacturing in China. Mattel had previously given manufacturers in China a list of eight paint suppliers that they could use. The committee said it would consider the possibility of creating new .

were used as well. quickly. Mattel also launched a massive online crusade to inform people about the recall. taking full blame for the incident. When federal officials announced the first Mattel recall. Mattel issued a prepared apology to China about the recall. They took ownership of the magnetic design flaw. Objective 3: Take responsibility for the recall. Mattel answered over 300 media requests in the United States by the end of the week. They claim that although they have very high standards and thorough quality and safety testing procedures. A link to a crisis response website was set up on their webpage right away and updates have been posted regularly. Solve the problem while maintaining a stable relationship with China. The fact that the company had a product defect and a difficulty with their supplier made this recall a problem within their control. also known as pay per click marketing. fixing the problem. Then they opened their 100-page crisis plan. and being open and honest. OBJECTIVES Objective 1: Get all information about the recall to the public accurately. Mattel eventually listened. The company took out full-page ads in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal as well. ³no system can be perfect. They sent out e-mails with a recall press release. There are a few reports (and a lawsuit) that claim Mattel knew about the defects of their products long before their announcement to the public. Objective 2: Reassure consumers ± especially parents ± that Mattel is committed to making safe toys. Webcasts and search engine marketing. On September 21. . and allowed the media to schedule TV appearances or phone conversations with top personnel at Mattel. Mattel has constantly been open with the media and their customers. Nothing was said about the paint. Chinese media claimed that Mattel should be accountable for the mistakes they made rather than use China as a scapegoat. the CEO of Mattel did 14 interviews on television and took 20 calls from reporters. recall blame was heavily placed on China by global media. claiming that it was a Mattel design flaw and not a Chinese manufacturing flaw. they first contacted the federal agency that oversees toy problems and product safety. During this time. The day of the recall. and efficiently. Despite the fact that a larger number of toys were recalled because of faulty magnets rather than lead-based paint. Robert Eckert. but since announcing it. 16 public relations personnel immediately called reporters at the top 40 media outlets.´ Mattel also made it clear that they are doing all that they can to assess the situation on the manufacturing level.legislation to keep hazardous toys from children. told reporters about a teleconference with executives. PROGRAM Crisis Plan When Mattel realized their company was facing a very serious problem.

2007.´ The apology also took responsibility for Mattel¶s design flaws. If the paint isn¶t up to Mattel¶s standards.´ What Mattel is Currently Doing Those at Mattel have done their best to appear up-front and completely open about the recall. The toys must meet a series of strict safety standards before they are put on the market. It tells customers what toys are being recalled. The apology was given by Mattel¶s executive vice president for worldwide operations. Mattel is increasing control on every level of the production process and conducting random inspections at all vender facilities. Many manufacturers in China claimed they were being blamed for design flaws created by Mattel. it won¶t be used. But much of the criticism may have been unwarranted. Mattel¶s three-point check system covers the steps that they are currently taking to insure that all their toys are safe for children.´ The apology may have been later than China would have liked. I really hope that Mattel can learn lessons and gain experience from these incidents. and what Mattel¶s three-point check system is. China accepted the apology. the Chinese people. a problem that encompassed a majority of the recalled products and admitted that toys affected by the leadbased paint were a very small percentage of the toys recalled. Mattel issued a carefully-worded apology to China in a meeting with Li Changjiang. but the country hopes that it will restore consumer confidence in products ³made in China. and all of our customers who received the toys.Apology to China Mattel¶s toy recalls spurred a wave of China-bashing in the media across the world. Mattel will make sure that manufactures only use paint from certified suppliers and they will test every single batch of paint from all vendors. In part of the apology. On the first page of their webpage. Thomas A. 2. . This link contains information for the recall for all countries affected in the world. with lawyers present. the Chinese product safety chief. Mattel pledges to test all finished toys vigorously before they reach the consumer. where to bring recalled toys. Mattel assures customers that all venders are aware of these new procedures and Mattel¶s strict enforcement of them. On September 20. Debrowski said ³Mattel takes full responsibility for these recalls and apologizes personally to you. Mattel dedicated a bold red link to the toy recall. Debrowski. This greatly damaged China¶s manufacturing reputation around the globe. but Li said that Mattel ³should value our cooperation. 3. [and they should] improve their control measures. These steps include: 1.

and was the only source to point out the mislaid emphasis on the majority of the recalls: design flaws. What China Has Done China has tried to clear up their problems and corruption inside their country. people in power threatened to detain and inspect all questionable shipments from China. Although the company was going through a crisis. and criticized mainland China for not having the same moral courage ³to admit fault and embrace responsibility. The media¶s coverage of Mattel was vastly different. the companies they manufactured for. that didn¶t usually stop them from participating in the negative portrayal of China¶s credibility as a manufacturer. The fact that top executives of Mattel were willing to talk to media outlets seemed to give the company favorable coverage and blame shifted to China. This led to a heavy bout of China-bashing throughout the media. The only article I actually found that defended China was an article printed in the country itself: in the China Post. They executed the former head of their food and drug administration for taking bribes from manufactures and placed the blame because his ³failure to conscientiously carry out his duties seriously damaged the interests of the state and people. It talked about how China¶s image as a reliable producer was damaged. Mattel was also often praised in the media for their openness with customers ± and the media. and another was put in jail.´ One subordinate was given the same sentence. ± insisted that China crack down on their safety standards before they put any more lives in danger. The article reported that Beijing believed Mattel and the United States put too much blame on China. Many headlines claimed that ³China has Ruined Christmas´ and a line that was often repeated in articles was ³Made In China should be viewed as a warning label.´ The article emphasized that China needs to improve its product safety and learn that quality of goods is often the best policy. rather than the problems with the toy¶s design flaws. It applauded Mattel¶s courage to come clean about their flawed goods and accept responsibility. But China never made a formal apology to the rest of the world. many media sources commended Mattel for getting the word out quickly and efficiently. but not all said that 85 percent of all the toys recalled were the ones with the design flaw ± not the lead-based paint.S. Parent blogs were filled with . Even if the article mentioned the breakdown of recalled toys.´ All articles mentioned that part of the recall involved toys with industrial magnets. In the media. Mattel cultivated the image of the company¶s willingness to discuss problems as soon as they arose and complete parental concern. Effect on Society Parent¶s Reactions Parents had extremely different reactions to Mattel¶s toy recall. Many articles ± especially those in newspapers outside the U.ANALYSIS Newspaper Coverage Many of the news articles that covered the Mattel Recall focused on the lead-paint explanation for the recall. but also said that in light of the product safety scandals the country set up a task force to supervise manufacturing and enforce laws. or to customers who received tainted goods.

But some parents became exasperated with Mattel¶s procedures for the recall. ‡ Toys and brands ³Made in America´ have the potential to gain a new niche in the market. ‡ Companies that have partnered with Mattel. such as Sesame Street and Nickelodeon. They apologized publicly. Mattel handled the crisis exactly the way textbooks tell corporations to handle reputation-damaging incidents. ‡ There has been a spike in the purchase of lead testing kits (to be used on Children). But no matter what the parent¶s reactions were. have decided to implement their own tests on finished products and toys that Mattel produces. Articles have claimed that Mattel was doing their job correctly because they told people about . decided to drive to the Mattel headquarters with her car piled with children and Mattel toys. They have said that since many parents have changed their buying habits and are trying to stay away form the ³Made in China´ label. She ordered the company to sort through the toys and remove any recalled items. and took immediate action to fix the problem. She decided not to blame China or Mattel for the problems. With their experience with recalls. One mother. whether they carry Mattel toys or not. Many complained that they had to take their children¶s favorite toys away. not buy their entertainment or use the television as a babysitter. but instead realized that she needed to start entertaining her children herself. Many said they would be willing to give the Mattel brand another try. They broke the bad news themselves. Economic Trends ‡ Small Mom and Pop Stores have seen a drop in sales. ‡ EBay has sent out e-mails and notices asking members not to buy or sell many Mattel toys.com. If they can establish themselves as safe and reliable companies. . A father made cynical jokes about the recall in a video on youtube. A couple bashed Mattel for their PR-scrubbed handling of the entire recall and using ³too much red´ on their recall webpage. EVALUATION What We Can Learn In many ways. Many decided not to (or try not to) buy any toys made in China ± a difficult task because about 80 percent of toys sold in America are made in China. the company smoothly executed all aspects of their crisis management plan. they all agreed that they wanted safe toys for their children to play with. Another mother viewed the recall as a wake-up-call to her parenting style. parents said they would gladly pay extra for the security of quality goods. completely fed up with what seemed to be daily recalls. They told the truth. ‡ Mega toy stores like Toys-R-Us and FAO Swartz are educating their staff about which toys are made in China and where to find toys made in the United States. The company and the CEO were visible and available.everything from the Mattel name surrounded by four-letter words to polite requests for a list of all items recalled.

commented on the case. and who is properly regulating them. but that is easier said than done. By getting this issue out in the open. in fact. but the country never took any responsibility for the death of pets in America. Mattel is allowing consumers to get a glimpse of how goods get from factories into our homes. and Australia. He looked at fact that Mattel took responsibility for the entire recall very favorably. By accepting all blame. Argenti. The R2C Corporation¶s recall wasn¶t as expansive as Mattel¶s. But Argenti thinks that the two can now have an ongoing relationship.´ he said. Mattel seems to have a mind of their own and think outside lawyers and their lawyer¶s public relations firms. but on their website the letter offers an apology to parents first. many popular pet food brands were withdrawn overnight across the US. The diethylene glycol in toothpaste was found to be the result of deaths in Panama. the US Food and Drug Administration was alerted that animals had died after eating a Canadian pet food. Melamine. Professor of Corporate Communications at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. ³I think Mattel handled the problem very well overall. nor is the company as large. Other China Recalls The RC2 Corporation recalled several Thomas and Friends train sets in June of 2007 because of high levels of lead-based paint used by Chinese contractors. In March of 2007. an industrial chemical found in plastics was the suspected killer ingredient.´ he said. There is controversy about how such high levels of melamine got into the pet food. ³It¶s a problem that isn¶t unusual for them to have. not an explanation. ugly disputes with corporations over who was to blame for recalls. Diethylene glycol. what is in them. They were willing to talk about it and understood the ramifications. He said that maybe Mattel could have been more diligent in picking out suppliers. ³It takes courage. Professional Opinion Paul A. for the most part. You can tell by how the case is . 2007. is looked at favorably as well. Another thing that we have learned is that in regard to the global economy. Adding melamine to pet food was banned by China on April 26.the problem. Product defects and difficulty with suppliers are pretty typical in their line of work and they took responsibility. Mattel was able to continue forward and focus on setting things right ± not on whose fault it is. This also allowed consumers to see that Mattel is dependable and the one who is responsible for fixing the problem. the country often got into long. but articles have been written claiming that sources in China admitted to mixing melamine into batches of pet food to make it look like there was a higher content of protein than there actually was. it¶s difficult to know where products are made. Mattel¶s apology to China is. the Dominican Republic. pointing out that not many American companies are willing to be held accountable for legal reasons. a component of antifreeze was found in two brands of Chinese-made toothpaste sold in Europe. China hasn¶t apologized for any faulty products in the past. ³It¶s refreshing to see. This corporation also ended their relationship with all manufacturers who did not comply with their paint specifications and implemented a sixpoint safety check system. They confessed and comprehended that they made a mistake and offered a solution.

but when will China actually take responsibility for themselves? And how can we continue to support an industry that refuses to accept blame for its mistakes? I can¶t help but think that it was a bit of a coincidence that the faulty magnet recall and the lead paint recall happened at the same time.´ Personal Opinion I agree with Professor Argenti that Mattel did a good job of handling the recall. Why were there so many faulty-magnet recalls nine months later? Why didn¶t Mattel catch and fix the magnet problem last November? The timing of the recalls and the fact that China was already being scrutinized for several other product recalls made it very easy for people to throw all the blame on the country.´ However. I also think that if there¶s any time for manufacturers in America to increase their business. Mattel recalls a huge amount of toys because of faulty magnet design. but I can¶t help but wonder how much of it was just for show. Holiday sales must be monitored and so do blogs. The website is corporate and cold. work on thing operationally. In August of 2007. Let¶s look at the facts: Mattel recalled several Polly Pocket Sets in November 2006 because of hazardous magnets. Argenti doesn¶t think that Mattel¶s problem is over yet. the time is now. they may have lost sight of the customer.handled. He believes they need to continue to look for problems. The company has to be prepared for other problems and continue risk management audits. not the company. But I think by getting their recalls almost down to a science. Mattel has recalled toys so many times that they know exactly how to handle the problem and use the media to their advantage. ³There are always going to be problems. Mattel¶s Fisher-Price division recalls a huge amount of toys because of lead-based paint. Either they have a savvy consultant or a great PR firm. But if Mattel can lead the change for toy manufacturers to create a more responsible industry. There should be an apology readily recognizable when you first open the page and the CEO speaking shouldn¶t be so formal and stiff. and produce safer toys. . they could become the hero. I can see how the apology to China was a very excellent and responsible move. Then Mattel recalls a few more toys because of lead-based paint.

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