As I've long opined on Spend Matters, retailers sourcing from China often get exactly what they set out to achieve -- either solid products at a fair price or cheap and potentially dangerous trinkets and trash masquerading as real merchandise (and all too often it's the latter). A recent story that I read about fiery DVD players at Wal-Mart confirms that China is still damaging its own credibility by delivering inferior products at price points which should cause us to question whether or not what we're buying is really safe. Reading the facts from CNN, I learned that "Wal-Mart is recalling 4.2 million Durabrand DVD players, expanding a previous announcement, because of a potential for the device to burst into flames," according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. But the nuances of this particular recall are, pardon the fun, explosively humorous.
To this end, the most recent recall announcement surrounding these $29 dollar remote controlled DVD players that Wal-Mart sold for the past three years-- come on, for $29 what should we really expect -- was for 2.7 million "pink and purple" devices on top of the 1.5 million silver DVD players already recalled. This series of recalls came after Wal-Mart "received 14 complaints of the DVD players overheating" in seven of which "the overheating caused a fire that damaged property". Now, I've watched some sizzling flicks in my day, but this recall brings a whole new meaning to fiery onscreen performances
But more important, this incident serves to represent yet another case of a retailer selling a product where cheap Chinese workarounds and parts jeopardized the lives of millions of potential customers. Moreoever, given that the product was on the market for three years, you would have thought that Wal-Mart might have done something sooner about the potential liabilities by proactively working with its suppliers to fix what was clearly a problem that began to manifest long before the actual recall. Perhaps Wal-Mart should divert a little of its sustainability and green supplier fervor to the more mundane task of monitoring and developing its Chinese suppliers to make sure that their products don't burn down the house. After all, I'm sure the CO2 impact of half a dozen DVD fires is probably far greater than slightly reducing the carbon footprint of its supply base.
- Jason Busch