Latest Thomas & Friends Recall Includes Free Bonus Toys Meant to Mend Fences after First RecallOct 4, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
The recent Thomas & Friends toy recall is turning out to be a big embarrassment for the RC2 Corporation. It was already bad enough that last week’s recall of lead painted toy trains and accessories was the second one issued by the Illinois-based toy company since last June. But as it turns out, some of the defective toys recalled last week by RC2 were actually given to families in an attempt regain the trust of parents following the June recall. Now, with the holiday season approaching, RC2 will have to struggle to regain the loyalty of parents burned by two Thomas & Friends recalls in the span of just a few months.
In June, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that Illinois-based RC2 was voluntarily recalling about 1.5 million items in what would become the first of several major roundups involving lead paint on toys made in China. The wooden toy trains, based on the popular TV series Thomas the Tank Engine, are a huge hit with children. And at about $20 per wooden car, a Thomas & Friends collection can be a costly undertaking.
In order to retain the trust of consumers following the first recall, RC2 offered people who sent the company a recalled Thomas & Friends toy a replacement for the lead painted item and an additional bonus gift. The offer worked, as RC2 has reportedly received more than 1 million recalled toys from worried parents. The company made good on its word, sending each family that returned a toy a bonus gift.
Unfortunately, that move has backfired on RC2. After about 146,000 gifts had already been distributed, testing showed that lead in the paint covering about 2,000 "Toad" train cars in the bonus shipment was up to four times higher than acceptable levels. Last week, RC2 recalled the affected Toads, along with about 200,000 other Thomas items.
This latest recall has made many parents extremely angry. Since RC2 announced the recall, parenting message boards and blogs have been filled with posts from irate parents vowing not to buy another RC2 product ever again. One father told the Associated Press that he had decided to trash his daughter’s entire collection of Thomas & Friends trains and accessories whether the items had been recalled or not. He said he simply could not trust the safety of RC2 toys.
With only weeks until the official start of the holiday shopping season, RC2 is going to have to work extra hard to regain the trust of worried parents. In a letter the company sent to parents explaining the recall, the CEO of RC2 wrote, "We are deeply apologetic for and embarrassed by this turn of events, and remain determined to make it up to you and restore your confidence." RC2 is offering yet another bonus gift to parents who return lead-tainted Toad toys, but it remains to be seen how many will accept that offer again.