Collecting comsumer data
Costco uses the data gathered through cards carried by its 56 million wholesale club members and calls them within 24 hours if they have purchased a recalled item. The company follows up with a letter.
“When we get a recall notice, I can tell you everybody who bought that product, exactly where and when they bought that, and I have their phone and address,” said Costco’s Wilson. “I’ll make a phone call the day the recall is announced, in a human voice, and the message goes right to them and tells them what’s going on, in clear, easy-to-understand language.”
The result is that the vast majority — in some cases 90 percent — of Costco customers return recalled products to the store, Wilson said.
The federal government ought to require merchants to follow a similar model, provided customer data are used only for safety recalls, Wilson said.
Reaching consumers directly is the idea behind a federal law that took effect this week. It requires manufacturers of durable toddler and baby items — cribs, high chairs and bathtubs, among them — to include registration cards with those products. Before this week, only manufacturers of child car seats were required to provide those cards.
The new law was named after 16-month-old Danny Keysar of Chicago, who died in May 1998 at his day-care facility when a Playskool Travel-Lite portable crib collapsed, trapping his neck in its folded rails. Danny’s parents’ grief turned to rage when they learned that the crib had been recalled five years earlier, said Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids In Danger, a nonprofit founded by the Keysars. The parent who donated the crib to the child care facility didn’t know it had been recalled.
“Recalls by themselves are just not very effective,” Cowles said. “Of course, the most effective solution is to have stricter standards and make safer products so we don’t need a recall in the first place.”