Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Tightwad tuesday: tightwads of america, unite!

Fellow pennypinchers, this is a call to arms. It's not often I get caught up in a cause, but as a life-long "thrifter", I'm climbing up on my virtual soapbox to make some noise about HR 4040, also known as the Consumer Product Safety Act of 2008. As any parent can attest, it gets expensive keeping up with a kid's growth spurts; just when you replace the highwaters with pants and shirts that are long enough, they go and outgrow their shoes! With tough economic times upon us (and no end in sight) many families, my own included, depend on second hand stores to purchase their children's clothing, toys and books.

The short story is that this law, passed by Congress last August (and which I didn't hear about until last month because, let's face it, I live under a rock), requires manufacturers and sellers of items made for children (ages 12 and under) to test for and meet new criteria for the levels of lead in their products. A well-intentioned piece of legislation, HR 4040 unfortunately sweeps with far too broad a stroke because it includes not only manufacturers, but also the thousands of large and small resale establishments like chain thrift stores and local consignment stores that sell second-hand children's clothing, books and gear, as well as small business owners and craftspeople like those on Etsy who handmake their unique childrens' items.

The economic and ecological ramifications will be substantial. Non-profit organizations like Goodwill, Value Village, St. Vincent De Paul, and Deseret Industries, who rely on children's products for a significant portion of their sales, will most likely have to downsize their workforces, which consist largely of disabled persons. I was talking to the owner of Hailina's Closet, my favorite local consignment store, and she's expecting go out of business after next week, like thousands of other small business owners who sell only children's products. And because no one will be able to donate all their kids' old clothes and toys to second hand stores, those who aren't able to give them to friends or have a yard sale will throw everything in the trash. Small Things Considered has a great online discussion about the impacts of HR 4040 that you may want to check out. If you want more information about the impacts to second-hand stores, take a look at the website for the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops. And here's an interesting discussion from Etsy's forum about the implications for merchants there.

If you are concerned, here's what you can do: write to your U.S. senators, local Congressional representatives, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and ask them to grant an exception to HR 4040 for all resellers of children's items. Congress passed the legislation, and they have the power to grant exceptions, so we need to make our voices heard on this important issue. And if you're at a loss for words, feel free to borrow from the letter I sent:

Dear Senator/Congressman:

I am writing to urge you and your fellow members of Congress to immediately provide clarification to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (HR 4040), by granting an exception for all thrift stores, consignment stores and other merchants who resale used children’s clothing, gear, toys and books. While I applaud the efforts of our lawmakers to provide protective legislation that safeguards our nation’s growing generation, I feel that HR 4040 is unnecessarily stringent on resale merchants in such a way that would cause many to go out of business in order to comply, as well as having a negative economic impact on the thousands of families who depend on second hand products as an affordable means to clothe and care for their children. I also feel that HR 4040 would have significant negative environmental impacts, as millions of toys, books and items of clothing would have to be disposed of, instead of being reused by those who want and need them.

Again, I urge you to please make HR 4040 more economically and ecologically responsible by giving an exception to all children’s resale merchants.


1 comment:

helgaruth said...

Amen! Thank you for the call to arms. I too would be sorry to lose such wonderful resources. Thanks for the heads up!