The Houston thrift shop in the video above is by no means alone. Elsewhere in the country, many resale stores are either closing their children’s sections entirely or drastically curtailing the line of goods they carry. Among them is Goodwill of Kansas (press release):
Painted toys and clothing with metal clasps or fasteners — including blue jeans, coats and hooded jackets for children 12 and younger — were pulled from store shelves Monday night, said Gayle Goetz, vice president of development for Goodwill Industries Easter Seals of Kansas.
The move affects 14 Goodwill stores in Kansas, including three in Wichita and one in Maize.
“We kept hoping we’d get some guidance, so we waited,” Goetz said. “We had our legal committee look at it last night and determined that there’s just too much liability.”
At the same time, many other thrift stores nationwide are for the moment proceeding with business as usual, leaving kids jeans’, plastic playthings, pre-1985 books and other suspect items on the shelves, whether because they are breezier about taking on risks of liability, because they are unfamiliar with the law, or because they figure its terms are too irrational to actually be enforced. And even when they are withdrawing items from sale, some, like Goodwill of Kansas, are placing them into storage in the expectation that Congress will see reason (insert joke of choice here) and act to change the law soon.
Others, especially stores that specialize in kids’ resale, are thinking of closing their doors because of CPSIA or have already done so. “I have everything to lose,” said owner Kasey Brown in Ionia, Mich., who closed her Hey Baby Boutique a few days ago. (See also Maine and Arkansas items from our recent 50-state roundup).
One presumably unintended consequence will be to deprive nonprofit community and religious groups of millions of dollars in revenue with which they had pursued worthy causes. In the Charlotte area alone, kids’ resale at Goodwill is a $2 million business that supports job-training programs, the local director says. In an Indiana newspaper, a Salvation Army source is quoted as saying that the CPSIA blow could wipe out more than 16,000 places in drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs supported by the stores.
In Bend, Oregon, according to ABC affiliate KOHD, consignment store Stone Soup decided to take the unusual step of screening its stock for lead using the X-ray fluorescence method. It cost $1,500 a week to rent the equipment, 30 percent of tested items failed (lots of zippers, rhinestones and skateboards out there with lead content), and the store found itself having to fill out scads of paperwork since each failure had to be reported to Washington under the law’s defect-notification provision.
In his stump speech five years ago, presidential candidate John Edwards (as Alex Tabarrok noted at the time) was
fond of empathizing with the plight of a 10-year old girl “somewhere in America,” who goes to bed “praying that tomorrow will not be as cold as today, because she doesn’t have the coat to keep her warm.”
As John Tierney of the New York Times countered, however, whatever real economic problems America had in 2004, children going without serviceable winter clothes because their parents lacked money was not high on the list: “The second-hand children’s coats that remain in America typically sell for about $5 in thrift shops.”
Way to solve that problem, Congress.
More: Thrift-store shutdowns in Florida and Kansas, “truckloads” removed from Goodwill stores in Louisiana, shelf-clearings and disruptions in Virginia, upstate New York and Waco, Texas. Tucson resaler Casa de los Ninos reports taking a $70,000 hit from inventory suddenly rendered worthless. That can’t be easy to incorporate into the economics of running such a place, but maybe the owner can just go without taking a salary for a year or two. I’m sure some CPSIA proponents will say it’s his own fault for not informing himself better about the law in advance.