Recalls and name calling

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s been a Bumbo recall.  Are you familiar with Bumbo?  They’re these cute little foamy chairs that babies just seem to love.  I know Elijah loved his.  It was usually where we fed him baby food from.

Well, there’s been a recall.  Apparently babies are injuring themselves when getting out of them.  I don’t know all the details, but the company is offering a free restraint belt that is supposed to remedy the problem, I imagine it’s like the kind of seat belts that are found in high chairs.  I no longer have a Bumbo seat, so I wouldn’t have any reason to call and get more info or order a restraint.  By the time I’m in the market for a Bumbo again, I’m sure they will be sold with the restraints.

But I did feel it was important to share the info about the recall when I came across it, so I did, on both my personal and my professional Facebook pages.  I have been amazed at the response.  Many, many people have responded by saying the whole recall is stupid, and that any injury caused to any baby in a Bumbo seat simply has to be the parent’s fault.  There is just no way those things could be unsafe unless you’re a total idiot using the product so incorrectly you deserve to have social services come take your baby from you anyhow.

Excuse me?

First off, it is not very often that companies accept responsibility for injuries caused by blatant misuse of their product.  If they did, we’d all be suing auto companies for damages caused by drunk and uninsured drivers.  I know I’d be suing Pontiac because an uninsured driver of one of their cars hit me last year and now I have $2500 of medical bills to pay off that that bum will never pay.  I know, you’re thinking of examples of frivolous law suits.  The hot coffee spill at McDonalds, right?  Are you aware the woman who filed that law suit had skin grafts, she was so injured by that hot coffee?  That was way beyond a little burn, the woman suffered serious injury.  Clearly, that coffee was served WAY too hot.  But I’m going off on a tangent here.

The point is that issuing a recall is accepting responsibility for an injury (or more likely, a series of injuries), in a way that making a settlement is not.  A settlement is a quiet and cheap way to get people to shut up about something that may or may not be wrong with your product.  A recall is a big, public announcement that “Hey, your kid could be seriously injured in our product.  We believe this could happen to anyone, and that it will be better for us, professionally and fiscally, to make this big public announcement that there is something wrong with our product than to try to quietly pay off everyone who experiences an injury with our product.  That’s how many injuries we have had or anticipate having.”

Remember the scene in Fight Club where Edward Norton is discussing auto recalls with a woman on a plane, and how the company he works for determines if they are going to do a recall?  He said “A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don’t do one. ”  Do you think that is fantasy made up for entertainment?  I have a gut feeling that that is actually how recalls are handled by many, if not every, company.

Recalls cost money.  The company has to do research to determine the scope of the problem.  They then have to design a solution to the problem.  They have to put out press releases.  They have to set up recall departments in their headquarters to handle recall questions and processing.  They have to send out the solution to the problem free of cost, or replace the faulty product, free of cost, assuming even the shipping costs.  In the case of some products, they have to individually contact every registered owner of the product.  And on top of all this, they get to recover from the blow to their public image.

I don’t think Bumbo would go through all of that for shits and giggles.  I think they multiplied A times B times C, as Edward Norton described, and found that X was more than the cost of the recall.  They made the recall because they anticipate that paying off all the settlements from all the injuries will cost more to the company than just doing a recall would.

So clearly, there is an issue with these seats that has impacted a large number of families, and is projected to impact several more.  This is not just a case of a few dumb parents using it improperly.

And even if it was, why all this hostility over issuing a recall?  If you think you’re a good parent, and a good parent would be able to prevent injury in a Bumbo, fine, don’t order the repair kit.  Do you really need to get online and rub it in the faces of every parent who’s child did experience an injury that you think they’re dumb?  Seriously?  Are you that devoid of compassion?  I don’t know all the details of these injuries, how severe they are, how they were caused, and what role parental intelligence played in it all, but it seems to me that when I a parent has an injured child, whether or not it actually is their fault, the parent already feels like shit about it.  Does it make you feel good to rub it in?  I hope so.  I hope you get a real big warm fuzzy from calling a parent who made a mistake and probably already feels extreme amounts of guilt, regret, and grief, that they are an idiot and a bad parent.  Because if its not making you feel good, then you’re probably just straight up evil, to be such an asshole for no reason.

I ended up saying just that, in I hope a much nicer way, on my professional Facebook page.  I said, “… on the off chance there is a parent of a baby injured in a Bumbo seat on this page, let’s try not to be pointing fingers at parents for injuries that the company has clearly assumed responsibility for. It’s hard enough to have an injured child without random people who know nothing about you or your child calling you an idiot or a bad parent.”  No response yet.  I hope maybe it gives people something to think about.

I can’t help but think about where this attitude comes from.  It reminds me of all the people who say things like “My kids never rode in a car seat, and they all survived” or “I smoked during my pregnancy, and my kid is fine”.  Never mind the fact that many, many, many children did not end up just fine in these same situations.  The vast majority of children who went without carseats and got into an accident were seriously injured and killed, and the vast majority of children born to smoking mothers have health issues, not only that, but their children have health issues too.  People take these anecdotal situations and look at them as proof that … what exactly?  That all the science and research and experience of those who were harmed is all wrong?  Or is it something else?

I seem to notice this prevailing attitude out there that bad things only happen to the children of bad parents.  If you are a good parent, it doesn’t matter whether or not you put your child in the proper car seat, or smoke while you are pregnant, or listen to recall information, your child is going to be just fine.  But if you are a bad parent, of course your child is going to be injured in a Bumbo, and you and only you should accept responsibility for being such a bad parent (and, oh, by the way, I’d like to throw rotten tomatoes at you while you’re in the stocks, okay?).  There is no need for me  to call the company and use this restraining device, because I’m a good parent, and by virtue of that alone, my baby is safe from all harm.  Bad things only happen to bad people, to the other.  Not me.  I’m good. Bad things will never happen to me.

This attitude is pervasive in the so called Mommy Wars, but I think it exists everywhere else as well.  If you are poor, it’s because you are lazy or stupid or in some other way a bad person.  If you have been injured, its because you were doing something you shouldn’t have.  If you are raped, it’s because you dressed wrong, or was in the wrong place, or drank too much, or sent the wrong signals to your rapist.  If you are fat, its because you ate too much or the wrong things, and you have no self control or self respect.  If you fail at something, it’s because you didn’t work hard enough, or you’re not good enough.

We suffer from a serious lack of compassion in our society.  Even in the cases where these stereotypes are actually true, do we really think we’re helping anyone or anything by shaming people, and rubbing it in?  And in the vast majority of cases, the reality of people’s situations are a lot more complex than just “so and so is a bad person, and that’s why bad things happened to him”.  Even if so and so is a bad person, those of us who are perfect can feel free to criticize him for it.  The rest of us should probably sit down and shut up.

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About Rockingthehomestead

Badass feminist environmentalist.
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One Response to Recalls and name calling

  1. Deanna says:

    “Do you really need to get online and rub it in the faces of every parent who’s child did experience an injury that you think they’re dumb? Seriously? Are you that devoid of compassion? I don’t know all the details of these injuries, how severe they are, how they were caused, and what role parental intelligence played in it all, but it seems to me that when I a parent has an injured child, whether or not it actually is their fault, the parent already feels like shit about it. Does it make you feel good to rub it in? I hope so. I hope you get a real big warm fuzzy from calling a parent who made a mistake and probably already feels extreme amounts of guilt, regret, and grief, that they are an idiot and a bad parent. Because if its not making you feel good, then you’re probably just straight up evil, to be such an asshole for no reason.”

    I like the way you put it the first time! I love reading your blogs!

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