Sure, you pay attention (and scour your kids' toy collections) when Mattel recalls make major headlines weeks in a row (see link below). But bargain-hunting moms may not be so savvy when it comes to shopping online for hand-me-down baby gear and children's toys. In a new study published in the journal Injury Prevention, many products recalled years ago -- including bassinets, strollers, play yards, and various toys -- are for sale on eBay.com, the world's largest online auction site.
Study authors randomly selected about 150 items that were recalled by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) between 1992 and 2004. After tracking them for a month on eBay, researchers found that nearly 70 percent of the goods were eventually sold (despite the site's policy prohibiting the sale of recalled products). It does not appear that sellers are purposely trying to unload dangerous items, says study author Keri Brown Kirschman, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Dayton. "They're just parents trying to recycle old children's stuff -- and are probably completely unaware that these items have been found to be dangerous."
But the old "buyer beware" adage also applies. "Our findings are not meant to be anti-eBay or other online exchange sites," says Kirschman. "Children's gear is expensive and often these forums are great resources for parents -- but it's up to you as a shopper to be that final gatekeeper to safeguard your family. Here, her top three ways to protect your frugalista shopping habits.
- Double-check the stuff you're bidding on with the CPSC (online archives include recall postings that date back as early as the 1970s). Even though most eBay listings don't include products' serial numbers or dates of purchase, you can contact the seller for more info if you have any doubts about whether something's been recalled.
- If you spot a recalled item up for grabs, say something. Contact the seller first; if he or she won't take it down then report the incident to eBay.
- Toss your recalled gear ASAP. Sending toys to the attic or garage to deal with later means you could potentially forget about them down the road -- and possibly sell, donate, or share with friends unknowingly. So follow manufacturer guidelines: Many ask that you mail products back to them in exchange for coupons toward newer, safer versions.
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