May 7, 2011

Phil&Teds: Metoo High Chair? I Don't Recall. CPSC: And That's Gonna Be A Problem

From the Department of Whoa That's Never Happened Before,

So I got a personal email request from the CPSC yesterday. Not some mailing list alert, or even a "Dear Momblogger," pitch. A straight up,

"Hi Greg, I know that you previously wrote about a phil&teds recall. I'm hoping that you'd be willing to spread the word to parents about a CPSC consumer alert that we just issued."

Why sure, writing about phil&teds recalls is how I pass the time in between pitching their stroller to our about-to-have-a-second-kid friends.

But what's an alert? Turns out it's basically like a recall, with worse PR: "phil&ted Clip-On Chair Can Crush Fingers, Poses Fall Hazard; Stop Using It"

"The CPSC knows of numerous incidents" where one or both clamps on the Metoo have come loose, leaving kids dangling or falling, and exposing their tiny fingers to the scythe-like shearing of the pivoting clamps. BUT:

The company has refused to agree to a national recall of their hazardous products that is acceptable to CPSC. The company has offered a repair kit consisting of rubber boots to place on the upper clamp grips of the chairs. Consumers should be aware that CPSC has not approved a repair kit for this product, despite the firm's prior statement that it was conducting a recall "in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission."
Yow, going public with a recall showdown, and calling out P&T for claiming to be cooperating when they're not. In my seven-plus-years of CPSC watching, I've never seen anything like this.

Of course, I'm not seeing anything quite like this right now, either. P&T's website currently makes no mention of a Metoo recall. But it did. Here's the Google cache of philandteds.com, which had a "voluntary recall" notice for some Metoo chairs dated Feb. 1, 2011. [Here's a fat screenshot from May 7, 2011.] But it doesn't mention the CPSC. And P&T's recall only covered Metoo chairs manufactured before March 2010, when the company added rubber sleeves to the clamp arms to reduce slippage.

metoo_recall_dispute1.jpg

But I guess that's the dispute, because the CPSC warning covers all Metoo chairs, including those with the rubber sleeves, which I guess is why they don't approve of the repair kit [note: condensed graphic from a screenshot of cpsc.gov]:

metoo_recall_dispute2.jpg

So yeah, awkward. Even more awkward than my having to track down the person who bought our Metoo chair on eBay a few months ago.

Or something like it!phil&ted Clip-On Chair Can Crush Fingers, Poses Fall Hazard; Stop Using It [cpsc.gov]

7 Comments

"The last thing that you expect when you put your young child into a clip-on chair is that your child could suffer an injury." Has CPSC Blogger ever seen a parent secure a clip-on chair to a table the first few times? An injury seems not just possible but likely. It's only after a few incident-free uses that parents get (perhaps naively) comfortable with these chairs.

This is a shame because the metoo chair is the only one of our P&T products that we had nothing negative to say about. (Ours is branded metoo.com, predating the P&T acquisition). It's light, minimalist, extremely packable and fits on most (but not all) types of tables.

The video is pretty scary (especially if you're fond of pencils. I'd say that if you screw the clamps tight, you'd need to have a pretty strong kid to push away from the table as demonstrated but the situation illustrated in the video is definitely plausible.

The people at the table next to us at lunch had one, extremely heavily used, but I didn't say anything.

I notice that despite the term "incidents," the CPSC warning doesn't actually mention any actual injuries, just the possibility of them. If there were any actual incidents like the video on record, I have to think it would have been recalled instantly. P&T's addition in 2010 of the rubber grippers makes me think it was an attempt to head off/solve this recall/warning, which has thus been in the works for at least 18 months.

Maybe it was part of the review of inactive investigations that the agency undertook after the Obama administration took over. Like the string of old drop-side crib recalls and the Maclaren et al finger-chopping.

I just checked the P&T site and they already have a solution to half the problem called the Lobster. Can't say for sure but the Lobster looks like it might have the same problems as the Metoo in terms of sliding off the table but maybe less of the pinching/amputation concern because the awesome sleek aluminum clamps have been replaced with rounded plastic parts.

I have the old style chair which I love and I just reviewed the CPSC video. It looks like they didn't even clamp the chair to the table! Either they have a very, very different product or the fixed the test!.When you clamp the chair to the table it works great....and what's with that breaking pencil trick! What's really going on here? I want to trust the information I get from the government but somethings really wrong here? looks like the government folks want sensationalize hazards to get on TV more! Give me a Break!

We've used our metoo all over the place with our youngster and never had a problem - that said, I make damn sure the thing's screwed on tight! Sounds all a bit melodramatic.

I'm one of the dad's with a daughter who has a child injured by this chair. When we first contacted the company in 2009 about our little visit to the emergency room, I might have guessed that it would come to this little episode with the CPSC. The chair is inherently unsafe.

Pre-March 2010 models were made with a smooth thin rubber pad glued to a smooth flat piece of metal. The pads could easily be damaged and fall off without the consumer's knowledge. The chair then can slide back when a child moves in the chair. If one arm slides off and a child's finger is on the crossbar, it can get caught in the guillotine-like bar and potentially amputate a child's finger.

There is no safety mechanism in the event of failure like on some other clip-on chairs. And when their is a failure the harm could be catastrophic. Had my one-year old daughter's finger been a 1/2" further around the bar, she would almost certainly have had and amputated finger. As it was, she "only" lost the fleshy tip.

It's shameful that the company has not taken responsibility and voluntarily recalled the product as urged by the CPSC. See CPSC video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC0B_k0nTlw

http://news.consumerreports.org/safety/2011/05/despite-safety-warning-importer-of-metoo-tabletop-chair-doesnt-issue-recall.html

Here's a link to a photo of my daughter's finger after being injured in the metoo chair. http://s1184.photobucket.com/albums/z322/mhgjunk/

Note that the pads can fall off easily without the user's knowledge. Even if tightly clamped the chair can still slide off. The clamp is made of smooth metal with a short handle. There is little room for error with this chair. Add any typical child excited about their peas to this chair and it's a recipe for injury.

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