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Business Watch:

Merchant blames parents

Toy store manager says many problems with lead paint could be thwarted if parents told kids, ‘Don’t put that in your mouth.’

October 01, 2007|By Michael Miller

COSTA MESA — Like a number of toy store managers, Debi Tsuchiyama has had to send back products this year due to safety concerns.

She’s not inclined, however, to blame everything on the manufacturers. The general manager of the Puzzle Zoo at South Coast Plaza has stripped her shelves of Easy-Bake Ovens and a number of Thomas the Tank Engine products over the last few months, but she said many problems could be averted if parents kept a better eye on their kids.

“I feel really bad for these toy companies when they have to take a lot of this,” Tsuchiyama said. “In some cases, they’re at fault, but if parents would do their job, half of these recalls would not occur.”

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Toy recalls have been in the news for much of this year. In February, Hasbro pulled around 1million Easy-Bake Ovens after getting reports of children burning their hands in the oven’s opening. Mattel and RC2 later recalled millions of toys due to excessive amounts of lead paint and small magnets that many feared children could remove and swallow.

Among the products that have returned to the manufacturer are Barbie and Polly Pocket dolls, Doggie Daycare play sets, and Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer figures. In the wake of the recalls, toy companies have issued sweeping apologies and promised to step up their testing on products in the future.

Some, like Tsuchiyama, feel parents or nannies could ward off many of those problems in advance. The Puzzle Zoo manager said she got employees to watch over children in the store’s play area, since adults often left them there to go shopping.

“Fifty years ago, we had lead in the paint and I’m alive today because my mother said, ‘You don’t put this in your mouth,’” Tsuchiyama said. “Parents today, they don’t know how to manage their kids. I can see it every day here at my play table.”

Officials at Toy Boat, Toy Boat, Toy Boat, a chain that has four stores in Newport Beach, declined comment for this story. Managers at the Target location in Costa Mesa also declined comment, but the retail chain has been reported nationwide as having shipped back products.

Alex Uhl, the owner of the A Whale of a Tale Children’s Bookshoppe at UC Irvine, said her store had returned about 60 Thomas the Tank Engine products.

Since the store predominantly sold books, however, Uhl wasn’t worried about a drop in holiday business.

“Luckily, we deal in paper,” she said. “We haven’t had any recalls in paper.”


MICHAEL MILLER may be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at michael.miller@latimes.com.

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