Burger King Pokémon container recall: Wikis

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Burger King and the Consumer Product Safety Commission held a recall effort in 1999 and 2000 to recall plastic containers resembling Poké Balls in the United States after it was determined that they presented a suffocation hazard. It was one of the largest and most expensive recalls in history.

Contents

History

Poké Ball container

Burger King released a set of Pokémon toys measuring from two to three inches in a $22 million promotion,[1] which were contained within round Poké Ball containers. They were included in their kids meals,[2] and it was to last for eight weeks from early November through December 1999.[3] The containers ranged in color from red and white to hot pink.[4] The containers were made by Equity Marketing, Inc. in Los Angeles.[1] The container could be opened by pulling the two halves of it apart. Ten days into the promotion, Burger King North America President Paul Clayton ran full-page newspaper ads apologizing for shortages.[2]

On December 11, 1999, a 13-month old girl in Sonora, California suffocated on the container, and was found dead in her playpen with half of the ball covering her nose and mouth. Following her death, the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department issued a warning about the containers.[2] This was the first time a Burger King toy was blamed for a death.[5] Two days later, the Consumer Product Safety Commission asked Burger King to do a recall on these containers, which Burger King refused to do so.[3] They stated that they were afraid to create anxiety for parents, as it was too soon to confirm whether the ball was responsible for the child's death, wanting to wait for an independent confirmation of the cause of death. The autopsy results had not been completed and released. Burger King spokeswoman Kim Miller stated that if it turned out that the container was a choking hazard, they would pull them out. However, they did not want to end a promotion if there was no issue with it.[6] The toys found in the containers were not a part of the proposed recall.[4]

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the design and size of the container made it easier for people to suffocate than with a plastic egg or a cup. It is just the right size to cover the nose and the mouth, and owing to the plastic's pliability, a child may suck the air out, creating a vacuum effect and causing the ball to become stuck to the face. Russ Rader, spokesperson for the commission, stated that the more the child breathes, the tighter the ball is held in place. He claimed that it is a hidden danger and is something parents couldn't even imagine.[6]

On December 23, an 18-month old Kansas girl reportedly got half of the ball stuck on her nose and mouth, but her father managed to remove it before she was injured. This resulted in Burger King agreeing to a recall after no resolution had been passed between them and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.[6] However, the CPSC told them to wait five days - December 29 - to announce the recall to allow for them to get its nationwide strategy in place. Burger King agreed, but told their stores to cease distribution of the containers. However, when word began to leak out to the press, they released an early press release on December 27 announcing the recall, to the protest of government officials. These officials argued that they needed time to distribute posters to more than 8,000 restaurants, a video news release, and an appearance on a national news show for Chairperson Ann Brown. They did not want the news to trickle out during the holiday season, when no one was paying attention. Despite their abrupt recall, she went on the NBC Today Show, though instead to criticize Burger King for dragging their feet. Brown stated that she was still upset by their actions a week after the incident, adding that most companies are more cooperative than this. She compared it to an incident that happened around the same time, where a Nordstrom department store's sweater's zipper became detached and became a choking hazard. The sweaters were immediately recalled.[6]

Burger King issued a statement to parents that they should take the containers away from children ages three and younger, and should be thrown away or returned to Burger King, where they may be redeemed for a free small order of fries. According to Burger King spokesperson Charles Nicolas, more than 25 million containers were included in the recall. The container did not display any warning of a choking hazard, stating that it passed all choking tests and was appropriate for all ages. Burger King stated that it passed all U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requirements and all international safety standards.[2]

In a Knight Ridder Washington Bureau article criticizing the recall process used by companies, which does not require companies to recall their products nor does it require they offer incentive to return recalled products, editor Ben Finley makes reference to this recall. Because the item was of negligible cost to purchasers of the kids meals, many parents did not return the containers to Burger King. A $1 million recall campaign was initiated by Burger King, which included television advertisements as well as warnings on take out bags and tray liners from their restaurants.[7] More than 100,000 notices and fliers were sent to health-care providers and sites frequented by Pokémon fans.[8] Despite this, a 4-month old boy in Indianapolis, Indiana died of suffocation on January 25, 2000 in his crib.[9]

Marlene Gordon, senior attorney for Burger King, stated that their recall efforts were as strong or stronger for their marketing campaign. Despite the campaign, less than half of the 25 million containers were returned.[7] According to a Burger King spokesperson, Burger King had destroyed more than 22.5 million undistributed containers and more than 500,000 returned containers by December 2000.[10] Nancy A. Nord, acting chairperson of the commission, stated that while a few came back, they assumed that most people threw them away. Research was done on the recall, which showed that amongst customers who did not respond to a recall, 60% had thrown the containers away, which she calls an effective recall.[11]

Burger King has stated that its toy safety problems have not been fixed, as in a two year period, they have recalled three toys intended for toddlers. However, they showed the distinction between this recall and the Pokémon recall, stating that there were no injuries in these recalls.[12]

Heike Smith, a manager of one of the many Burger King restaurants, commented that her restaurant had not had any of the containers returned as of the Tuesday following the recall. However, one woman asked what was being recalled. She stated that while the free small order of fries for returning the ball may cause children to return their containers, but she felt that there won't be much of a ruckus, since she believed most of the containers went to older children.[5]

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Reaction

Following the recall, Burger King improved its testing procedures and hired a human-factors psychologist to evaluate toys and how children will use them.[13]

Burger King has received criticism for what was described as a slow start on their part to recall the products. Chairperson Ann Brown commented that a death should be a very grave sign that there's a problem, saying that one would not want the deaths of several children before you issue a recall. After they initiated the recall campaign, Brown stated that they had come around, though they had to push them to do so. In response to Burger King's abrupt announcement of the recall two days before the planned announcement, industry experts suspected that this decision angered the commission and Brown, who uses high-profile media appearances to break the news of recalls.[6] President of the Chicago-based fast food firm Technomic Ron Paul stated that these kinds of things are easily forgotten after a matter of weeks, if not days. He added that most people attribute this as a toy problem, not a Burger King problem.[6]

Equity Marketing Inc. commented that the containers met or exceeded strict federal safety guidelines and underwent rigorous safety testing by an independent, third party laboratory during and after production.[14] While federal officials complained that Burger King refused to acknowledge the severity of the problem, Kim Miller denied this. She stated that when Burger King learned of the death, the company suggested issuing a parental advisory to warn parents of the container's hazards to children under three. She added that they were trying to balance the sketchy facts they had with doing what is right for the customers, and that Burger King will always be on the side of safety. She states that this is why they are willing to go out of their way to be honest with their customers. However, federal regulators would not consider such an option. Marc Schoem, director of the recall division for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, stated that there needed to be some kind of drastic action to get people to stop using the product, and that just alerting parents to take the ball away from children without giving them the specifics will do no good.[6] Ellen Mogg, assistant manager of a Burger King restaurant, stated that they had not received any complaints from parents about it being a hazard; she felt that they had been prompt in recalling them.[8]

News of the recall was far-reaching, being covered in newspapers around the globe, including Japanese newspaper Japan Weekly Monitor.[15]

In response to the recall, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that it was examining other similar Pokémon Poké Ball toys to see if there should be a recall for them. While they had not come to a conclusion, they recommended parents keep them out of reach of children under three. The Poké Balls are made by different distributors, but look alike. One of the distributors who make retail-sold Poké Balls is Hasbro, who declined to comment on the differences between Burger King's designs. However, they stated that their products are labelled for aged four and up, and meet all federal and industry standards.[3] Norm LaBarge, owner of Norm's Hobby, stated that he sold Pokémon cards, but not Poké Balls. He was surprised that they passed the safety inspection.[8]

Lawsuit

The parents of the 13-month old girl filed suit against Burger King. They won a settlement from Burger King, both agreeing to keep the number confidential.[11]

See also


References

  1. ^ a b "Archive Search Results". Kansas City.com. http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=KC&p_theme=kc&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0EAF480253E197CB&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Burger King recalling Pokémon toys' containers". Associated Press. 1999-12-28. http://www.boston.com/news/daily/28/pokemon.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-04. 
  3. ^ a b c Harris, Sherill (2000-01-05). "Safety Panel Will Decide Fate of Pokémon Balls.(Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News)" (Newspaper). Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. 
  4. ^ a b "In wake of second death, CPSC and Burger King again urge consumers to destroy and discard Pokémon balls." (Newspaper). M2 Presswire. 2000-01-28. 
  5. ^ a b "Burger King recalls Pokémon toys". The Augusta Chronicle. 1999-12-29. http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/122999/bus_124-4886.shtml. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Walker, Elaine (2000-01-12). "Burger King's Handling of Pokémon Recall Draws Some Criticism.(Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News)" (Newspaper). Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. 
  7. ^ a b Finley, Ben (2002-11-23). "Recall System Needs an Overhaul, Critics Say." (Newspaper). Washington: Knight Ridder Washington Bureau. 
  8. ^ a b c "Burger King Announces Toy Recall". College Media Life. 2000-02-02. http://media.www.cm-life.com/media/storage/paper906/news/2000/02/02/News/Burger.King.Announces.Toy.Recall-2478861.shtml. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  9. ^ "Second Pokémon Death". Consumer Affairs. 2000-01-27. http://www.consumeraffairs.com/recalls/pokemon_balls2.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  10. ^ "Fast-Food Chains in Most Toy Recalls". PQ Archiver. 2001-08-17. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/78074469.xml?dids=78074469:78074469&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Aug+17%2C+2001&author=SAM+KENNEDY&pub=Los+Angeles+Times&desc=Company+Town%3B+Fast-Food+Chains+in+Most+Toy+Recalls%3B+Products%3A+Meal+freebies+constitute+77%25+of+targeted+kids%27+items%2C+up+from+4%25+last+year.&pqatl=google. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  11. ^ a b "Reluctance and Silence on Recalls". New York Times. 2006-10-28. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/28/business/28money.htm?pagewanted=2. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  12. ^ Walker, Elaine (2001-07-30). "Burger King to announce toy recall." (Newspaper). Miami, Florida: The Miami Herald. 
  13. ^ Walker, Elaine (2001-04-11). "Regulators Want Restaurants to Make Giveaway Toys Safer." (Newspaper). Miami, Florida: The Miami Herald. 
  14. ^ "Equity Comments on Pokémon Recall". QSR Magazine. 1999-12-22. http://www.qsrmagazine.com/articles/news/story.phtml?id=3150. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  15. ^ "Burger King to recall Pokémon toys over choking fears." (Newspaper). Japan Weekly Monitor. 2000-01-03. 

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