Consumer Ally Interview: Toys R Us CEO Jerry Storch Talks Safety

Toys R Us CEO Jerry Storch is proud his stores have collected and destroyed more than 300,000 children's products. There's a reason for the destruction and there's a reason for his boasting about it.

Too often there are examples of companies that seem to disregard the safety of consumers -- even child-product manufacturers who knowingly leave dangerous products on the market.

So, when a company tries to do something with a nod toward safety -- even if it benefits its bottom line -- it's worth noting.

From Friday until Feb. 21, Toys R Us and Babies R Us will once again urge consumers to bring their old children's products to its stores in exchange for 25% off the purchase of a new product. It is a program that does two things: It brings consumers into its stores to make purchases and it offers a carrot for people to get rid of old and potentially dangerous children's products.

Consumer Ally interviewed Toys R Us CEO Storch at the company's over-the-top Times Square store in Manhattan about product safety.

"I don't believe there's a conflict between being a good corporate citizen and being successful in business," Storch said. "That's the kind of brand equity that a good company wants to build with its customers."

Just drawing attention to the staggering amount of recalled products that are unaccounted for -- the vast majority -- is a benefit. Cribs, car seats and other durable children's products are frequently handed down or sold at yard sales long after recalls have been forgotten.

So Storch said the company decided that when these items were turned in, the company had no choice in how to handle them.

"After reviewing all the options, we decided the best thing to do was to destroy them so that they can never be used again," he said. "It's a very expensive process for us. That's why most retailers don't do this."

Nancy Cowles, executive director of the child safety organization Kids in Danger, praised Toys R Us for taking safety seriously. The so-called Great Trade-in Event is just one example, she said.

"Retailers are a crucial stakeholder in children's product safety," Cowles told Consumer Ally. "They are often the first place a consumer turns to learn more about product safety. Toys R Us has been active in developing stronger standards for children's products, taking the initiative to remove unsafe products such as drop-side cribs before required to do so and provide information on recalls and other safety issues to their customers."

While the writing was on the wall, but the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission was still nearly a year away from banning dropside cribs, Toys R Us announced that type of crib would no longer be sold in its stores.

"Because we're a retailer, because we're very close to the customer, we don't have to wait until a regulatory agency makes a decision on something. We can move immediately," Storch told Consumer Ally. "We can act as our own safety body. We decided to move and we did."
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