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Greg Webb
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Toys ‘R’ Us to Keep Things Safe with “The Great Trade-In Program”

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In the August 26, 2009 Charlottesville section of Craigslist.com, there were 71 new posts in the "Baby+Kids" subsection of "For Sale." Going solely off of the post titles (admittedly, I disregarded a thorough analysis of each post’s contents for the sake of search-brevity), out of those 71 posts, 3 were for strollers (4%), 2 were for car seats (3%), 2 were for highchairs (3%), 8 were for swing sets/play sets (12%), 5 were for cribs/beds/bassinets (7%), 12 were for clothes (17%), 2 were for food (3%), 5 were for bikes/scooters/walkers (7%), 10 were for miscellaneous toys (14%), and 2 were for child backpacks/harnesses (for carrying children) (3%). That comes to 73%. In addition, there were three posts for "Want to Buy" items, including a "Kelty Convertible Backpack/stroller," a "dresser and booster seat" and an "infant car seat" (4%). The remaining posts were for nondescript items or general mass toy/baby item sales.

Now this is not intended to pass judgment on those posters, nor is it to discredit the helpfulness of the Craigslist service; but those figures demonstrate the fact that, beyond the traditional familial "passing down of the crib," people – strangers, rather – are selling and buying used children’s items to and from one another daily. And that is just in Charlottesville, a small city. Compared to New York City, which had a whopping 769 listings on Wednesday the 26th, Charlottesville’s 71 posts are, relatively speaking, small potatoes.

From this limited yet telling research, it is safe to surmise that between the 71 posts in Charlottesville and the 769 posts in New York City, there is at least some risk involved in these exchanges based on the volume and frequency in which they are made. This goes said under the full understanding that in any Craigslist transaction there is an implied "risk" involved.

However, the point remains that the acquisition or requesting of used children’s items is a less than surefire way to ensure the safety of one’s child. In an attempt to prevent such exchanges, Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us will be offering a trade-in program for parents looking to unload old or used children’s items in exchange for a 20% discount toward the purchase of new items in the same categories.

Jerry Storch, chairman and chief executive of the Wayne, N.J. company, was quoted in The Wall Street Journal, saying, "We feel it’s critical to get these older products out of the chain of commerce."

This exchange program is at least partially influenced by the constant updating of the quality control standards imposed on the industry. Requirements and regulations are always being changed, and older products that may not have been held to the same standards as products currently on the market are not only potentially more dangerous, but they’re also more susceptible to being traded and/or resold by previous owners who don’t need them anymore. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and safety advocacy groups seem to agree, urging people to be aware of the potential dangers in buying and selling old and used items. Their concerns are only reinforced by the dramatic increase in recalls over the years, with 563 product recalls having been issued in 2008, an increase of 162 from 2005.

The event, called "The Great Trade-In," will run from August 28 until September 20. Products eligible will include strollers, bassinets, travel systems, play yards and high chairs – 29% of August 26s Craigslist listings in Charlottesville.