Mattel Toys Incorporated has been in the hot seat lately. The toy giant’s relentless pursuit for profits has caught up with it. Mattel’s relationship with long time supplier of toys products, China Manufacturing Incorporated, has placed the company in an unenviable position of trying to maintain its reputation for quality toys at reasonable prices under the onslaught of bad press and news that their toys may contain unacceptable quantities of lead and are so flimsily construction that they can be hazardous to children’s health.
The CEO of Mattel, Bob Eckert put out a statement, “Many of us at Mattel are parents ourselves. And like you, we know that nothing is more important than the safety of our children.” It goes on and on about Mattel’s commitment to safety and all. But if safety was truly Mattel’s focus how did so many cheap and dangerous but profitable and lucrative toys make it onto the market?
Despite all its professions to care about children’s health over everything else the really simple truth of the situation is that by focusing on obtaining the cheapest and most profitable products available from the furthest corner of the world the company managed to put Americas children at risk. It was not the single minded focus on safety that allowed dangerous toys to hit the market. It was the single minded focus on profits that resulted in Mattel’s stumble.
Like the garment industry and everything else that is dependent on the volume of mass manufacturing, a price fluctuation of the smallest fraction of a cent can cause entire industries to relocate. We have all heard rumors of garment manufacturers and sweatshops where workers are paid a couple of dollars for a twelve hours a day work. Manufacturers here in America couldn’t compete with such a cost advantage and the entire garment industry took a hit. Now, retailers around the globe work to keep cost to the bare minimum. It only makes sense that with such competition that eventually someone is going to look at any and every means to get a cost advantage over his neighbor.
So when a company tries to publish that bull about safety is their primary concern, reality begs to differ. Profit and cost is the primary concern of every American industry. Focusing on doing the right thing sounds nice and many companies market themselves as the company you can trust. Are you’re in good hands? We never stop working for you. Quality is job one. We never forget who we are working for. That’s right, the shareholders.
The only children the corporate entity known as Mattel has as its primary concern are the children of its shareholders and investors. Some people might ask about the children of the Mattel employees? What about them? Are we talking about the same children of all those workers they laid off when the company moved their manufacturing operations overseas? The company couldn’t care less. Those kids might be the children of employees today. But tomorrow they’ll be somebody else’s problem. Mattel has to make its operations leaner so all those shareholder’s children will have a better life. Besides, the company’s legal department will do all it can to protect those children’s future inheritance.
Mattel has absolutely nothing to worry about. The company has so much clout in the toy business that no one can touch them. People don’t realize that something like ninety nine percent of the toys on the market have Mattel labels. And people have short attention spans and even shorter memories. Everybody who was gasping over how horrible it is that the company would put toys with lead paint on the market would be buying those same toys next week had the company not recalled them.
And American corporations have even shorter memories than the people. As long as Mattel can continue to make bank off of Chinese manufacturers and as long as they can deny any corporate responsibility they will keep taking a gamble on having toys made by the lowest bidder. Besides, there is a lot of money to be made with the relationship they have with those manufacturers. A Barbie dollhouse that cost about three bucks to make can retail for a nickel shy of a hundred dollars. Who wants to jeopardize profits like that?
Mattel claims to be looking out for the welfare and safety of our children. More people need to ask since when?