Another Supply Risk: Your Neighbor’s Yard Sale

If you ever thought that you could leave product recalls up to retailers and manufacturers, think again. That was risky enough. Now there’s a new risk, according to article today in the WSJ, that you need to worry about – which suppliers produced the items at your neighbor’s yard sale and whether the items have been recalled. A Consumer Product Safety law passed last year makes it illegal to sell recalled items – even at yard sales. The Consumer Product Safety Commission generally has focused its compliance efforts on retailers and manufacturers and does not have the resources to police yards sales. So your neighbor is in little danger of being arrested for selling recalled and dangerous goods.

Aware that it has limited enforcement resources, CPSC has written a handbook for resellers and would like to get standards incorporated into communities of resellers, such as, perhaps all those who advertise their yard sales on popular internet sites. With the big surge in yard sales due to people trying to raise cash in any way they can, the risk of buying unsafe, recalled items is certainly real.

Most people having yard sales are not purposely trying to pass off tainted goods to their neighbors. Many do look up dubious items on government websites such as www.recalls.gov and try to dispose of them in other ways. But even for the conscientious, it is hard to keep abreast of the latest dangers or even be aware that certain items may have been recalled. Some yard sale sellers and buyers are even using lead paint test kits marketed specifically to consumers. But lead paint isn’t the only danger. Your neighbor’s child may have thrived in the crib that they are now selling at their yard sale, but that crib may not be so trusty after all, as a recent recall focused on the dangers of the classic drop-side models. Or what about window blinds that are part of a recall? Many recalled items will continue to show up at yard sales.

Most consumers have little idea of what a supply chain is, let alone what supply chain risk means.  Short of reporting your neighbors to the authorities, next time you’re looking for a bargain, it would be prudent to take responsibility for your own supply risk due diligence to avoid dubious and possibly dangerous second-hand items.  Caveat emptor has never been more important.

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