The “Wiffle-Ball Life”

Author P.J. O’Rourke once called America’s obsession with safety the quest for the “wiffle-ball life”. I remember when I was a child, backyard contact football was played without pads or helmets, and NO ONE would have ever been caught dead with a bicycle helmet on. My school gym class included “war ball”, a particularly violent and Darwinian variant of dodge ball. The kids in my neighborhood even played a game where you tried to throw a football to stick in the front spokes of the opponent’s bicycle as he rode by. Follow the physics on that one. I am pretty sure I as the parent would be jailed today if my kids were caught doing anything similar. While that game was admittedly really, really, really stoopid in hindsight, they are still fond memories, and frankly such experiences toughen you up.

Today I spotted this collection of silly federal safety recalls, there’s a new set of regulations that might be interpreted to penalize individuals who sell recalled goods at yard sales. God forbid anyone use a car seat where an accessory pillow partially cover a warning label. It’s a wonder any of us survived to adulthood.

Now what does this have to do with China sourcing? Well, look at the products. I’m betting at least 5 of the 7 were ‘Made in China’. Based on that assumption, and then examining the silliness of some of these recalls, is the Chinese reputation for defective or dangerous products deserved?

Sadly, like most stereotypes there is plenty of truth in this one. Chinese factories do cut corners with dangerous and tragic results. But part of that stereotype is overblown and frankly unfair. Buyers with poor designs, who don’t take the time to complete their material specifications or set up proper Quality Assurance protocols, to say nothing of bone-headed government bureaucracies, should shoulder at least as much blame as the Chinese, if not more.

So, what’s the lesson here? When sourcing in China, the buyer has to assume responsibility for making sure the products meet the applicable regulations of the importing nation. PassageMaker’s system has been built around this philosophy. Through our network of Endorsed Service Providers, we can assist clients at nearly every stage of a product’s life cycle, including recommending engineers to make sure the design database is complete. We help our clients identify capable vendors with a Sourcing Feasibility Study and then help them write their Product Quality Manual, which details all the dimensions, specs, and regulations a product must meet. PassageMaker can perform many tests at our Assembly Center in Buji, but what we lack can be done at preferred rates by our friends at STR. What quality control services or factory audits PassageMaker cannot provide can be performed ably by China Quality Focus.

In short, the buyer has to be proactive about specifying the requirements and then must verify that they are met. Assuming the vendor will know all the applicable regs and trusting that everything will be A-OK is naivete bordering on negligence.

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