What happens to products when they are recalled? Ideally, they get sent back to the manufacturer and taken out of circulation. But when products don’t get turned in, they can end up at thrift stores, yard sales and sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
Chances are good that the sellers had no idea that their gently used inclined baby sleeper is actually a hazard responsible for dozens of infant deaths. They simply saw an item that their child could no longer use and hoped to clear out space while making a buck.
However, it’s against the law to sell recalled products. So why aren’t more places doing a better job of preventing these potentially dangerous items being resold?
Consumer Reports recently tried to get answers from Craigslist, Facebook, and eBay.
Only eBay had policies in place to catch recalled items. They removed all inclined sleepers from their marketplaces, for example, after learning about the dangers those products presented to children.
Other manufacturers try to work directly with online marketplaces to ensure that their recalled products aren’t resold.
For example, IKEA sent out a letter to inform a variety of marketplaces, warning that a particular line of dressers had been recalled after several children were killed when the furniture tipped over.
Unfortunately, it’s on the customer to make sure that any secondhand products are safe to use. You can look up those items on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website (or just do a quick Google search) to see if it has been part of a recall. You may need to type in a product code or model number to get the most accurate results.
Recalls.gov is another good resource. It combines information from a number of government organizations, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The site covers everything from medicine to food to vehicles, so you’ll have a good chance of finding any recall information there.
When it comes to buying secondhand, use your commonsense. Products for babies and children should always be checked for recalls; a set of used dishes is probably safe. Run a used car’s VIN through the NHTSA’s database just to double-check before you sign on the dotted line. That vintage leather purse, on the other hand, is ready to wear.
It’s never a good idea to buy cosmetics or medicine from flea markets or thrift stores. Used products (or even just packages that have opened) might contain dangerous contaminants. Knock-offs are also rampant in certain markets. When in doubt, pass on the item–no matter how good a deal it might seem. Your safety is more important.