Thomas The Poisonous Tank Engine Recall Fallout Continues

Today’s New York Times has an interesting article about the process of assigning blame in the recent Thomas the Tank Engine recall debacle. Whose fault is it? The company that outsourced the manufacturing to China, RC2? The company that holds the rights to Thomas the Tank Engine, HIT Entertainment? Both? Neither?

From the Times:

Except for a small link on the Thomas Web site to RC2’s recall announcement, HIT has otherwise acted as if it has nothing to do with the situation. Its executives haven’t even said that they regret having been promoting toys with lead paint in them. They haven’t said anything publicly.

When I suggested to the company’s public relations agency, Bender/Helper Impact, that this might not be the smartest approach, the agency e-mailed me a two-sentence unsigned statement. It said that HIT appreciated the concerns of its customers and was working with RC2 on the recall, but that the recall was “clearly RC2’s responsibility.”

In effect, HIT has outsourced Thomas’s image, one of its most valuable assets, to RC2. And RC2 has offered a case study of how not to deal with a crisis, which is all the more amazing when you consider that the company also makes toys for giants like Disney, Nickelodeon and Sesame Street

Here’s HIT Entertainment’s statement, (they also own the rights to Barney and Bob the Builder, by the way) issued via their PR firm:

We appreciate and understand the concerns of our customers who are affected by RC2’s voluntary recall of select items from the Thomas Wooden Railway system.

Although it is clearly RC2’s responsibility to carry out this recall, we are working closely with them to ensure that consumers are informed and advised, and that all the affected products are recalled swiftly.

So what do the you think? Whose responsibility is this? If outsourcing is done both to cut costs and defer responsibility if something goes wrong, are consumers OK with that? Are you holding the brand “Thomas the Tank Engine” responsible? Or not? Ultimately, it’s your opinion that matters. What is it?—MEGHANN MARCO

A Lesson That Thomas Could Teach [NYT]
HIT Entertainment
HIT Entertainment’s Recall Notice