I was listening to Clark Howard recently and he was citing some staggering statistics regarding product recalls and the terribly low response rates. One of the items, some toy purchased through Target, had sold about 200,000 units yet the response rate for recalls was only 700 HUNDRED (!) returns.
This is pretty dismal, especially in circumstances where safety and health are at issue. Most people don’t spend their free time scouring product web sites or looking for product mentions on the evening news, assuming they even watch the news… or are in the room for the one, tiny mention of a recall that might come on… assuming that the station that was on even carried such stories… etc, etc.
I was then thinking about how our credit card providers feel perfectly comfortable sharing our personal information with “interested third parties”. I would suggest that the VAST majority of folks purchase items these days with either credit / debit cards or checks (nothing I can do for those cash purchases). The retail outlets that have been informed about product recalls are pulling merchandise off of their shelves. They also keep computerized inventories of their products. They further have access to when items where purchased as well as what credit card or (now with those instant checks) what checking account number was used in the purchase of those goods.
What we now need is a system (it should be a very simple system) whereby the retailers automagically notify the financial institutions regarding the recalls. All of the pieces are there. Now the consumer, rather than (more likely in addition to) the inane notices on their credit or banking statements, they can also have notifications of any relevant recalls.
This is even easier for online users as they usually must provide an email address or they have some kind of financial-institution-associated mailbox that can notify them the next time they log onto their account.
Admittedly there is plenty of opportunity for mischief. As you know I don’t have the greatest trust in our financial institutions to not abuse such a ripe potential “cross marketing” vehicle. But perhaps we can find a way to minimize their abuse and this can help to get the word out.