Sunday, January 04, 2009

Congress Throws Out Baby (Clothes) with the Bathwater

Congress, in its impeccable wisdom, effectively voted last year to shut down the children's resale clothing business via the "Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008." Not a soul in the House dared to vote against "children's safety," proving many in the Congressional cesspool of counter-productivity neglect to read legislation before voting. (I'll cut a break for the 25 who abstained, as they potentially didn't vote because they hadn't an opportunity to read the bill.)

The act requires lead testing of all products sold for children aged twelve and under, including but not limited to clothing and toys, regardless of the date of manufacturing and the high improbability of lead in the clothing, particularly that manufactured domestically. Goodwill, other thrift stores, and one-person shops reselling new and used children's clothing, making a couple dollars per item, would have to forgo a year's worth of profit to fund third-party testing services, essentially putting most out of business. Further, as I understand it, the testing requires the destruction of an individual unit out of a batch, and would therefore not work for unique items.

Taking effect February 10, 2009, this ex post facto regulatory taking comes precisely at a time when lower-income and newly unemployed parents most need inexpensive children's clothing and the dollars they receive from selling or consigning their children's briefly used items.

While clothing is one of the few areas in which the market demands recycling, stores with existing, untested merchandise will have to opt for sending truckloads of perfectly good clothes to the landfill. And parents who purchased that expensive special occasion dress with plans to resell it after one wear are simply out the money. Not even Goodwill can take it now.

After months of planning my own recession-proof business, a children's resale shop, where one was lacking in my neighborhood, I'm lucky to have found this news story yesterday, and not after signing a lease. Although I am out some minor capital expenses and inventory costs, the regulatory taking could have had a worse toll.

(Cross-posted on MN C4L blog -- and filed under "Congressional Stupidity" -- at


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