Giving Out Free Swag? Remember Product Safety Still Applies


Whether attending a convention as an exhibitor or a participant, free swag is important. In many cases, swag is the eye candy that starts that discussion or creates a lasting impression of your business. If you are an exhibitor, salesperson, or marketing professional, chances are you receive catalogs full of swag that can be stamped with your logo. In the last several years, the swag industry has upped its game with attractive offerings such as power banks and fitness watches. But there’s still plenty of classic swag. Stress balls, t-shirts and highlighters are still very popular in trade show exhibit halls.

But, dear readers, are you paying attention to how safe these free gifts are?

We here at Abnormal Use want to remind you that even when you are giving away a promotional item to employees or prospects to keep in mind the potential safety hazards. Even if it does not ultimately pose a legal impact on your business, it could negatively impact your image. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is paying closer attention to these items more than in years past. Remember who your audience is and who they come in contact with. Items with sharp edges, small parts, or components that are easily breakable are potential hazards to children.  Also keep in mind not just who the audience is, but the target market audience of the gift. For example, if the event is a trade show in the toy industry, just because the attendees are all adults will not ease the burden of ensuring that the items are child friendly. And speaking of toys, handing out items such as a Nerf football may place you in the realm of children’s product regulations. In a world where lanyards pose choking hazards and ink on t-shirts may be toxic, we cannot be too careful. As a tip, make sure that your lanyards have breakaway clasps, as this greatly reduces the possibility of choking.

Ultimately, do your due diligence when purchasing and giving away promotional items. While cheaper items may bring you more impressions per dollar, they may present lasting legal and image problems down the road. Try to use reputable promotions companies that offer safe and well-documented products. They may not be the cheapest, but they might add an extra layer of protection.

Automotive Safety on Full Display at the Chicago Auto Show


In February, my wife and I attended the Chicago Auto Show, mostly out of my fetish for new cars. The show is the largest in North America, and it is the longest running auto expo in North America. Nearly 1,000 vehicles are on display, and hundreds of thousands visit each year. I love auto expos because of the opportunity to experience the newest innovations and varieties our automotive industry has to offer. In the last decade, the industry has truly innovated the way we drive. From the integration of technology, new and pioneering transmissions, increased fuel economy and increased safety, a car manufactured in the last decade is dramatically improved over cars made just ten years ago. See these dramatic before and after ‘poses’ by Buick and Chevrolet.





Perhaps one of the greatest innovations of the industry is the integration of safety features that used to be available only in the most expensive brands. For example, the 2017 Honda Civic boasts curtain airbags, land departure assistance systems, backup camera, a camera in the mirrors that monitors your blind spot, adaptive cruise control, and an automatic braking system to prevent crashes. The Honda Civic starts at $18,740. The difference in safety features does not proportionally increase when stepping into the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Sedan starting at $96,600.00. While luxury car lines such as Mercedes, BMW, Cadillac, and Volvo innovated many of these safety features, you no longer have to spend big to protect your family. Cars have never been safer.

Products liability claims routinely result from defects in automobiles. We can all recall television stories regarding Takata airbags, General Motors and their faulty ignition switches, rapidly accelerating Toyotas, exploding Pintos, and SUV rollovers. But the great news is, automakers are more focused on safety than ever, and hopefully as a result, products liability claims in the auto industry will decrease.

On a more fun note, automakers are trying their best quench the American thirst for SUV ownership while providing top fuel economy. Several years ago, the introduction of the “crossover” to the American market gave us ‘SUVs’ on a car platform. And since that time, ‘crossovers’ have gotten smaller and smaller and less SUV-like. My wife and I were shopping at the show, looking for an SUV that could house a growing family. What I did not expect is that my wife would fall in love with the new Volvo station wagon. She insists it is not a station wagon. Why? Because Volvo calls it a “crossover.” Much like an American male that resists to the fullest extent possible to purchase a minivan, she cannot bear the label of “station wagon.”

Therefore, I will let the readers decide. Crossover or station wagon?


Cheer or Fear?


Did Santa delight with the fun, safe playthings you expected, or are you suspicious that they’re actually a disguised death trap from the crotchety Christmas antagonist Belsnickel? The vintage death traps of Christmas past seem obviously dangerous to us now, but 2016 revealed that the hidden batteries and power sources of our swanky tech gifts are the unseen danger of Christmas present. You might find that the nostalgia of simple toys has you reconsidering this year’s hot tech in favor of vintage playthings of your past. But there’s a reason you can’t find original metal-tipped Lawn Darts anymore. Over 6,000 children were injured by Lawn Darts hurled through the air, so you’ll have to make do with the modern, plastic iteration. The hot gift of 1996 was the Snacktime Cabbage Patch Kid, a cabbage-headed doll with a mechanical mouth that would chomp when offered snacks. Content that it was already a cabbage anyway, the doll preferred childs’ fingers and toddler hair over cannibalization of the included plastic vegetables. In 2007, the CSI Fingerprint Kit made headlines as a safety fail when the powder used to test fingerprints was found to contain 5 percent asbestos. Naturally, lawsuits followed.

Burning ourselves on Easy Bake Ovens, shooting each other with BB guns, and blacking eyes with slingshots was practically a rite of passage and ripe with expected and obvious dangers tied to misuse that we or our parents chose to accept. However, the potential for danger and hazardous results in modern toys and gadgets is getting more difficult to evaluate as the technology is farther removed from our purview. BB guns may shoot your eye out, but today’s batteries and power sources explode, burn, melt, and corrode.

If you struck out with an exploding mobile phone or similarly blazing hoverboard in 2016, you probably saw more fear than cheer. And now it looks like you should probably put the e-cigs down, too, before an unintended pyrotechnics show blows a hole in your pocket. Batteries and power sources are an often ignored component of toys that can render serious damage when swallowed, pushed into bodily crevices, become damaged or when they overheat. Queue up this episode of “The Monster Inside Me” and you might be on the lookout for battery-free gifts next year.

Now that the gifts are unwrapped, keep an eye out for recalls and announcements made by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. As always, follow minimum age guidelines recommended on product labels and properly supervise children. Most importantly, enjoy this holiday season and relish the joy in giving to others.