This was my written reply to a request from a newspaper reporter about how the new law, CPSIA or HR 4040 is going to affect my business. This is LONG but it explains in detail what the fuss is about.
I do write books, and I self publish them. I have been in business since
2000. My books are Christian books and if I went with a large publisher, a
great deal of editing would be done in order to make the books more
‘politically correct and salable.’ So we, like many other small
self-publishers both in the Christian market and the homeschool market,
opted for self-publishing. This means, besides writing the books, I also
market, ship, advertise and in all other ways do the business end as well.
This is very typical in the homeschool market, where I have niche - and
the homeschool market sells over 3.5 billion per year now. Many of the
self-publishers like myself use this to support their families, or add to
the income of a working spouse.
My most popular books are geared for children ages 3 - 10 years of age.
These are called Grandmother’s Hope Chest and are a series of books. Ihave
4 titles in print although the series would eventually have a total of 12
titles. The story is about a little girl named Lucie and her grandmother,
who comes to live with Lucie’s family. Grandmother helps Lucie learn how
to sew by recreating items found in Grandmother’s hope chest. Each book is
written in story form, but also includes a hands-on sewing project too.
All handsewing, something that is quickly becoming lost in today’s
Each book contains a complete material list of items needed to create the
project, and all the directions are written (almost overwritten so they
are easy to follow) with photos to show every single step. There are also
sewing kits that go with each book if parents wish to buy the kit to make
things easier. Not only have these books been very popular with children,
but MOTHERS are also learning to handsew with their daughters and really
Balancing the price a customer pays for each book (or kit) with the cost
of printing in smaller batches, the cost of running the business, and a
tiny amount for my time and effort is difficult. I need to price the books
low enough for single income families to be able to purchase them - yet
high enough that all my expenses are paid for and I earn a minimum of $1
per book (which isn’t much). So far, I have been able to keep this
balance. My customers are very loyal and have told me repeatedly that if I
close, there would be nothing equal to what I produce.
So how does this new law affect me? I’m going to close my business January
31 if drastic changes are not made to this new law or completely redo my business so it is centered for ages 13 to adult only - no children. There are two specific
areas that will shut me down without even the slightest chance of hope.
Since I self-publish, I generally order 500-1000 copies of each title at a
time - this also keeps my inventory low since I ship from home and our
garage is my warehouse. When my inventory starts to run low, I reprint
again. Each time I reorder the cost is roughly $5000 depending on the book
being reprinted (number of pages). I have 13 book titles in print right
now. With the new law, EVERY SINGLE TIME I reprint a book, I will need to
test one book from that batch. I have been given quotes of $1500-4000 per
book to test them. So the cost of printing will need to be figured into
the cost of the book and that shifts the balance so that my customers will
not be able to purchase the books because the price will be too high.
With my kits it is even worse. I purchase supplies in sufficient quantity
to produce 100-500 kits. I have hired a local homeschool family to
assemble the kits for me - just before Christmas her husband was laid off
from work and making the kits has eased their situation just a little bit.
Normally I keep 50-100 kits on hand at any given time. During different
times of the year we sell them more quickly, so we prepare for that by
assembling more and having them on hand.
Each kit contains an assortment of items depending on which project is
being created. Because of the many items, the price for testing will be a
minimum of $4000 EVERY time we create a new batch of kits. Fabric, needle,
embroidery floss, quilt batting, thread, dressmaker pins, sachet mix,
canning jars and lids, buttons, embroidery hoops and all the other items
would need to be tested.
Not only is this a problem when we assemble a new number of kits (we have
to retest each time), but even within those new kits there could be
potential problems. When I order embroidery floss, I end up with multiple
lot numbers on the floss. This means that every single difference in lot
numbers would require a new test. So, for example, if I have lot numbers 001, 005, 010 -
I need to group each of those kits together (by lot number) and test
3 different groups because of the different lot numbers.
If I need to use a new fabric, or the company makes any alteration to the
fabric I had previously purchased and I am reordering - I need to retest
the kits again when I use the new fabric. I can only exempt from testing fabric if it is 100% cotton, and some of the fabrics we use are a poly/cotton mix.
So every TINY little change in the items we put into the kits we assemble
and sell will be grounds to retest all over again - because there are
often small, insignificant changes it would be completely impossible for
me to retest 10-25 kits at $4000 each time. I would need to charge
hundreds of dollars per kit to break even. There is no possible way I
could continue offering my kits.
Now many people, including customers and my husband, think the liability
of testing falls on the manufacturer. They are bigger, they produce the
items that I assemble into kits so they would be the ones required to
test. Unfortunately, no. They are selling to the general public, which
generally means adults or older teens - not children. What someone does
with the product is that person’s business. The companies can even put an sticker or label on stating they are not to be used for ages 12 and under and thereby skirt away from testing. But when a small company like
my company purchases those products and puts them together with multiple
other items, it becomes the ‘end product’ and the responsibility to test
is mine because I am creating items for children. The CPSC sees this as I have decided to assemble all these different components into
one item and market it to children or for children. I am responsible for
testing and holding a certificate that the end product meets the CPSIA
For instance, Coats & Clark is a well known company that produces a huge
variety of sewing supplies. These can be found in Walmart, fabric stores,
online…just about anywhere. Coats & Clark told me they are not testing
any of their products because the products are not geared towards
children, so they are not required to test. Because I purchase embroidery
floss, aluminum crochet hooks, stainless steel needles, and other supplies
from them with the purpose of turning them into children’s sewing kits -
it is ‘I’ who am responsible for testing.
I use Josten’s for my book printing - they are a large printing house and
are well known for printing school textbooks and yearbooks. I decided when
I first started printing books that I wanted to keep the work HERE in the
USA even though I could print books more inexpensively overseas.
Josten’s is still trying to figure out what they will do with this new
law. However, what I have been told so far is that they ‘may’ test a VERY
limited number of paper, endboards, glue, thread, etc in order to offer
VERY limited choices to their customers. Basicallly, what will happen is
they will offer a certain ‘package’ for those who print children’s books.
Meaning I will not have the choice of 60, 70, 100 pound paper, glossy vs
matte pages, glue vs thread (saddle stitching), etc.
Not only will I have less choice in the quality and overall look of my
printed books, but the cost of printing them will be increased to cover
the cost that Josten’s pays to have the materials tested. So once again,
the fragile balance I have regarding my book prices will shift
dramatically and customers will not be able to afford to purchase my
books. So I will be out of business.
I was aware of this new law back in August when it was approved and
signed. However, I fully expected someone or a group to come along and
push for an amendment. Over the months I have become more and more
concerned when nothing was forthcoming to amend this law. Now, here I am
in January knowing nothing has changed (of any signifigance) to allow me
to stay in business. If I close January 31, I can stop the services I use
to keep my business running and save what I would have paid for them in
February. So I have given myself the deadline of January 31 to make that
final decision to close or not, or to rework the business for ages 13 and above. But if I close, the startup costs to get
things running again and the time and effort it would take to get going
would be more than I am capable of right now.
Have I researched the law myself or just listened to the fear growing in
the internet community? I have read the actual law itself, I’ve spoken
with others facing the same situation I am (fellow self-publishers), I
have read blogs from lawyers, I have contacted my Senator and Congressman,
I have called and emailed the CPSC (without any reply to date), I have
signed petitions, I have sent out newsletters to inform my customer base
to take action, I have spoken to an accountant, I have spent days pouring
over the CPSC website and government sites that have information on the
CPSIA law. I have become very informed - and incredibly concerned.
There is the beginning of a buzz about this new law all over the internet
- people are becoming aware of this new law and are just starting to see
the enormous implications this has on the economy, unemployment,
international trade, etc. The media is beginning to show an interest
because it affects their viewers and readers. But still, no one has come
forward to push for changes. Many people expect big business to step in,
but big business is not going to do it - when you take time to consider
their aspect, they can easily afford testing and if all the smaller
competition is gone they will reap the benefits in profit. So why should
they get involved?
The big chain thrift stores aren’t concerned. Goodwill has already stated
that if this law isn’t changed, they will simply no longer accept or sell
used children’s items. They stated children’s items only comprise 10% of
their yearly sales, so they aren’t concerned. But small, localized thrift
stores will go under. Consignment shops that cater to used children and
infant items will close. Families already hard strapped to provide will
have no resources to purchase inexpensive and needed items for their
children - it will be brand new, full priced items or nothing.
Amazon.com has sent out a notice to everyone who sells through them or
produces items that Amazon sells. They are requiring that each vendor
produce a certificate of compliance to the new CPSIA law or the vendor
will not be allowed to sell through Amazon or supply Amazon.
We are all still waiting to hear what Ebay will do and say, but most
expect Ebay to follow Amazon and require a certificate prior to selling
anything a child could come in contact with.
Landfills are going to fill up overnight - with all the excess that can no
longer be resold the items will be dumped - and I thought the USA was
going green??? How does this law help environmental issues? It doesn’t!!!
Collectors of rare children’s books, baseball cards, comic books, etc.,
will no longer be able to purchase for their collections - or sell either - unless they test each and every item.
Antique first editions will need to undergo testing before they can be
sold - so attach a higher price if anyone wants to purchase one -
regardless of whether a child will EVER hold that book or not. This law is
so open-ended that even if someone donated baby items to an unwed mother’s
home, there is concern about whether the home could accept them!
Who does this new law really affect? Every single person in the United
States - and even those in foreign countries. Not just the business owners
or the family who makes things to sell on the weekend to earn a few extra
dollars. No, this law affects everyone. Not only will consumers have LESS
choice when they purchase items, but the cost of testing will create
higher prices in anything and everything that could come in contact with a
child under 12 years of age.
The leading German wood toy company stopped selling in the USA on December
31 because they will not test their products (they stated they would have
to increase their prices by 50% in order to comply and that would push
them far out of the market for their products - no one would buy them).
European countries have always been highly responsible with their products
and have never given the USA any cause for concern - it has mainly been
China that has caused the fear and this knee-jerk response to create this
insane law. But here we are, requiring everyone in the world to bow down
to this new law in order to do business with us. Even outside of the loss
in the USA, the German toy company and its workers will suffer losses,
possible job losses, because their huge market in the USA is now gone.
That is just one tiny aspect of this in the world market.
Now stop to think about what is involved here. What items are we talking
about that a child 12 years of age and under could come in contact with?
Well, just about ANYTHING in a home or school. Silverware, cups, plates,
toothbrushes, toothpaste, soaps, medicines, bandaids, blankets, sheets,
carpet, televisions, computers, DVDs, CDs, plastic wrap, aluminum foil,
TP, paper plates, wooden spoons, paper clips, staples, books, photos,
stickers, school supplies, lightbulbs, door handles, toilet seats,
furniture…the list is endless and it’s not just about toys. Just about
anything a parent comes in contact with, a child can too. And this also
includes the packaging as well if it can be reused. This law is completely insane - it may have started with good intent, but it will destroy the economy as nothing else could if it is not amended.
So how do they enforce this law? No one knows!!! For those who decide to
keep selling in spite of this new law, they will probably get away with
it. But if they are caught they face a $100,000 fine plus up to 5 years in
prison for each offense. There are also felony charges in this law as
For most Americans, we try to be law abiding. Knowing this law is there
and we are held accountable for our actions regarding this law means that
many of us will be responsible enough to close our business - because we
know there is no way to continue our business under this law. We will make
the right decision, regardless of whether we agree to it or how we will
find a way to feed our family, pay the rent and pay taxes. For those who
tempt fate, they may get away with it - but if they are caught, they have
no excuse. I prefer not to be in their shoes so I will close my business or sell only to age 13 and above.
The American people elect officials to look out for the welfare of the
general public and to make laws that are sensible and forthright - in the
best interest of the People. The day this vauge and biased bill was
approved in the House and signed by the President was a day those elected
officials wore their idiot caps to work. There is no excuse for allowing
such a dangerous and hurtful bill to become law - unless there was a
hidden agenda that was being played out. That we will never know, but the
majority of those in the United States who are aware of this law are
appalled, including me.
I am hoping and praying that somehow a change can be made - in time to
prevent so many businesses from closing. Not just for myself, but for the
billions of people this law is going to affect in a negative way.
If I can help with anything else, please let me know. I’m sorry this was