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Avoid rummage-sale dangers via mobile site



Updated: July 25, 2012 6:44AM

Dear Readers: Years ago, when The Fixer was a reporter in the old Sun-Times building, a woman called the newsroom upset about something she’d seen while driving past a yard sale.

On display, right on the front lawn, was a crib that had been recalled as hazardous. When the woman pointed this out to the seller, the seller refused to remove it. He acted like it was no big deal.

But it is a big deal. Faulty drop-side cribs and poorly designed portable crib/play yards have been implicated in dozens of infant and toddler deaths. With recalled portable cribs, the top rails have accidentally collapsed, creating a “V” in which the child can suffocate. With drop-side cribs, there have been numerous cases in which babies have become wedged between their mattress and the drop-side.

One of the most publicized cases locally was the death of 16-month-old Danny Keysar, the son of University of Chicago professors Linda Ginzel and Boaz Keysar. After Danny’s death in 1998 in a licensed childcare facility’s portable crib — which no one realized had been recalled — his parents founded the Chicago nonprofit Kids In Danger to publicize recalled children’s products and try to get tougher standards for items on the market.

Now, KID has a new way to connect parents and grandparents with potentially life-saving information: A new mobile website that can be accessed from a phone or tablet to instantly check on whether a car seat, stroller, crib or other product has been recalled.

The innovation will be especially useful at summer garage sales or flea markets, KID’s executive director, Nancy Cowles, told The Fixer. The first item that pops up is a search field, where the person can search by product type or brand.

There are millions of recalled cribs still in circulation. Cowles says she regularly finds recalled products on the resale market, something she always points out to the seller.

It’s illegal for people to resell recalled products, even at rummage sales. But many sellers simply don’t know, because they were lucky enough to not have a child get injured.

“I don’t think anyone does it intentionally,” Cowles told us. “I think they just don’t realize it.”

Consumers may access the free mobile website at

P.S. The mobile website is also useful for people who are hosting a rummage sale: As you clean out your basement or attic to prepare, you can quickly check on what’s safe and what’s not.

COSTLY LESSONS: Consumer’s tale of woe

When Kathleen received a $50 Visa gift card as a present a few years ago, she set it aside to use for something special.

Then she forgot about it.

Two years passed before Kathleen discovered the card again and tried to use it — but the cashier at the store said it wouldn’t go through. When Kathleen called the financial services company that had issued the card, they told her the balance was only $7.

“As I have never used this card, I was shocked,” Kathleen wrote The Fixer. “I didn’t know they were deducting fees every month the card was inactive.”

But that’s what was happening. It’s a fairly common complaint here at Fixer HQ.

In Illinois, consumers have some protections when it comes to gift cards — the cards can’t expire before five years or amass fees for inactivity — but those rules don’t apply to credit card gift cards and bank-issued gift cards, which can have monthly fees deducted.

Kathleen says it’s “absurd” to have a situation in which a consumer tries to use a gift card within its expiration period but nonetheless finds there’s barely any money left. It’s too late for Kathleen. But something to consider when choosing a gift card for a recent graduate or someone with a summer birthday.

What is a Costly Lesson? It’s an UNFIXABLE problem that cost someone a lot of money but holds a valuable lesson for the rest of us. If you’ve got something to warn the rest of us about, e-mail it to with Costly Lessons in the subject line. And don’t worry – with Costly Lessons, we leave out last names to prevent further embarrassment.

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