JUST IN TIME for Christmas, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group has come out with a new consumer warning: Manufacturers are putting too many warning labels on toys. According to Forbes, the research group singled out Mattel for putting a blanket warning that "small parts may be generated" on many of its toys. This includes a solid plastic doll that Forbes says could be a choking risk only if it were smashed with a hammer. "Caught between lawsuits claiming they failed to protect consumers from hidden hazards . . . and the impossibility of making their products idiot-proof, manufacturers slap warning labels on everything but the kitchen sink in order to ward off liability," Forbes says.
2005 WAS A "VINTAGE YEAR for innovative leadership, creative ideas and terrific products," BusinessWeek says. The magazine presents its editors' choices for the best business leaders, ideas and products of the year. It says there were more "out-of-the-box concepts that changed the competitive game in nearly a decade," including open-source workplaces and the quest for simplicity.
WARRANTIES ARE SHRINKING on many expensive consumer electronic items and personal computers. Bankrate.com says Dell and Gateway are among companies reducing standard one-year warranties for parts and labor to 90 days. At the same time, manufacturers and retailers are pushing consumers to buy extended warranties that critics say are basically worthless. Dell's perspective: Cutting warranties means lowered costs that are passed on to buyers. It also says most product problems appear within the first 90 days, so longer warranties aren't necessary.
AMERICA HAS BECOME increasingly nativist in the post-9/11 world. "Discussions on immigration are increasingly focused on the threats that large influxes of foreigners pose to America," Inc. says. But that's bad for business, the magazine says. U.S. employers increasingly rely on immigrants to fill gaps in the domestic work force, created by a population that is getting older. The nation's diminishing proficiency in math and science is another problem. "And let us not forget that foreign-born entrepreneurs like (Internet guru) Andy Grove . . . have become major job creators," Inc. says. "It is time to reassess a system that is keeping talented people away, and damaging America's competitiveness."
THERE'S TROUBLE in model train land. "After years of placid tinkering in the basement, the industry has become entangled in lawsuits alleging industrial espionage," Fortune Small Business reports. Suits and countersuits have flown back and forth among industry legend Lionel, MTH Electric Trains and industry marketer K-LINE Electric Trains. "This used to be a gentleman's business," Lionel CEO Jerry Calabrese told FSB. "But in the last decade it's become very ugly." The magazine says an aging customer base, a supply glut and a technology arms race "have turned Uncle Fred's hobby into a blood sport."