Big Brother Cracks Down on Second-Hand Sales

If you’re planning a garage sale or want to make a few bucks selling stuff you don’t want on eBay, make sure to hire a lawyer first:

Just like megasize toy manufacturers and stores that sell products from China, the notoriously broad and confusing federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act applies to you and your front yard.

Anyone selling products, even used ones, that have been recalled or banned by the act is in violation. …

Besides people holding yard sales, the law applies to thrift or consignment stores, charities, flea markets and people who sell on auction Web sites, the [Consumer Product Safety Commission resellers’] handbook says.

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Ignorance of the law is no excuse, so you’d better memorize the blizzard of regulations blowing out of Washington. If you’re already a reseller, you’re probably guilty, so report to the Castle at once.

The commission studied thrift stores nationwide in 1999 and found that 69 percent were selling products that had been recalled, banned or failed to meet safety standards, according to the handbook.

The problem is, resellers don’t have any juice in the District of Criminals, because they can’t afford lobbyists or big campaign donations. Here’s how it works:

As the safety act’s Feb. 10 compliance date loomed, frustrated manufacturers and retailers — including book publishers, toothbrush makers and bicycle suppliers — lobbied to have their products excluded from the act, or to be granted stays of enforcement until they could figure out how to comply.

Some succeeded. Others, including the resale industry, did not.

Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, said member stores are now doing the best they can to follow the law.

“It’s just the way it was written, it’s almost impossible to abide by this law,” Meyer said.

Some stores, to avoid any risk, quit accepting children’s products altogether, she said.

Those who dare to hold garage sales are advised to avoid selling a long list of common items, including most anything a child might use, largely due to the menace of phthalates and trace elements of lead.

But the government will still let you sell many items made entirely of wood, so long as there is no paint or hardware, and items made entirely of yarn or certain approved textiles. Needless to say, threads, elastic, and closures should not be metallic. Also, traditional books printed after 1985 are not yet restricted.

Everything else should stay piled up in your garage until the Reign of Moonbattery is over, lest you violate garbage disposal regulations.

A shopper learns that the doll he wants violates federal regulations.

On a tip from Wiggins. Cross-posted at Moonbattery.

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