The Investigators: Recall Undercover - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: Recall Undercover

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC TV) - A Nashville-based sales company with retail locations in the Mid-South is re-evaluating its inventory control measures after The Action News 5 Investigators found damaged and worn child safety products -- including a recalled car seat -- on its stores' shelves.

"That never should have gotten passed our quality-control measures," said Randall Chambers, spokesperson for Essex Bargain Hunt stores.

A viewer who asked not to be identified e-mailed The Action News 5 Investigators to complain about what she described as "worn and filthy" child products at the Essex Bargain Hunt location at 5124 Summer Ave. in Berclair.

Susan Helms, executive director of Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center's Safe Kids Mid-South Coalition, joined us in inspecting the store's inventory. We found items in boxes that were dirty, dented and torn. Strollers on the floor sported wheels with worn tread.

Inside a child safety seat stocked outside of its box on the shelf, we found the remnants of a child's snack or breakfast. "Raisin bran and Goldfish (crackers)," said Helms.

We also found a child safety seat listed on Helms' Consumer Product Safety Commission recall list. "...'Child chewing on...chest pad may bite off a small piece, representing a choking hazard,'" Helms read from the recall alert.

At Essex Bargain Hunt's Cordova, TN, store, 590 N. Germantown Parkway, Helms found a 'crib tent' she said could be a strangulation hazard.

"If your child's big enough to require a 'crib tent' to keep him from crawling out of a crib, he's too big for a crib. He needs to be in a bed," she said.

We also found a child safety seat with a belt so frayed it appeared ready to snap.

"I wouldn't want to go there and buy stuff and then have an accident happen," said Lisa Rexroat of Arlington, TN.

In September, Rexroat's 9-year-old daughter Aubrey shattered both arms when she fell off of a friend's bunk bed. Rexroat said the bunk bed, which was not sold at Essex Bargain Hunt, was designed with a gap she said is too wide to prevent a child from slipping through it.

Rexroat's attorney is investigating the bunk bed as a potentially defective contributor to Aubrey's injuries.

"She's had three surgeries," said Rexroat. "She is going to have pain for the rest of her life."

Again, Essex Bargain Hunt did not sell the bunk bed, but what we found at its locations -- a child safety seat with an active recall, left-over food in a car seat and choking hazards -- concerned Lisa Rexroat enough to speak out about it.

"That store should be closed unless they are going to be more responsible and take a better approach with what they're selling," she said.

The manager of the Berclair store, identified only as 'Dustin,' accepted responsibility for the items.

He explained that most of Essex Bargain Hunt's inventory is other retailers' overstock, "opened box" items or customer returns.

"We don't have an active inventory list," he said. "It's actually something we are going to this year."

"It would seem to me that you would want to know what your products are, what you are selling to the public," said Helms.

"When we're buying overstock and, in some cases, returns, it's not perfect," said Chambers. "Sometimes, something slips through. It is not our policy to sell anything that has been recalled or has been used."

Dustin immediately removed the products with safety concerns.

Helms said consumers should never buy used child safety products. She recommended only buying new items, particularly child safety seats.

"The best idea is to get a brand new child safety seat, one you know came right from the manufacturer, has all the parts with it and its registration/warranty card," she said. "It's really just not a good idea to buy one you don't know any history about."

Helms also recommended checking products against the active recall lists of the Consumer Product Safety Commission or SaferProducts.gov.

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