Bugaboo: Online Product Recall of Strollers

In Product recall on June 8, 2009 at 10:46 am

Recently, Bugaboo issued a product recall of its Bugaboo Bee stroller, after it received 121 reports of brake failures. In addition to issuing a statement in cooperation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the company posted recall information on its website. So how does that information rate when analyzed using the CPSC’s website guidance and apologia theory as lenses for understanding and evaluation?bugaboo

If we look at the CPSC’s guidance for website recall information, we see that Bugaboo has done a number of things right. For example, Bugaboo’s web text does include the product recall information, as suggested by the CPSC. The company doesn’t necessarily include the CPSC press release text verbatim, as suggested. But in this case, Bugaboo’s information was more thorough–indicating how many of the 121 reported brake failure consisted of one break failing versus a double failure. Still, it would be nice for the company to provide a link to the CPSC release for consumers to view for themselves.

In addition to this information, the Bugaboo website also allows “consumers to register to participate in the recall through the firm’s web site” which is another CPSC suggestion.

One major issue that the Bugaboo website does not address is the CPSC’s first guidance point:

  • On the firm’s home page (or the first entry point to the firm’s web site) have a separate “button” or “icon” or “scrolling message” entitled Recall Safety Information to directly link the home page to a separate recall information page. Locate the “button”, “icon”, or “scrolling message” in a highly visible location on the home page or first entry point to the firm’s web page. Consumers should not have to scroll vertically or laterally on the home page, or otherwise search for the information on the recall.

Unfortunately, the Bugaboo site (like so many other sites) does not provide consumers with an easy way to see or access product recall information. In this instance, a person would have to click on the “News” tab at the top of the page, and then select “Bugaboo News” from the list of choices in order to access the product recall information and interactive registration form. In other words, if you weren’t specifically coming to this page seeking product recall information, you probably wouldn’t find it. You really have to click around in the dark a bit to access it.

Now, what would an apologia analysis of Bugaboo’s product recall text uncover? Using Benoit’s image repair theory to analyze the text, we see two major strategies being employed.

First, the company uses bolstering to describe positive attributes or values that are inline with consumers and the general public. For example, the text states: “Since safety is the number one priority at Bugaboo…” as a way to insert positive corporate positioning statements in the product recall information. Going back to the CPSC suggestions, we see that the product recall web page should “include only the product recall information and no sales or marketing information.” The bolstering is subtle and certainly doesn’t count as sales information. But I would argue it is a form of PR or marketing. How blatant and direct, is debatable–as is the question of whether such a bolstering statement is even detrimental to the recall info. The point for now, however, is that an apologia analysis allows us to uncover such statements that can then be evaluated more directly against the CPSC guidance.

The second major apologia strategy evident in the Bugaboo recall web text is corrective action. This is a common element in online product recalls (as I described in my brief analysis of Mattel’s online product recall information). According to Benoit’s theory, corrective action consists of describing: (1) how a company will repair damages and (2) steps to prevent the event from happening in the future. In the case of Bugaboo, these two aspects are addressed through statements such as:

  • “We have developed a set of brackets that can easily be clicked into the rear wheels of the Bugaboo Bee to secure the brake function.”
  • “The brackets are now integrated into the Bugaboo Bee production process.”
  • “Bugaboo wants to provide these brackets to all Bugaboo Bee owners.
  • “If you registered your warranty before May 1, 2009, you will automatically receive a bracket set at your registered address.”
  • “Owners of Bugaboo Bee strollers without brackets who have not registered their warranty… should complete this form to receive the bracket set free of charge.”

Overall, Bugaboo does a nice job of providing information about the problem leading up to the recall, as well as information about how the problem is being addressed (both for future consumers and for current owners). The company’s website, however, should still provide easier access to the online product information by placing a more prominent link or button on the main page of their site. Finally, future research should look into the use of marketing/PR statements, such as the example of bolstering described above, to determine how such statements work with or against the CPSC’s web site notification guidelines.

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