Taking Action Investigation: Local Store Found Selling Drop-Side Cribs

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HAZEL GREEN, Ala. (WHNT) - Drop side cribs are now illegal, but WHNT News 19 learned a local business was still selling them.  We took action and went undercover. 

Jessica Vinson bought one of the cribs, not knowing it shouldn't have been on the sales floor.  But weeks before she gave birth to her baby Kyler, she was alerted to the problem.

"I have paid all this money for something that I am not even supposed to put on the side of the road," Vinson said.

Vinson bought the drop-side crib from Polka Dots Boutique in Hazel Green.  It's a consignment shop loaded with things for tots to teens.

Vinson said the store owner told her it was recalled, and she was given an immobilization kit to prevent the drop side from detaching.

Months later, Vinson went online to try to figure out how to install it.  There, she discovered the disturbing truth: drop-side cribs are illegal.

Here's why: The plastic hardware can break or warp.  Pieces can go missing, or get loose.  All of these issues can allow a gap to form between the crib mattress and part of the drop side.

Babies can get trapped, then suffocate or get strangled to death.

Vinson returned the merchandise and alerted the owners of her discovery.  She says she wasn't pleased with the answer she got.  

"She made sure to tell me it will be on the floor because it helps her sell her bedding," Vinson said.

Vinson was right.  WHNT News 19 went undercover right after the return.

"How much are your cribs?" our producer asked. 

"That one there is $99," the sales person replied.  

Our undercover producer discovered two drop-side cribs positioned back to back.  One was for sale, but the sales person said the other one was on layaway.

We gave the employee the benefit of the doubt, thinking she might not be aware of the drop-side ban.

"It's not supposed to have the sides down," the employee said.  "There is a kit for it,  because they are illegal.  A lot of babies I guess got caught, so you can't have the side down, but the kit makes the side stable."

"So the kit makes it safe?" our producer asked.

"Yes. It makes it stable, so it won't be a drop side," the employee replied.

"So it's not dangerous?" we asked.

"It's not dangerous, right," the employee replied.

Our producer left, but our business wasn't done.  WHNT News 19 wanted answers from the owners and knew that you would, too.

We showed up the very next day and the two drop-side cribs were still on the floor, alongside another drop side crib. Why?

"We were displaying bedding in the crib for sale," said co-owner Jessica Mavrotheris.  "We did not have for sale signs in the cribs."

She and her husband, Chris Mavrotheris, were candid with us.  But that still didn't explain one thing.

"After you were alerted by the consumer that this was illegal, why didn't you jump online, do a little homework... because you are selling something that in the last nine years has caused 32 deaths of babies?" WHNT News 19 asked.

"When you told me that yesterday I was astounded," said Jessica Mavrotheris. "I should have done my homework, I should have jumped online."

The couple said they thought the crib repair kits made everything okay.  We explained to them that those are for homeowners without money to buy a new crib.  Just the act of putting the cribs on the floor was breaking the law.

Chris Mavrotheris destroyed the cribs and showed the pieces to us.

They also offered an apology.  

"Even though it's not a positive thing that happened here, I think that for me I am just going to make it positive, because I am going to do my homework, I am going to have a better business," said Jessica Mavrotheris.

"This is something we should have done better on, sorry for that, very sorry for that," said Chris Mavrotheris.  "We aren't out here to hurt anybody's child.  We have children of our own.  All I can say is thank God nothing happened."

Drop-side cribs cannot be sold in businesses or by you, say, at a yard sale. The new rules, which apply to full-size and non full-size cribs, prohibit the manufacture or sale of traditional drop-side rail cribs.

The 2011 rules also apply to cribs currently in use at child care centers and places of public accommodation. By December 28, 2012, these facilities must use only compliant cribs that meet the new federal safety standards.

If you want to safely get rid of a drop-side crib, the Consumer Product Safety Commission offers this approach.  Dismantle it and put it out for garbage pickup on different days.  This will ensure it never makes its way back to standing position.

To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury and for information on CPSC's fax-on-demand service, call CPSC's hotline at (800) 638-2772 or CPSC's teletypewriter at (301) 595-7054.