Fort Lee woman and Standard spur change
The Sharper Image planned to recall hundreds of Oregon Scientific SmartGlobes from its stores across the country this week, in response to calls from The Jewish Standard that the globes mistakenly listed the non-existent state of Palestine alongside Israel.
The Standard had been alerted to the error by Fort Lee resident Martha Ripp-Cohen, who discovered it in late June at The Sharper Image store at the Woodbury Commons outlets in Central Valley, N.Y.
The Sharper Image planned to return hundreds of SmartGlobes to Oregon Scientific after the Standard alerted it that the globe incorrectly listed Palestine. PHOTO’00;by jerry szubin
The Standard corroborated Ripp-Cohen’s account on Tuesday, at The Sharper Image store at the Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, and made a series of calls about the error to the upscale gadget company’s San Francisco headquarters. On Wednesday, company spokeswoman Cori Zywotow Rice called back, saying that all of the misprinted globes would be sent back to Oregon Scientific. An associate, who declined to be named, said the Standard’s query was the first notice of the error the company received.
"All will be shipped back by tomorrow," said Zywotow Rice, a member of the PR firm Hill & Knowlton. "The Sharper Image ordered the correct globes, [but] the incorrect globes were shipped. When we found out, it was the wrong globe, we pulled the globes."
The Sharper Image has 195 stores across the United States. Hill & Knowlton representatives could not comment about the cost of returning the globes to Oregon Scientific, but Zywotow Rice assured the Standard that by the end of the week none of the misprinted globes would be left in any Sharper Image stores.
While Oregon Scientific has produced new globes that do not include Palestine, it does not plan to recall the incorrect globes already on the market, a company spokeswoman said. She would not disclose the cost of manufacturing the new globes.
Ripp-Cohen first noticed the misprint when she was looking for a "really cool" globe for her 10-year-old son, Harry. She found the SmartGlobe, a 3-D interactive globe that hooks up to a personal computer. At the ‘007 U.S. Toy Fair, the Toy Industry Association named the SmartGlobe the "Educational Toy of the Year."
A member of the Jewish Community Relations Council board and a Berrie Fellow, Ripp-Cohen couldn’t let the globe mistake go unreported. She tracked down a phone number for the CEO of Oregon Scientific and left a message praising the overall quality of the globe but pointing out the inaccuracy. She told him that she would like to buy the globe, which has a suggested retail price of $1’9.95, but not before the error is fixed.
Almost three weeks passed before Oregon Scientific returned Ripp-Cohen’s call. The company had checked U.S. State Department and U.N. maps and confirmed that Ripp-Cohen had been correct: Palestine does not show up on official maps.
A spokeswoman for Oregon Scientific, who had spoken with Ripp-Cohen, told the Standard on Monday that the company had spotted the inaccuracy in May and had begun shipping replacement globes later that month.
The globe, the spokeswoman explained, is manufactured in China, which recognizes Palestine as a territory. The manufacturing company had used Chinese maps in designing the globe, rather than maps accepted by the United States or the United Nations.
"Since the SmartGlobe is sold in the U.S., once they recognized the mistake Oregon Scientific wanted to update it," she said. In addition to The Sharper Image, the globe is available through the Oregon Scientific’s Website and mass-market retail stores.
Ripp-Cohen said the incident should serve as a warning to Americans about outsourcing for educational tools.
"We have to have a common basis and make certain it’s not just one country’s foreign policy spreading its ideology through books and maps we’ll be using in our classrooms," she said. "As more and more of our materials are produced outside the United States, we have to encourage manufacturers to have some kind of quality control so we don’t end up with the ideology of the country that’s making the product."
David Saranga, the Israeli consul for Media and Public Affairs in New York, said, "We are satisfied that this isolated incident was promptly addressed by the manufacturing company."
While displeased that the mistake was made, Ripp-Cohen is happy with how Oregon Scientific took action to rectify the error.
"A change like that is extremely costly," Ripp-Cohen said. "I’m impressed by them. I told the woman I spoke to, ‘This really means something. Your company wants to present true geography.’ It matters to them."