Wednesday, May 16, 2012

No stroller for you!

We attended Drool Baby Expo yesterday at the Cyclorama. It was quite the zoo of expecting and new parents, babies, vendors, and heaps of baby gear.

Imagine that you own a very expensive baby store chain like Magic Beans. You could try to get customers to come to your store over a period of time, have lots of products in stock, and have tons of sales staff who know all about the products. Or you could rent a larger space, cram everyone in at once, convince manufacturers to send representatives and samples, charge admission to your customers, and offer 20% to 30% discounts off of many products but only if you place your order immediately. Give everyone free cupcakes, take away the wifi, and with any luck you can create a buying frenzy. Drool was an attempt at this latter approach, and it appeared to be quite successful.

From an economic point of view, we paid $32 each to get in, and we each received a gift bag of random baby stuff nominally worth about $60 on Amazon, some of it actually nice. I quite like the Haba wrist rattle, the Oxo sippy cup cleaning set, the Ty Snoopy, the Melissa and Doug fish toy, and the Skip Hop monkey toy. Those more than made up for the admission cost, so the other random items are gravy. By wandering around and talking to vendors, we got some fun baby food samples to try from Ella’s Kitchen, a few small glass containers from Wean Green, a wooden musical egg-shaped shaker, and info about a baby sign language class. Other people seemed pretty excited about the free cupcakes and Pinkberry, which neither of us can eat.

The highlight of the evening was putting David in a Mountain Buggy Swift stroller and taking him for a test drive. He loved it! But wow, strollers can get very expensive. And the Magic Beans sales reps couldn’t seem to get their story straight on prices, availability, delivery times, or return policies.

I had hoped to see a Tiny Love Gymini Bouncer, but the Tiny Love reps weren’t actually from the company, had almost no samples, and had no product specs. I tried to order one anyway because the Amazon reviews are great and Tiny Love products were supposedly 25% off, only to discover that Magic Beans had jacked the price up far beyond anyone else so that the discounted price would be higher than the list price on Amazon.

I tried to talk to someone from Dr. Brown’s about the fact that our bottles have all started to leak after several months without that problem, only to be told that it was always the customer’s fault when that happens. Way to go, Dr. Brown’s! You really made me feel warm inside for choosing your product and staring at your logo for at least two hours a day since December. I love their formula mixer, but I’m beginning to actively detest their bottles. This rep did not help their cause.

Many of the companies had genuinely nice people there, though. Mountain Buggy, Oxo, Wean Green, Ella’s Kitchen, SnoozeShade (a product we didn’t know we needed, but that I am really excited about), Haba, Chewbeads, Aden and Anais, Family Music Makers, Healthy Habits Kitchen, Letourneau’s Pharmacy, Sage Spoonfuls: I really liked talking to all of those folks.

And lots of people ooh’ed and aah’ed at David, and he smiled back a lot, and he was generally a fantastic little trooper about this insane environment and about staying up far too late.

And I managed to buy nothing on site. Slight regret today about a couple of small items that I would have bought if the Magic Beans pop-up store and sales reps had been more helpful; now I have to track down a Chew Beads necklace and a couple of other items separately. But it’s nothing compared to the regret I would have felt about spending far too much money on the wrong product simply because I hadn’t had time to do enough research online to figure out if it really was the right product for us.

Would I go again? Maybe. I’d pack a sandwich, since there’s no real food on site. And I’d leave my wallet at home.

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