[UPDATE] After publishing this post I was contacted personally by the owners of Baby Town for a little clarification on my post, which I love love love. I was wrong in that this store is not big box and is, in fact, family owned. Yay! And they have just opened and have yet to get training which will be on-going for their staff. Double yay! Thank you Baby Town for addressing this and your commitment to doing what is best for families in the Valley. The following is their statement in full:
“Nicole, thanks so much for visiting Baby Town. We just soft opened 2 weeks ago, and we’re still trying to get all our staff trained on 200+ brands and 11k products in our store before we grand open so that we can better earn our customers’ business in the future. We’ve come a long way since day one, but I showed your post to all our employees to remind ourselves how much more we still need to work to get to where we should be.
On another note, we’re not a big box store even though our store may look like one. There were other small stores called “Baby Town” but they are not affiliated with us (I think they’re all closed now). This store belongs to my wife and me. It’s our first venture into brick & mortar retail, and we are passionate about serving our community of new parents to the best of our ability.
I hope we will have an opportunity to earn your business in the future.”
Say you walk into a grocery store, a store made completely to provide you with their specialty and expertise, which is groceries, and you want some tomatoes. You walk over to the tomatoes, and the person working the tomato department, only to find out said tomato specialist knows nothing about tomatoes or tomato handling. They answer questions like “What are some ways to prepare tomatoes?” by throwing a tomato on the floor and stepping on it saying “kinda like this”. Would you trust their knowledge or consider patronizing their store for your future tomato purchases?
Now imagine this same scenario only this time tomatoes are replaced with something that is directly connected with the safety of your child. What about then? At that point would you trust what they have to say about a teddy bear? This is the situation I was in this weekend when I went to go check out a new giant baby depot type store that had just opened in my area, Baby Town.
Doing what I do, writing here and for WhatToExpect.com, there is a certain expectation that I will sometimes know what the hell I’m talking about. Not often, but sometimes. Because of this I like to get out and touch, try, pull, push and basically get my grubby little hands all over the latest and greatest in the baby gear industry. This weekend my three year old sent me on a magical quest to find a unicorn (no really) so I figured this would be an opportunity to kill three birds with one shopping trip: check out the Bee, check out the new store, and buy a damn unicorn.
Upon walking into this big, beautiful, and most importantly, closer to me than the local Babies R Us or Buy Buy Baby, I was greeted with smiley welcoming faces and the smell of new paint. Ahh…so far so good. The store was packed to the rafters with wonderful brands like Zutano and L’oved Baby and row after row was clean, neatly organized and well stocked. As I wandered around, soaking in the wonderfulness, more than a few helpful people wanting to assist me on the unicorn quest approached me.
Then I got to my favorite section: strollers and car seats. Wow, I wasn’t disappointed here. This section was well stocked and there was no shortage of fun things to touch. My eyes and hands first wandered to the new Maxi-Cosi Prezi in the beautiful teal color. Since I was already familiar with the car seat specs from seeing it online, I was completely sold after checking the weight, design and the softness of the beautiful and bright fabric. This will definitely be added to my list of recommendations in the future.
As I am walking around, touching and pushing, I was approached by 3 people asking if they could help and just so that I’m completely transparent here, I did tell them that I was a parenting writer and I was just wanting to check out some of their products for recommendation purposes. I wasn’t acting as a secret shopper, or trying to trap anyone into saying anything they wouldn’t normally, but I did want to be honest as to why I was groping all the goods. This may not be how some people do it, but it’s how I do it.
Lastly I finally got my hands on the Bugaboo Bee and it was obviously glorious because, hello, it’s Bugaboo. I know there are people out there that say as stroller is a stroller. You put the kid in and shove them around, what’s the big deal? These people have obviously never bumped a Bee. From the color to the design to the fabric, it’s high end all the way. (PS, probably my favorite stroller for toddlers.) And then this is where we went downhill….
Me: So can you show me the fold on the bee?
Sales Person 1: Sure! ::folding::
Me: Wow, that’s easy! And I do I unfold it?
Sales Person 1: Well, that’s the hard part. I can’t really do it. I’ve been having issues with it all day. I can never get it to work. I think it’s a manufacturer issue.
She then proceeded to grunt, fight and struggle with the stroller for a while until someone else had to come and help her. Next I make the mistake of asking this question:
Me: So I know the seat reverses, can you show me how that works?
This is when it got fun. SP1 and SP2 take the seat off, turn it around and proceed to have no idea what they are doing. It’s collapsing on itself, they are sweating, all the while trying to save face by blaming the manufacturer for the issue. Finally a third person steps in and I started looking around for cameras because this had to be a joke. At one point the seat is clicked on one side, not the other, it’s lopped sided and unconvincing and SP2 says “Well, it’s something like this when it’s done”. Okay, I’ll take your word for it.
I finally had to walk away because I didn’t have all day to watch three adults get out-smarted by a stroller, I’m still not even sure they ever got the seat back on. On my way out SP1 was showing the stellar auto fold and unfold of the 4Moms Origami (another one of my dream strollers) to a family, I mentioned how much I love this particular stroller and pointed out some of the awesome features (like the cell phone charger and LCD display, to name a few). This is when she decided to tell me, in front of potential buyers, “Yeah, I’m having the hardest time selling this one because of the price point.” Not surprisingly the potential buyers all walked away about a second and a half after that. It was all I could do to not bang on head on the nearest wall.
So here is my issue: we are not talking about tomatoes here, we are talking about products that are designed for securing the safety of our children but are being sold by people that have no idea what they’re talking about. (Now this wasn’t all that transpired on this particular trip, if I were to go into every detail you would get bored and never read my blog again, just trust me on this.) It was overwhelmingly obvious that these poor people had no training in the use and handling of any of these very expensive big ticket items. Up until this point I loved this store and because of that, and selfishly how close it is to my house, I really want them to succeed. With a little training and guidance I am 100% sure this store will, deservingly, be a place for moms and dads to get all that their babies need.
And just in case you were wondering, we never did find the unicorn. (But that’s not Baby Town’s fault as much as the 3 foot unicorn snob I live with.)