More and more people are buying online these days. Let’s face it, it is so easy! You think of something you want or need, and you are seconds away from getting it, virtually anytime and anywhere. Not only is it very convenient, but you also have much more variety to choose from. With Amazon.com for example, if you search for “Teething Toys”, you get 6,000 results. Even if you went into Babies R Us before it went out of business, you might have had 40 options to choose from in the teethers section. Although we have so many options shopping online, which for many means Amazon, there is a danger lurking that you sense is there but can’t quite put your finger on. We hope to bring light to the details that could be the source of your gut feeling.
The Old Way to Buy Baby Products
Traditionally, we relied on large retailers such as Walmart, Target, and the former Babies R Us, to research a need in the market and find a product that fits that need. Those large retailers proactively ensure:
- The product is Consumer Product and Safety Commission (CPSC) compliant
- Any claims that a product makes on its packaging is verifiable by an independent 3rd party
- The company that backs that product is focused on quality, not just profit
- Products are made in ethical working conditions
In addition, because physical stores (i.e. Walmart and the like) typically buy directly from the brand that has the product manufactured, there is virtually no possibility for counterfeit products. There is one party accountable to the end customer, and that is ultimately the brand. If the retailer does a bad job at this, it is a poor reflection on them.
The New Way To Buy Baby Products
Amazon has drastically changed the landscape of retail. The new way consumers buy relies on resellers to give you the variety and convenience that consumers have come to expect. Resellers are mini online retailers that pay Amazon a commission for every unit they sell on Amazon. So, when you shop on Amazon, you are not necessarily buying from Amazon, you are buying from a sea of small retailers that are fighting to get you to buy from them. Many resellers have made millions selling on Amazon.com, so they keep growing and growing every day. Anyone can sell on Amazon. Competition and ease for resellers to start selling on Amazon have created a slew of potential issues.
- False claims – some products may claim to be “freezer safe”, for example, but have not actually been tested to make that claim. Many resellers will add features to create more sales.
- Fake reviews – Some resellers hire companies that specialize in creating fake reviews that help boost product listings to the top of search results and increase sales.
- Paid for reviews – reviews that were given in exchange for a free or steeply discounted product.
- Counterfeit products – If a product does well on Amazon, some unethical manufacturers will make an identical or very similar product and may or may not use the same quality of materials, then sell it for the same amount or less. Counterfeits may use the original branding to pass it off as the original, but sometimes they do change it a tiny bit and use very similar branding to mislead the consumer into mistakenly buying theirs instead of the original.
- Sellers located overseas shipping direct to the US – These products don’t have to go through the same United States Customs process. Customs scrutinizes large shipments to ensure products are what they say they are and that they meet CPSC guidelines. Smaller consumer packages often go straight to the consumers. The other disadvantage to this is it takes a long time to get the product.
Amazon has policies in place to help combat some of these problems and every seller must agree to follow those policies; however, many of the offenders fall through the cracks. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself from these scenarios, but they may take a little bit away from the convenience you are used to.
What can I do to make sure I buy the best product for my baby?
One way is to do it the old way. Go into a trusted store. As mentioned earlier, physical stores have a lot of products that fit most people’s/baby’s needs. You can rest easy knowing that if you buy something in a store, it has been scrutinized carefully by the store. If you are looking for a selection most like what you found in Babies R’ Us (BRU), we recommend buybuyBaby (BBB). BBB has even more of a selection than BRU did. The trouble is, there aren’t as many BBB stores. If you have one close to you, this is a great place to shop and learn about baby products. Not only do they have a large variety of proven products, but they also have an excellent staff that can help answer questions and point you in the right direction. If BBB is too far away, here is a breakdown of the various physical stores you might try.
* Independent retailers are a catchall category for retailers that are either online only or only have a handful of physical stores dedicated primarily to baby products. Some can be excellent in terms of variety and quality assurance, and some can be poor in both. If you explore locally, you are sure to find some good ones.
** Amazon purchased Whole-Foods, so they do have brick and mortar locations; however, the baby section in these stores has not changed much and is relatively limited.
As you can see from the chart, Walmart and Target may not have the same variety that you can get online; however, they carefully scrutinize the products they offer and the companies that provide them. We are happy to say that Little Toader products are available in stores and we know firsthand how important quality is to these retailers. It is also worth noting that there are Walmart’s and Targets virtually everywhere, so while you may not have as much selection, you won’t have to wait for your product to ship and you know you are getting a good product.
You think you got the chops to tackle online, fine, but make sure you follow these tips. You can still find some very good quality products, from reputable companies on Amazon, you just need to do a little homework to make sure you are getting what you think you are getting.
- Make sure the product’s reviews are on the up and up. There is a website that tells you if the reviews for a product seem fishy. You can even install a chrome extension, so you can find out without leaving the product page, how legit those reviews are. Each page will have a “Pass”, “Warning”, or “Fail”. You can try it out on one of our Little Toader products below.
https://reviewmeta.com/amazon/B00HTURS3Q Or try a product with ratings that seem too good to be true on Amazon, copy the url at the top (e.g. https://….) and paste in top area of the page on http://reviewmeta.com
- Verify the accuracy of claims. There are so many resellers that can add content to the product page. Sometimes they may make a claim that will lead to more sales. We suggest you find the website for the manufacturer of the product and check to see what they say about the product. You will also be able to verify if you are getting a good deal from that seller.
- Verify the reliability of the brand. For example, if you search for “Teething Toys” and see several different listings for what appears to be the exact same product, but the packaging is different, this can mean that these products are made overseas, resold to many different people or companies. It is hard to verify the safety of these products with so many different people involved.
- Check for Counterfeits. There are a lot of well-known brands that have knockoffs. These can be a little hard to detect because they are made to look just like the real product. If you look at the product listing and notice that the seller has a significantly smaller number of reviews, a shorter history on Amazon, and it is branded slightly different than what you find on the original manufacturer’s website, then be cautious and report it to Amazon. Counterfeits typically are not made with the same quality of materials.
- Don’t buy products that ship from overseas. If you are interested in buying collectables, buying a product that ships from overseas may be okay, but if you are buying a baby product, be sure it is shipping from the US. If the product is Prime, you don’t have to worry about this. If the product shows a long delivery window, beware.
So, if you want to buy baby products without having to second guess, find a local store that you trust, whether it is buybuyBaby, Walmart, Target, or a baby boutique. That may not always be the most convenient, so if you are going online, just make sure you are aware of the common gotchas we discussed to protect you and your baby from poor quality products, or products that aren’t quite what they claim to be.