Monday, March 2, 2015

I Don't Recommend BumGenius or Cotton Babies: The Why

Like women who planned weddings long before a fiancé was on the horizon, I planned for the children I didn’t have long before I knew they were a possibility.  In the worst days of infertility, I read multiple blogs written by women who had survived and speculated about the types of decisions I would make for my nonexistent little ones.

And then my reality was blown to smithereens by a surprise pregnancy and I had to decide where the rubber would meet the road with some of these decisions.  After several conversations about the feasibility, Favorite and I decided we would try cloth diapering.  Based on what I read, AIOs (all-in-ones) were the best choice for our lifestyle and the number one recommendation for AIOs on any blog I read in the time period I was waiting?  BumGenius.

So I bought six OBGEs (old BG Elementals) and six FT (FreeTimes) and thought I would determine which were our favorites after Ryan made his grand entrance.  And after two years of cloth diapering, I feel like I have a responsibility to share my experience.  So here it is: 
If you are considering cloth diapers for your children, avoid Cotton Babies and BumGenius.  Please hear me out on my decision not to recommend this company because I haven’t made it lightly.  But after several months of waiting, I no longer have faith in this company, their business practices or their product.

This weekend, stores sold second quality prints for above retail based on what they were calling fair market value via the buy, sell, trade pages.  Because CB has said they have no stake in the pricing on the BST sites, consumers and the biggest fans of their company exploded (mostly in their Facebook fan group: Cotton Babies:  The Cloth Diaper Flash Mob).

Before I get into the other things that will keep me from recommending CB and BG, let me address the Mob.  The group is, of course, high drama.  Normally, I can overlook all of the random posting, but the thing that got my attention last night was the fact that admins of the group, Whitney specifically, told angry consumers “It’s time to move on” as though their concerns regarding the recent upcharge on seconds didn’t matter.  In addition, #CEOMom, Jenn Labit writes in her most recent blog post, “It’s just diapers and it wasn’t worth it.”

Wait, what?  The fact that fans of the brand are upset doesn’t matter because we’re just talking about diapers?

That statement alone makes me feel undervalued as a consumer because I chose BumGenius.  Every time I put a dollar into their product, I was associating myself with their name.  And now?  I feel like that faith was misplaced.  The fury of the mob *could* be excused, but for the CEO of a company to write “And I heard the mob got crazy.  Which is crazy.  These are diapers” makes me believe my concerns over company actions will consistently be minimized.

Frankly, they aren’t just diapers.  They are decisions parents have made for the best interest of their family.  It’s faith we’ve put in a company—a company we promote every time we put your product on our children’s behinds.  So when the CEO of the company comments, “we may decide to price used diaper prints higher than you’re used to seeing in our stores…However, in the future, Cotton Babies won’t be selling seconds, ever again, at a price that is higher than original retail” I guess I’m supposed to feel better because used diapers will cost more but seconds diapers won’t cost *quite* as much as a brand new diaper.

Excuse me?

This whole mentality is enough to prove to me that CB is actually feeding the prints frenzy they claim they don’t promote.  Labit’s comments about selling used limited prints for above retail are proof positive of that fact. 

If that wasn’t enough, here’s another way the company is feeding the frenzy around prints:  A friend of mine warrantied a Jules.  The reasons are really unimportant here, but she sent her diaper in under warranty and was told she would receive a Jules in return or another print if Jules was running low.  She received a solid—Sassy.  The whole exchange would be a non-issue except Jules was rereleased not long after her diaper was warrantied.  Essentially, the extras were saved so there could be another hysterical buy-out of a diaper that would be unavailable in thirty seconds.

But the company doesn’t promote the crazy activity surrounding their limited edition prints?  Please.
Honestly, though, there are more functional reasons I cannot recommend BG.  I am not a print fan and owning an entire rainbow is no priority of mine.  If you don’t value prints or the rainbow either, why should you avoid BG?

I had been diapering with my BGs for four months before I joined any other mommy groups with cloth diapering moms.  I had bought my BGs six months previous (2 months before LO was born) and I was excited to hear other opinions about a diaper that was working well for us.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered the elastics are a joke in the CD community.  I thought it must be a fluke and there were a few customers who received diapers with bad elastic.  No big deal.  Every company deals with a fluke from time to time.

But the more I read, the more I realized it was no fluke.  Consumers were consistently reporting issues with BG elastic—3 months and 6 months after use.  My diapers started relaxing after 8 months, but I wouldn’t realize the extent of their damage until my next little one came along and needed to use the same diapers.  Of course, the elastics can be replaced, but the bigger issue is that the company has yet to address these concerns almost two years later.

On a recent Mob post, Jenn Labit herself asked what we as consumers would most like to change about the company.  Time and time again, moms responded, “ELASTICS!”  In the last day, Ms. Labit made another appearance to talk down angry consumers over the LE prints issue and was asked, again, when BG intends to address the issue of crappy elastics.  She responded that it takes a while to turn a big ship, but there are things in the works.

I’m bothered by those comments because the elastics issue isn’t new.  By the time I joined the cloth diaper community, it was an already accepted phenomenon that BabyCity diapers delaminate quickly and BG elastics relax early.  Even hardcore BG lovers didn’t argue the point.  So to state that it takes a big ship a while to turn and openly profess that there have been things in the works for the last six months (a comment from Labit again) is an acknowledgement that the company has refused to listen to its fan base for the last year and a half that I’ve been diapering (at the minimum).
Feeling undervalued as a customer yet? 

No?  Then let’s discuss the preorder nonsense they call a system.

Before Stellar and Jolly came on the market, CB promoted them for preorder.  I saw Stellar and was in love.  I love solid diapers and that deep blue?  Well, my boys needed it.  So I preordered four diapers in September with the understanding they would be shipped in early December..

When December rolled around, there was still no update.  Honestly, it happens.  There was an issue with the diapers and the delivery date was pushed back.  Fine.

Then, I got an email from CB stating their brick and mortar stores had been stocked with the new colors.  People should stop by and get them!  They’re so cute!  Those emails were accompanied with pictures—WALLS of Stellar and Jolly just waiting to be purchased.

And where was my preorder from three months before?  STILL PENDING.

It wasn’t until I took my issue to the mob and multiple other people made the same comments that the orders began updating.  My diaper made it in my hands almost a week after the stores had been stocked with the preorder product and more than three months after I had paid.  How is that good customer service?

There are probably skeptics who are reading and discounting most of what I’ve said to this point.  It’s cool.  You should critically evaluate everything you read.  So let’s assume the preorder issue was a lack of organization, the elastics issue is a fluke, and that the CEO of a major company and her employees didn’t attempt to silence customers when they shared an opinion of recent actions.  Heck, let’s ignore the print craze and the fact that the company supports it completely.  With all of those things taken out of the argument, I still wouldn’t recommend the company on one simple issue:  wash routines.

I’ve spent a fair amount of money with BG—far less than I would’ve spent on disposables, but a good chunk of change nonetheless.  Because I was conscious of my investment, I chose to care for my diapers according to the recommendations of the manufacturer.  I bought Rockin’ Green and washed my diapers.  And washed my diapers.  And washed my diapers.  I used ¼ cup of bleach once a month, and outside of the recommendations to bleach again for stink (which was frequent) and rashes (which were frequent), I stuck to the recommendation of a tablespoon of detergent and lots of rinsing.

Despite my meticulous care of the diapers, 12 of them delaminated. 

Because I was pretty naive, I didn’t realize what had happened.  My sister-in-law told me if my son’s clothing was wet, it sounded like the diaper’s PUL wasn’t in tact.  My response: “Huh?”  To test them, I poured a bit of water on each diaper and watched it soak and eventually drip through the water resistant outer layer.  Crap.  Twelve diapers—$220—that are nothing but garbage.

I contacted customer service.  My representative was kind, but explained that only the diapers still under warranty would be replaced.  I understood, filled out the paperwork and waited to see if my claim was accepted.

It was—for six diapers.  I asked what happened in order to avoid facing the same issue again and the customer service representative told me that Rockin’ Green had been removed from the recommended list because it was causing diapers to delaminate.  (Despite the fact that Rockin’ Green and BG “detergent” have the same basic ingredients.  Thought I’d throw that in here for posterity.)

Uh, what?

Never once did I receive notification from the company.  Never once was I told that the recommended detergent list had changed.  Never once did I learn that my diapers could be impacted by a decision that was previously approved.  My cost?  Six diapers that will not be replaced even though customer service told me it was likely the detergent that was responsible since I was following the recommended wash routine.

I’ve since scrapped BG’s wash recommendations.  Frankly, if they aren’t going to replace diapers that malfunctioned because of their recommendations, what’s the point in following those recommendations?  And when they don’t warranty my current diapers?  Big deal.  They didn’t warranty the six that delaminated under their instructions even though they stated the detergent was responsible.  And I’ve learned that it’s not uncommon for BG diapers to delaminate juuuuuuusssstttt outside that 1 year warranty.  I’ve speculated it’s lack of a quality PUL, but the company has been fairly closed about answering any questions I’ve had.

My BGs fit well, and unlike many angry mommies, I won’t be destashing them because I can’t afford to lose the majority of my diapers with two in cloth (and wait for new diapers and prep new diapers, etc).  But I can guarantee I will give no more money to a company who clearly doesn’t value my input or my needs as a customer.

When I shared my concerns, hundreds of women on the Mob implied that I would be the first to buy the print that is rereleased to draw attention away from this issue.  The fact of the matter is they are wrong.  I won’t give another penny to Cotton Babies until I feel comfortable that all of these issues have been addressed adequately.

Even then, there is so much water under the bridge I’ll have to take a long hard look at the revisions before I change my stance.  (And frankly, I’m a bit skeptical there are changes on the horizon). 

So for now, for your sake and the sake of your babies (and their bums), buy something else.  I’d be glad to make recommendations.