Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Month Six: More Bonus Material!

Stroller Search, Part I: The Dithering
I like to think of myself as sensible about money. I trained myself pretty well in the lean years during and after college, and I still hesitate and consider before spending money. Well, hello Humbling Experience. Here comes The Stroller Decision.

As I have learned in my endless baby-gear googling, there are two kinds of strollers for infants: the suburban strollers and the city strollers. A suburban stroller looks like an SUV (huge, lots of molded plastic, cupholders for everyone), and assumes you have an SUV to carry it around in (it's huge even when it's folded, and it's heavy). They come upholstered with cute fabrics that look like nothing I would ever wear or buy (wow, look at that. I can't figure out how to say that without sounding like a real bitch. True Self revealed, I guess). And they cost around $200.

The city strollers, on the other hand, are like high-end camping gear: lots of metal tubes and technical-looking fabric, in colors like orange and red and black, and generally lighter weight and more compact than the suburban strollers. And they're in the neighborhood of $900. Yes, nine. Nine hundred dollars. And you can spend even more without breaking a sweat.

There are a few differences in ease-of-use between the two kinds, but it's mostly a matter of cost and aesthetics. And there's no way around it: $700 is a ridiculous amount of money to spend just to look cool. On the other hand, I can easily imagine just how grouchy I'd be pushing a frilly SUV around the neighborhood for the next few years, and a part of my frugality has always been to not spend money on the cheaper thing that will make you so crazy (or be such bad quality) that you end up ditching it for the more expensive thing in the end. Of course, I'm usually applying that philosophy to decisions like measuring cups and underwear, where the difference is in the five dollar range.

The less decisive I feel about this, the more research I do online, and the more ridiculous things I learn about adjustable handles, degree of recline, solid vs. inflatable wheels, harness adjustability, and who has the rare, sought-after "sunset" color in stock.

I'm tempted to go to Home Depot and check out the wheels and pipes and hardware, just to see if we could make our own. Of course, it would end up weighing as much as an actual SUV, and either wouldn't be foldable or would be a deathtrap for our beloved firstborn, but it would be so cool...

So, circles. I'm going around in them (tight turning radius, smooth ride, solid rubber wheels).

Stroller Search, Part II: The End?
We spent a day test-driving strollers, at both the suburban big box and the upscale neighborhood yuppie-baby-mart. I was hoping to have some kind of breakthrough; to learn something in the real world that had escaped me online. I would have been equally happy with either, "This one's not that bad! And only $170!" or, "This one is clearly worth the extra hundreds of dollars. Why, we could all live in it!" But alas, no. I was left with the same two feelings: "They're just so ugly" on the one hand and "HOW much money?" on the other.

The helpful shop assistant had just wrapped up her third stroller-spiel in the fancy store when a passing mom said, "Can I give you some advice?" She had 6-month-old twins in a stroller and a look of sympathy on her face. The three of us turned to her politely, expecting a real-life endorsement of one of the candidates in question, but she said, "Don't get any of them." The shop assistant's face fell a bit (although she recovered with impressive speed), but the two of us suddenly became much more interested in what she had to say. She explained that she'd been through three or four different strollers already, and the most useful thing was none of them, but the simple, cheap, wheeled frame that the babies' car seats just snapped into. By the time our baby has outgrown the infant car seat, she said, we'd have a better idea of what stroller features are important to us and we'd be able to test drive strollers with the actual kid. In the meantime the frame (called, snappily, the snap'n'go) is lightweight, cheap, and compact. We could have kissed her. Instead, we thanked her and the shop assistant and skipped out of the store with wallets and marital harmony intact. Snap'n'go, here we come. And a year from now, maybe there'll be an attractive, lightweight, compact stroller for less than $300. Or maybe, through a haze of spit-up and sleeplessness, I just won't care quite as much.


Garth said...

I had a similar experience when I decided that I should have a swanky Swiss wheel hoe. (Look at it, it's awesome!) However, $400 it a little steep for what is, you know, a hoe/cultivator/furrower so I went the DIY route. Four weeks later, I've got a functional hoe, albeit a little crooked about the handles, and only invested ~15-20 hours in the project and spent only $150 or so on materials. It was really fun though.

Also, I need to get into stroller manufacturing. They must have some serious margins.

Concerned Citizen said...

My philosophy with such things is to aim for the middle of the pack in terms of price. Thats how we picked our stroller and it has worked well so far.

Foldability was a big thing for us and when dealing with other peoples strollers I am often grateful for how easily ours folds up. Also, if I could do it over again (and I will soon enough) I would get a stroller with tires instead of plastic wheels simply because we use the stroller more outdoors than in museums and other places with nice smooth surfaces.

All that being said, I like your wait and see approach.

Another Anna said...

Hey, welcome to Winker, concerned citizen. What kind of stroller did you end up with? And what do you think you'll pick next time around?

And Garth, yes. Please do get into the stroller industry. And try to debut your first product line by this fall, okay?

PS: I like lime green.