Alright, here's the short version of this post:
Farzad Rastegar's basically got two front operations in random condos in Norwalk, Connecticut to unload recalled Maclaren USA strollers online.
Some of those strollers come from Maclaren USA, the subsidiary Rastegar put into bankruptcy in order to get out from under the potential liability of the million or so strollers the company sold through late 2009. The subsidiary which, according to the Ch. 7 liquidation filings, has been systematically starved to death since 2010, when it was stealth-replaced by the current subsidiary, Maclaren NA.
So it might be sketchy. And in fact, I've heard from a couple of people in Connecticut that the operation, which sells on eBay as Baby Products Store, and which used to have a website called babye-store.com, is known around the office as "Shady Baby." Which I totally love.
But whatever shadiness aside, it's a great way to get a real Maclaren, new in box, for like 30% off. With free shipping.
Which is exactly what I did a couple of weeks ago.
And this is where the longer version begins.
After the Maclaren bankruptcy story broke, someone who didn't need me to tell them the answer contacted me to ask why a random guy in a condo in Norwalk was selling thousands of Maclarens on eBay?
Indeed. The Baby Products Store on eBay has over 15,000 feedbacks stretching abck to 2007. They have a couple hundred pieces of a couple dozen items online at any given time, all Maclaren, and mostly strollers. The last month or so, the models have ranged from 2009 to 2011, all Buy It Now sales with prices around 30% off MSRP.
I've found chatter on messageboards around the web that Baby Products Store is rumored to be the Maclaren outlet". There are also reports of strollers being sold without warranties, and/or with the serial numbers removed.
Before I bought a 2009 Quest, I emailed BPS, and was told they do, in fact, have serial numbers on. The stroller I bought is advertised as "Brand New in Original Box/
Hinge Covers are installed (SAFE TO USE)."
And that's what arrived, with free shipping. It all checks out. The stroller is, in fact, from Maclaren USA. When I peeled my shipping label off, I found an earlier label, which dates the stroller to Dec. 2009, and which showed it had been sent to Bed Bath & Beyond.
Which would make this a post-recall, pre-rotating hinge design. Which makes sense. Because why would BBB--which owns Buy Buy Baby--want to sell recalled merchandise, even with the kit? I wonder how much inventory Maclaren USA had to take back after the recall? That had to suck.
I guess I could figure it out, though, just by tallying up what BPS has sold since 2009.
After I got the stroller, I looked up the shipping address, and it matched the domain registration for babye-store.com: a condo complex on the awesomely named Wolfpit Avenue in Norwalk. Which seems like a pretty unlikely place from which to be shipping 200 strollers/week. I might even guess that for logistical reasons alone, the BPS merchandise gets shipped out of Maclaren's warehouse, only with a different originating address. Shady Baby.
Babye-store.com is registered to a Colorado web developer named Peter Freedman, whose portfolio is basically wall-to-wall Rastegar: Maclaren, Laser Performance, and Ronson. He was Dory Ventures' webmaster. Who set up BPS/babye-store.com when he was still at Dory. Which, sure, fine. Who better than your web guy to set up your unbranded online outlet store, right?
But wait, there is another.
It's changed now, but another web retailer called ridemystroller.com, run out of a different Norwalk condo, appeared to have cut&pasted their "About" page from babye-store.com. Previous incarnations of Ridemystroller.com looked at first glance like a straight up, multibrand stroller store, but now it's all/only 2011 Maclaren. When I emailed to ask if they used to be babye-store.com, they said they had, but they had some problems "with the domain name." The guy who responded is listed on LinkedIn as a Maclaren employee who works in the warehouse.
Again, it's totally fine that Maclaren, a private company owned by Farzad Rastegar, decides to dispose of its overstock and outdated products in a way that doesn't taint their premium brand or their established retailers. It makes sense. But it does make you wonder why insiders call the operation Shady Baby.
And the thing I'd wonder is how Shady Baby related to Maclaren USA over the last 18 months or so since the recall. In the last 12 months, babyproductstore has had nearly 2700 sales on eBay which generated several hundred thousand dollars, at least. During that same period, Maclaren USA [or, technically, American Baby Products, Inc.] sold barely $34,000 worth of goods. What percentage of that merchandise came from Maclaren USA, and what came from Maclaren NA? Did inventory, sales, and money that might have gone to Maclaren USA and its creditors get siphoned off to Rastegar's undercover inventory liquidation system?
Thoughts? Tips? Suggestions? Success stories? Wanna buy a new-in-box 2009 Quest, complete with hinge covers?