January 22, 2009

Why Does Consumer Reports Want To Kill The Used Bugaboo Market??

The March issue of ShopSmart, the no-ads shopping guide published by the Consumer Reports folks, includes some tips for figuring out which used baby gear is still considered safe to use. [Get the pdf of the article here.] Though the press release was clearly not intended for me, I looked anyway:

Mothers-to-be are often flooded with hand-me-down baby gear coming from mothers, in-laws, neighbors and friends. These items can save you tons of money, but are they safe?
And what are the moms being told? Oh, just that strollers made before 2007 are rolling death traps, I guess. Strollers like our Maclaren and our Bugaboo, which I fully intend to put on craigslist when we're through with it.


  • Safe: Strollers made after 2007 when new safety standard were published are safe.

  • Unsafe: Any stroller made prior to that date, or has missing, loose, or broken pieces is not.
  • You know, I like to think I was following the developments of the stroller market in 2007. And yet I can't recall the dramatic improvement in safety standards that warrants banishing every rig more than two years old to the landfill. What's Consumer Reports talking about?

    The voluntary stroller safety standard, called F833, is maintained by ASTM International, originally the American Society for Testing and Materials. F833 is constantly being revised and revisited, and each version has a date suffix. F833-05 was replaced byF833-05a, which was replaced in 2007 by F833-07, and then F833-07a, which is the current, applicable standard. [At least I think it is. F833-08, which was finalized last September, was just released on January 12, 2009.]

    Consumer Reports is closely involved in the ASTM industry working groups that monitor and revise the standards, so I guess they have an obligation to promote the committee's latest and greatest thinking. But it also seems a bit ridiculous to encourage parents to use used baby gear on the one hand, while insisting that they only buy stuff that's approved by the Testing Standard of The Month Club.

    Are strollers that only meet F833-05 or 05a unsafe? Should everyone keep his gear up to date? Is my 2006 Bugaboo Cameleon going to be blacklisted and lose its resale value now? Without looking at the details of the changes between F833-05a and F833-07a, it's impossible for a stroller shopper to know. And frankly, that seems like a lot of work, especially when ASTM doesn't make their standards publicly available; you have to buy them, and a redline copy that highlights changes will cost you extra. [$43 vs $51].

    Fortunately for the stroller safety standards nitpicker STR, a Hong Kong-based testing facility published a summary of the changes in F833-07a. [here's the pdf.] Most changes have to do with the methodology of pre-existing safety tests: if a stroller has accessories for carrying bags, the stroller must now be tested fully loaded, too; if a stroller has a tray or grab bar, the opening underneath has to be big enough for the kid's head to pass through, not just his torso; tests for stroller tipping and "kid climbing in" scenarios must be longer and must consider wheel positions tht are "most likely [to] cause failure"; and strollers meant for kids over 40 lbs need an additional, higher shoulder harness position. That's about it.

    If we didn't hear about sweeping design changes in the stroller industry following the rollout of F833-07a, maybe it's because most all the strollers on the market were already capable of meeting the new standard as-is. [Except, of course, for the Quinny Zapp, which had to add another wheel up front because the EU-spec 3-wheeled model would tip over in a spring breeze.]

    Maybe Consumer Reports could publish a list of strollers that had to be redesigned or discontinued when the standard changed. Then we can all shop smart and cheap.

    One more time? How to avoid dangerous secondhand baby products [shopsmartmag.org, pdf via publicists]
    Toys & Premiums News | Updates on ASTM F833 for Carriages and Strollers [strhk.com, pdf]


    I'm guessing anyone who is smart enough to check out craigslist for used bugs & macs is smart enough to know that CR is waaayyyyy off on this recommendation...

    Consumer Reports always seems to do everything they can to knock high-end products they think aren't crunchy enough. Mercedes, Dyson...Bugaboo?

    If they can't afford it, then no one should have one.

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