Last week I wrote about being overwhelmed with too many choices while shopping for baby paraphernalia at a specialty store in Glendale. Who knew there had been so many leaps and bounds in toddler technology since my own kids were certified curtain climbers some 25 years ago – give or take a gray hair or two?
For example, when our daughter (for who’s baby shower my wife and I were gift shopping) was herself a mini-person way back in the early 80s, we were thrilled with the brand spanking new technology available in strollers – an ingenious design breakthrough popularly called the “umbrella stroller.” It was so-called because these instantly popular umbrellas with a curved handle could be folded up into a skinny bundle that easily fit into almost any car trunk. When collapsed for storage, they looked very much like an umbrella.
These innovations in stroller technology held a squirming baby securely, were blessedly lightweight (compared to all the other Sherman tank-like strollers available at the time) and they featured something even macho dads loved – dual wheels on all four corners of the vehicle. Oh yeah, suddenly you could look semi-cool pushing a stroller.
And so it began. New parents or those shopping to buy baby stuff for new parents had a choice in strollers – traditional clunky kludge, or sleek and modern umbrella stroller. Flash forward to today and the choice in strollers can make anyone prone to indecision sit in a corner and blubber. Today’s strollers aren’t just strollers. No way, now they’re “systems” that can include (but are not limited to) features like removable seating pods that convert from stroller to car seat with the flip of just 97 levers and catches. When fully ensconced inside these wheeled wonders of engineering and ingenuity, a child can be protected from the elements from above, front, back and both sides. Standard features include cup holders – a fact that gets under my skin since most of the strollers I saw had more flippin’ cup holders than my car.
Where was I? Oh, right. Features. The seating/pod/whatever can be turned to face either forward or backward, there are protective front bumpers available, as well as places for mommy to place her wireless phone and/or MP3 player. (Not that any self-respecting parent would ever do anything to distract him or herself from the responsibility of taking care of a young child. Never.) I saw strollers with all-wheel suspension and something called a “centralized brake cable” on the rear wheels. There were even units with (I’m not kidding) integrated side impact protection. Again, not that I’m envious or anything, but none of my own cars have that integrated side impact protection, for crying out loud! I wonder how long until voice-activated GPS systems are included in the contraptions?
Of course, I’ve only begun to describe the basic strollers available today. Once you determine the “need” for a specialized jogging or all-terrain stroller, you’ve opened up a whole new world of specifications and features. And cost.
Get the idea? Now apply this same depth and breadth of available models and features to other categories like diaper bags (dad-specific, haute-couture, multi-function, camouflage, skull & crossbones, pro sports or college team-themed, backpack style vs. over-the-shoulder, etc.), baby room furniture, bathing accessories, child proofing/safety items, cleaning products, baby monitors, potty training, crib toys, bouncers, rattles and teethers, bedding, and on and on and on.
How crazy has it gotten? I’ll sum up by simply telling you that it’s possible today to buy designer-made holsters for pacifiers. And leashes for pacifiers. And pacifiers with nipples sized by the silly millimeter to more closely match mommy’s own. Seriously. Even practical products like baby wipes have not escaped the marketing magic of today’s multi-billion dollar baby industry. While shopping, I saw an entire shelf dedicated to – hold on to your debit cards – baby wipe warming units. I wanted to cry.
I’ll see you ‘round town.
Jim Chase is an award-winning advertising copywriter and lifetime CV resident. Find him online at www.wordchaser.com.