Friday, 26 July 2013

Baby Madness

Well I wouldn't be doing my patriotic duty if I didn't write something about the arrival of young Prince George. So natually I tried to think what the grumpiest slant was. Should I point out how utterly ridiculous the streaming news saga was that showed us "live pictures" of a door in a wall for about 2 days? Or that "news" had been reduced to asking someone with no possibility of the actual relevant knowledge whether the baby would be a boy or a girl or what said baby's name might be and seemingly placing some weight on said conjured guess? Or that mid-afternoon the day following the royal birth, BBC News were still running the "Breaking News" caption followed by the baby's weight? A nice bit of information, but 24 hours on, rather struggling to still be 'breaking' by definition.

No, I decided panning the hysteria was a little pointless. I'm very happy for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and as a fairly new father myself, I wish them luck. I am rather an ardent monarchist, but thought we might have gone slightly OTT on the coverage. Plus, as you see from the pic above, Private Eye got to the punchline first. It was a shame some rather important other news stories barely made a dent (the charging of a man with the murder of PC Blakelock during the Broadwater riots was deemed far less important than an interview with the cab driver who drove Michael and Carole Middleton to the hospital from Paddington). Indeed I look forward to finding out in a few months time which God-awful news piece the Government's head of communications smuggled out just as they saw the door to the Lindo wing opening. Surely the Coalition must have some A4E stats that needed burying?

I decided instead I should briefly talk about the great baby rip-off. There is nothing special about baby clothes. They are very cute and all that - I'm quite partial to one my boy has which is festooned with little helicopter motifs. But they don't require any technique more complicated than those employed to make children's or adults' clothes; yet they cost the earth. As does anything with the word 'baby' in front of it. Now I think Will and Kate will probably be ok - there should be some hand-me-downs around and they seem to rub along ok without getting to the end of the money before the end of the month. Not having a nanny will save some money too.

However, for the rest of us, it is ridiculous. Now I should confess here to being in the privileged position of having barely had to purchase a thing for my son (thus far). My wife and I both have older sisters with young children and we have been inundated with their bits and bobs that in the majority still look brand new. At times our dining room (read: store-room) looks like a pop-up showroom for prams and buggies. We seem to have about 40 (this may be a slight exaggeration) different "travel systems", each with its own useful USP, and none with all of them. But not everyone is this lucky.

If you have to go out and buy a brand new "travel system", and it is important you know they are called that, make sure you call your bank manager first. Clearly some bright spark realised nobody was going to pay north of a grand for "a buggy" or "a pram", but a "travel system", well that sounds like it could take you to the moon. And it should for that money. They're just a baby-sized bucket, some wheels and a frame. How on earth can they cost so much? Perhaps it is because the producers know most sane people will try to find a second hand one that due to the rate babies grow out of their stuff, will likely still be in pretty good nick. So they have to get their pound of flesh from the initial purchaser.

Either way, NCT sales and generous hand-me-downs and share-arounds aside, the prices for most of this mini fare is astounding. Same products but aimed for the baby market which just multiply in price. Small water bottle? £5. Oh, it's for a baby - you should have said. Now it's a small baby bottle, and it's £10. Random piece of patterned cotton towelling? £1. Oh you want to use it to mop up sick. Welll in that case it is now a patterned baby muslin - just £5 a pop. It's airplane prawn sandwich mentality. You have a captive audience so charge them what you want. And we seem to just suck it up.

Weddings are no different. I remember a friend of mine did some research when he got married. He called various companies asking for products/services/hires and then got his fiancé to call and ask for the same items but with the word "wedding" inserted. Everyone increased their prices. A ballroom at a hotel hired for a party? 20% less than the same room when hired for a wedding reception. A DJ to play at the venue for the party? 30% less than he quoted to cover the identical wedding. Worst of all the baker who tripled their charges when the 3 storey cake became a 3 storey wedding cake. Overpricing in this country and our seeming passive acceptance. It's enough to leave you, like the cake, in tiers.

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