Daddy Duty

Sleep, Eat, Diaper Change. Repeat.

The Babies R Us Hustle

on April 15, 2012

The other night, I made what I thought was going to be a quick trip to Babies R Us. As a result of our spending in their Rewards program, we were given a stack of $5 “R ‘Us” Coupons, basically $5 off anything that were set to expire soon.  It seemed easy enough, so I decided to go in and purchase some diapers and wipes that I was about to purchase on Amazon. As it was “free” money, I wasn’t overly concerned about the value I was getting per se.  I was just trying to burn the coupons.

Unfortunately, when I got to the register, the cashier informed me some of my credit couldn’t be used on diapers and wipes and that I’d have to find something else. So, I ended up buying an upgraded baby book that I hope JJ can treasure for the rest of his life! However, as I needed diapers, I decided to go back to look and see what was available. This is when Babies R Us started feeling like the hustle of a car dealership.

SIDENOTE: Funny enough, I’m quite comfortable buying cars, furniture, travel, real estate, and almost anything (jewelry is still tough for me, sorry Claire). It’s a hobby, if not a passion of mine understanding the product, its pricing, discounting, etc and negotiating the best deal possible. (I’m not a die-hard couponer though. It’s just not my thing). Yet, in the aisles of Toys R Us, I was perplexed, frustrated, and really wanted to throw in the towel.

The car dealership feeling started for me when I tried to generally figure out the best deals on diapers and wipes one could get from the store.  Some quick mental math walking down the aisle lets me know that Amazon was cheaper off the bat. Babygoodbuys.com taught me to “look at the cost per diaper.  $0.18 or less per diaper is a “buy” price, but paying $0.10 or less per diaper is a “must buy” diaper deal!”

There were several promotions going on that I hoped could get the price close enough to that range that it’d be worth the convenience of just buying now.  Now, I’d like to think that I should be able to ballpark what should seem like a good deal within a couple of minutes. And yet, I became overwhelmed. The problem I suspect is created by Babies R Us, the manufacturers, or both, purposely making the diaper category hard to compare.

To buy diapers, you need to:

1.  Choose a brand (Huggies, Pampers, 7th Generation, Babies R Us Brand, Seventh Generation, Muchkins, Luvs, Fisher Price). As a new parent who isn’t wearing them, I have no affinity one way or another.

As you and I personally use toilet paper daily, you very likely have a preference.  I’m a Quilted Northern kind of guy.  I don’t like Charmin no matter how cheap it is and forget about Scott or something else. However, with diapers, I’ve tested several brands with JJ so far and haven’t noticed any significant superior leakage protection, materials, absorbancy, or fit so far. If anything, I cosmetically like the print on some more than others, but my preference for price for a diaper overrules the aesthetic of it as it’s usually covered by a onesie anyway.

2. OK, so assuming you’ve arbitrarily chosen or actually have an affinity  to look at a few brands, you now need to choose a style: swaddlers sensitive, baby dry, swaddlers, little snugglers, little movers, pure and natural, snug and dry, overnites, swimming, etc.

So far, it sounds like a lot of choices, but if you generally know what you wanted, it should be easy to know what to choose and buy, right? Wrong, because now that you’ve narrowed it down to a Pampers, Size 2, Sensitive Swaddler diaper for instance, you now need to pick a package size.

3. Just like Starbucks teaching us to say Grande and Venti, Diaper manufacturers created big, jumbo, giant, XL case,  ebulk, and value cases. A simple package price/# of diapers give you the lowest cost per diaper and you should purchase that size. Note: the biggest pack isn’t always cheaper.

Again, a lot of choices, but still uncomplicated.  Where all of the math gets really screwy is their promotions. I feel like there is a team of an economist, buying psychologist, packaging guru, etc thinking of every way to screw with anyone trying to actually figure out the best deal.

Some of the promotions on hand this day:

-Buy any 2 pampers value boxes 82 count or more and get a $20 gift card

-Buy a box of pampers and a value sized box of wipes (432 ct or above) and get $8 off

-Buy $75 in Huggies and get a $20 gift card

-Buy a Babies R Us box of diapers and a box of wipes and get $10 off.

-Buy 1 get 1 on all Babyganics products (wipes).

-Buy 9 boxes of diapers, get the 10th box free.

As if this wasn’t enough promotions, there were also coupons off of certain brands for certain sizes. It’d be easier without them.

In my brief experience with the store, it seems they rarely just take $5 off the price like a grocery store a la this week is $5, but last week was $10. They do these “buy X, get y ____.” I spent what seemed like a good hour mentally calculating cost per diaper across multiple scenarios. It was a mental work out for sure and I got more frustrated as I continued through the exercise as it seemed so hard to ascertain what was truly the best deal of the bunch. It was so taxing that I’m pretty sure I’ll only buy diapers at Amazon because even after stacking promotions with coupons at Babies R Us, Amazon was still cheaper.

Again, if you needed Pampers Newborn Swaddlers now, then this would have been super easy. However, if you truly wanted the best deal, it takes a lot of work that I didn’t enjoy. I prefer Amazon’s lower daily prices, occasionally discounts, and then buying instantly. Amazon even calculates the price per diaper automatically with promotions included.

In seeing parents around me grab box after box with little to no thought as to the promotions or pricing, I’m reminded of why I’m fortunate to live a very good life. There’s certainly no shortage of people who make double what I do, but spend triple or more to live the same life I do. I save where I can to splurge where I want to.

I also wanted to mention 2 huge Babies R Us “rip-offs”: returns without receipt (baby shower) and their coupons.  We received some duplicate gifts at our baby shower from BRU and wanted to return them. Unfortuantely, sometimes we didn’t have the gift receipt and were given the lowest price in the last 6 months. If retail is $39.99 and at some point it went to $34.99 and that’s all I receive because I don’t have a receipt, then fine.  I’d obviously be happier with $39.99, but $34.99 is somewhat acceptable.  But, we were offered $1.XX. I said $1? Are you kidding?  When could you buy X for $1? If you had them for $1 now, I’d buy 10. They never know when or where, but they always say that’s what the computer says.  I can’t help but think how much profit BRU and similar stores make off of gift returns where the purchaser pays a much higher price than the recipient receives when returning the item.

The other issue is their coupons. Coupons are great.  Anytime you can save money, it’s a good thing. I feel like BRU gives me a new coupon book everytime I go there. However, their coupons are wacky.  Lots of exemptions with limited redemtions and timing mae them suck.  I’ve been rejected numerous times trying to put together their deals due to technicalities in size/color/whatever.

Amazon can take my money any day. As a future post will show, most of JJ’s stuff comes from Amazon.com. Heck, most of my family’s stuff is from Amazon.com or Costco. I love Amazon for the convenience, product reviews and ratings, low prices, tax savings, and variety shipped directly to my door in 2 days or less. I can even order with a few clicks on my phone.  However, I love Costco for the quality of products and the value in purchasing knowing that nothing is marked up by more than 15% (http://addictedtocostco.com/2009/09/15/happy-26th-birthday-costco/. Other brick and mortar stores obviously fit into my life, just not as much as these two. Time to go shopping!

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