Saturday, April 3, 2010

Seriously, Graco?

Almost a month ago Graco had a highchair recall.  This is just another in a long list of recent baby recalls, one of the more recent ones being a baby sling recall.  (I'm not even going to link to the sling recall because I feel that one is dumb.  I hate that children died while the product was being used, but I feel the real issue is parental negligence, not necessarily a bad product.  But I digress.)

Anyhow, back to the highchair recall, this one actually affected us.  The high chair we've used for all three children, the one currently covered in noodles and diced strawberries, is one of the recalled chairs.  While I was checking the serial number on the chair to see if it was part of the recall, I noticed that the screws on the front legs were half way out -- which is one of the main reasons why the recall was instated in the first place.  I tightened the screws and went on to the website to tell Graco we needed a fix kit.  Of course, on their recall notice it states that we must "DISCONTINUE USE IMMEDIATELY!" Note the bold caps.

We didn't.  We continued to use the chair -- horrible parents that we are -- as we waited for the repair kit to arrive.  Really, what did they want us to do?  Go out and buy a replacement highchair while we waited for them to send us a fix for this one?  Or better yet, strap the wiggly baby into a kitchen chair?  Come on.  We figured the safer bet would be to keep an eye on the chair to be sure the screws stayed secure and the leg braces weren't cracking.  The more difficult task was to keep the older two from hanging on it while playing peek-a-boo with the baby.

Well, the repair kit came today.  It's half what I expected.  Sure enough, there are bigger, better, tighter screws.  No surprise there.  But the "What the heck?" moment came when I unfolded the fabric legbrace.  That's right, folks, a fabric square with buckles at the corners that's intended to brace the legs. Umm.  Ok.  In the little installation manual that comes with it is this great big note:

NEVER use highchair without the legbrace installed.  Using highchair without leg brace [sic] can result in the highchair collapsing and injury to your child.

So, what you're saying here, Mr. Graco is that this little nylon scrap of a crumb collector is going to prevent injury?  Huh.  Have you ever met a 3-year-old?  No? Huh.  Let me brief you:

A 3-year-old boy -- at least the one I currently know most intimately -- will see that scrap of nylon as something to stand on and/or sit on.  He will, of course, get no support; his bodyweight will pull that little square to the floor.  But his magnetic attraction to that spot under the chair will eventually cause strain on the stupid little buckled corners.  The question is whether the seams will give way first, or will the buckles break?  I know, this product is for a baby or toddler, not a 3-yr-old to use as a jungle gym, but, Graco, you have to assume families may actually have more than one child.

(Throughout the instructions, they alternate between referring to this as a "legbrace" and a "leg brace"; I guess this was a quick fix, so I won't be too hard on that.  But still, it's an inconsistency.)

A note a few pages later states:
To clean fabric leg brace [sic], wipe clean with damp cloth.  DO NOT machine wash or dry.  DO NOT BLEACH.
And this is what made me laugh.  See, if I was a first-time mom, I probably would have read that, nodded, and thought, "oh, ok."

But I'm not a first time mom!

So I read that and thought, "You're kidding, right?"  Anything that sits under a highchair for any length of time will at some point become so disgusting that it will rival the nastiest of diapers.  We're not there yet with this one, but I know the time is coming.  And just because it's directly under the seat of the chair doesn't mean it will be sheltered from the mashed peas, yogurt, tomato sauce, squash, spilled milk, squashed oxidizing bananas applesauce, mushed cheese -- you name it-- that fall from above. Rather, when the child sits on it and it squeezes, somehow, through the holes in the seat it will fall directly on the pretty little legbrace.  Sure, most can be cleaned off well enough with a damp cloth if attended to immediately.  But clean-up is often NOT the chore that gets attended to "immediately" when a baby is around.  Rather, clean-up happens once the kid is finally napping, after he's had a diaper change, a bath, is dressed in his pj's and nursed to sleep.

I'm irritated. I'm irked.  I'm pissed off that yet another stupid little chore has been added to my to-do list, all in the name of "safety."  Still, I guess I'll install the damned legbrace/leg brace.  At least until I have more than speculation to refer to when writing my pissed-off letter to Graco.

Now to clean up those noodles and diced strawberries and to install the crumbcatcher.

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