Secondhand shopping for baby

Adriene Hill: Preparing for a baby is one of those rare times in life when a shopping spree or two actually makes sense. Babies require a lot of gear.

Missy Gibson: Clothing, toys, books...

Kristin Nelson: Strollers, pack-and-plays, high chairs...

Nursing bras, diaper bags, breast pumps...

Danny: Containers, bottles...

Nelson: Swings and exersaucers...

OK, so it's not the most glamorous shopping spree. But it's a costly one. And buying secondhand can be pretty appealing; prices can be 50 to 75 percent less than buying new.

I recently headed to a resale store in Los Angeles called Grow Kid Grow -- to find out when it makes sense to buy used, and when it might not. Right out front, an orange Bugaboo Stroller.

Gibson: This is a Bugaboo, very popular stroller, a great stroller.

A $700 stroller, if you're buying new.

Gibson: We actually just marked it down to $200; it was $250. Our whole MO is that everyone can afford great stuff.

Missy Gibson is one of the store's co-owners. It's a small space, packed with used toys -- some for playing, some for buying -- and racks and racks of cute pre-worn clothes for boys and girls.

Gibson: Our average price on clothing is like five bucks.

Not bad for some of the designer labels on the racks. But, Missy says, there's some stuff they're not going to sell you.

Gibson: There's a lot of things we don't take here. I know some other stores do,; we've chosen not to take certain liabilities. We don't take car seats, we don't take cribs. We don't take anything swimming-related or biking-related.

They sell old books, but have a warning label on the book shelf: "Books published before 1985 should not be purchased for children under the age of 12."

Gibson: We have to be careful, because they say there could be traces of lead in inks used prior to that time because of the printing presses. It's up in the air a whether that's true or not, but just to be on the safe side, we do post that, just so people are aware that they don't want their child ingesting vintage books. Probably not a good idea to ingest any books, but particularly vintage books.

Note to self. Do not eat books. Do not let baby eat books. Missy sells the things she'd be comfortable buying used.

Gibson: I got my breast pump new. I know people that have gotten them used. I personally made the decision to get a new one.

The FDA is with Missy on this one, you don't want to buy a used breast pump. But, a lot of the decisions to buy secondhand are subjective, what are you OK with? How stylish do you want your babe to be?

Kristin Nelson runs LA Kids Consignment. She does seven sales a year, where hundreds of people sell tens of thousands of pieces of secondhand baby gear, kids clothes and maternity outfits.

Nelson: I'll take it 'cause I don't want to offend you and it's a matter of taste and somebody may buy that. But I'll refuse it if it's a safety issue, not if it's just ugly. 'Cause what's ugly to me, may not be ugly to you.

But others issues with used items are pretty cut and dry. Don't buy baby sweatshirts with drawstrings. Don't hand your infant a toy with little tiny parts, just because you played with it as a kid. And, don't buy products that have been recalled. Which sounds easier than it is.

Nelson: Ah, I have four ginormous binders, with recalls over the past... I've been doing this for eight years, so I have eight years worth of recalls.

She and her volunteers sweep all of the consigned merchandise before the sale. But still...

Nelson: I'll see people at my sales with their smartphones open, looking on the websites to check prices and to check for recalls.

Searching for recalls online isn't hard. The government's Consumer Product Safety Commission has a website, cpsc.gov. But, remembering to do it -- especially when confronted with a bargain -- can be tough.

In the middle of writing this story, I bought a folding high-chair at a yard sale and completely spaced on looking it up. It had been recalled. It serves me right.

Nicki Fleming is with CPSC. She says it's technically illegal for anyone to sell a recalled product, but it's not uncommon. A quick search on Craigslist in Los Angeles finds about four dozen Bumbo baby seats for sale, even though they were recalled earlier this month.

Nicki Fleming: The commission, unfortunately, is not able to go inside of each consumer's homes, but we want to reach out to consumers and let them let them know, obviously, they don't want to pass on a deadly, or perhaps dangerous, hazard to another consumer. So please take the time to go to cpsc.gov, check to see if the product you are trying to sell has been recalled.

And, if you can only buy one thing new, she says:

Fleming: We would definitely encourage you to choose the crib as your one item. With nursery products, cribs are the leading cause of death, so if you are going to choose the one brand new product, that's the one we'd ask you to pool your resources together and purchase a new crib.

As far as the safety of other products, she says you've got to check them item by item, model by model. Luckily, there's a whole lot of really cute stuff out there that's safe to buy secondhand.

Nelson: Here's a Woody costume from "Toy Story."

Hill: Which is adorable.

Nelson: It's got the boots, vest, shirt, pants. I'm selling it for $6.50. In the Disney Store, this would cost you between $35 and $50.

Guess I should've brought my checkbook!

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...