Physiological Assembly Required

I would consider myself to be a smart person. I went to a good college and then got a masters degree. I am a published author. I have a blog.

But fuck if I cannot understand how to put baby stuff together. We are now 10 days from Prof. Dino’s Due Date and I have been getting stuff ready. The City Mini stroller was a breeze. Few moving parts and little assembly; three wheels and a canopy.

I have shit on Graco for their terrible website—but actually putting together their actual products broke me like a squad of CIA agents[1]. We got a hand-me-down Chicco car seat from some friends. The padding was a little beat up so we ordered a replacement from their website. The padding and belts were pretty beat up, so I dug around online to see if they could be replaced. It turns out that if you call Chicco’s [2] customer support line, they will sell you replacements for $60. This process was surprisingly simple. A quick phone call and 4 days later we had a brand-new car seat. Adding new padding and belts was difficult but doable. Anyone who pulled the pads off a car seat to clean it knows how hard this can be.

So I am two for two. All in the clear. Everything is going fine. We have a stroller for ambling. We have a car seat for interstate rum-running. All I have to do now is put together the bassinet/ pack and play thing.

Deep Breath

The Graco instructions for assembling the bassinet were more convoluted than their website. More.

The instructions for our particular flavor of play yard has 76 different steps. We started with step one only to find out YOU ONLY NEED TO DO THOSE STEPS IF IT IS GOING TO BE A PLAY PEN!! I literally [3] spent 20 minutes trying to secure the floor of the play pen in place only the find out those steps were not needed if it was going to be used as a bassinet.

So there I was, a pile of skin and bones on the floor of my torture cell. The play pen my torturer; the instructions KC and the Sunshine Band’s greatest hits played repeatedly for hours on end. I am a broken man with no will to live. I will start naming names. I will do anything to make the pain stop.

I see lots of people buying and using Graco’s products, which isn’t surprising really, because they are everywhere. Target, Wal-Mart, Babies-R-Us, and Amazon. They are inexpensive. They are a commodity. They have no value, they do not need to last for generations, they can be be interchanged endlessly. They are one and done. These products get recalled and reworked so often that there is little reason for Rubbermaid to invest in well thought out instructions or packaging. If a IU/UX professional spent just a few minutes applying some basic principles of user-centered design to the play yard, I might not have sold my dog out to the Khmer Rouge.


  1. I think about torture a lot. BUY MY BOOK.  ↩

  2. Take away: You can salvage a pretty cosmetically rough Chicco car seat. I would only do this if you know this history of the car seat, make sure it hasn’t expired, blah blah blah.  ↩

  3. Literally.  ↩