Would You Rather Shop for a Bassinet or a Dell

Baby stuff is way more complicated than it should be. It took us a while to figure out strollers, but once we got some hands on time at a local store, the right choice was pretty clear. Same with a crib. Eagle-eyed Sarah grabbed a Pottery Barn multi-stage crib on clearance. The other, small stuff was easy too. Our goal was to find stuff that would last through multiple stages of development and/or were multi-taskers.

Unfortunately, the crib will not work as a bassinet or fit in our Chicago apartment-sized bedroom. Luckily, Graco makes play-pen bassinet combos. Their pack-and-play playpen/bassinet fit all of our criteria. It wasn’t something that we would only use for a few months, it was well made, it would fit in our apartment, and it wouldn’t break budget. We found a model at Babies-R-Us a few weeks ago, but we wanted to find some more options online. Sarah started looking around Amazon and the number of options exploded. What is the difference between a Newborn Napper, bassinet, and Cuddle Cove? Or the Newborn Napper Elite? Those were the options on the first page of Amazon search results.

Have you ever been on Graco’s website? There are 105 different playpen SKUs with dozens of vague “features.” The website was hindered with slow loading flash elements. It was just as complicated as buying a Dell laptop. Dell offers multiple laptop lines (Inspiron R, Inspiron, XPS, Alienware, Vostro, Latitude, Precision) across at least four different (Home, Small Office, Medium Business, Enterprise as well as models for education, and government). Within each category, laptops come in multiple sizes with multiple CPU, Memory, and hard drive options. Once you get through all of that you encounter pages of up-sell. [1]

Graco didn’t make it easy. Details about specific features were located in videos not linked to or from product pages.

This is what Freud would called “Narcissism of small differences.” For Freud, this was a way that individuals describe a negative difference between themselves and others. In other words, we use small, often superficial differences as a way to describe one’s own uniqueness while masking the things that make us all the same.

Dell and other computer manufactures continue to offer dozens of variations of their computers because so much of what made that industry to was nearly endless customizability of PCs. Dell made billions of dollars telling non-hobbyists that a custom computer will set them apart from everyone else. They all came in a nearly identical box and all ran Windows—but they were called “custom.”

Graco sells new parents on their pack-and-plays because they are able to tweak a dozen different options to give their new baby a perfect sleep experience. I don’t know know a lot about infants, but I assume that they could not give a damn about whether their bassinet has a full or half canopy or if it is Winnie the Pooh or a variety of blues. This isn’t about the kid, it’s about pandering to what the parents think they need to want.


  1. MS Office Pro or Standard? Do you need a printer? How about an extra monitor? You are going to need a laptop bag? We have those! Don’t forget the extended warranty.  ↩