buybuybaby is awfulThe first time I walked into a Buy Buy Baby pregnant I had a panic attack. If I had been smart, I would have turned around and gone somewhere else to stock up on my baby supplies. Instead I registered there for my baby shower. I wish I hadn’t.

At face value, Buy Buy Baby seems like the perfect place to register for baby items. They have walls stacked to the ceiling with baby products and seem to carry every thing a baby could ever need. Before I got pregnant, I loved going in there to get cute little outfits for friends and relatives’ babies.

But shopping as a parent there has been nightmare fuel. They look at pregnant ladies like wounded prey waiting to be devoured. After I caught my breath that first time in, I walked about five feet before being attacked by an employee who started spewing facts about useless products to me. Each department is guarded by some “expert” who would just love to tell you useless information about every product in their department that you need.

It’s like a video game where you have to defeat a new boss at every level to get through the store. Especially when you’re carrying one of those zappers that connects products to your registry. Within five minutes of talking to me, the BBB bottle expert had removed my zapper from my hand and started zapping products I needed instead of explaining them to me.

I got home with about 40 products on my registry that I knew I’d never use. It was easy to delete them and start fresh, but that was the least of my issues.

Buy Buy Baby is at best a time suck. More often, it is a customer service nightmare and money pit. I had my baby shower in May of last year and it took me until this month to spend the store credit that I accumulated from returned/exchanged gifts. That was 10 months to spend about $300.

Why did it take so long? I’ve spent well more than that on my baby since then. Diapers, toys, clothes, and bath supplies are all items I’ve purchased that Buy Buy Baby sells. But exchanging products has been such a nightmare that I have just done my baby shopping online and avoided the store entirely.

I live in New York City and do not have a car. To use my store credit, I have to show up in person and wander through their maze of products. I made it there zero times on my maternity leave and about three times since.

Rather than a mistake, this seems to be part of the company’s business model. They seem to assume that new moms are going to be too busy to actually exchange/return the items they purchase/get at showers. How do they do this?

1. They don’t issue store credit on a giftcard*

Store credit is returned to you on a flimsy paper receipt. If you return different items, they will not combine this credit to convenience you. Instead, you have to keep track of multiple, messy receipts. I know I lost a few of those. And that’s money that BBB pockets.

2. You cannot use store credit online.**

Buy Buy Baby thinks we live in a pre-internet era where people only drive to stores to purchase items they need.

3. You cannot use store credit over the phone.

Oh, you know what product you need and want to order over the phone? Why would Buy Buy Baby train employees to pick up the phone and enter an order into a computer. That would be CRAZY.

4. You cannot have a rational conversation with most Buy Buy Baby employees.

The company trains people to be friendly, but generally useless. I once went into Buy Buy Baby knowing what product I needed to order and spent TWO HOURS waiting for an employee to search for it in their warehouse. Only to find out he was looking for the wrong thing the whole time.

*As of last month, they will issue you a giftcard. But it is not valid to use online.

**No, BBB employees do not like being reminded how stupid this policy is.

I finally used the last of my store credit on a Buy Buy Baby/Bed Bath & Beyond jumperoo for my son. My sister ordered the wrong item, so I thought a simple phone call would let me exchange it for the right order. Ha. Instead of helping me correct my order, they did all these awesome things:

1. They refused to perform an exchange for me.

“It has not shipped from the warehouse yet. But we can’t do an exchange.”

2. They tried to get me to spend more money with them.

“We can’t use your store credit to exchange the item, but you can buy a new one with your credit card. Then we’ll mail you back your store credit.”

3. They paused my transaction without letting my know.

For some reason, my customer service agent Patrick decided he wanted to put a hold on my order. But told me it would arrive in two weeks. So I waited at home for it to arrive like a chump. Only after 10 business days passed without an arrival did I call to find out that they had “paused” my order because I was “unhappy” with the original item. Helpful!

4. They kept me on the phone for HOURS

Not since my mom’s college separation anxiety has someone tried so badly to keep me on the phone with them. I spent over five hours on hold or annoyance with these people one weekend.

Throughout MONTHS of dealing with incompetence, irritation and mishaps, and speaking with multiple managers both in store and on the phone, Buy Buy Baby never ONCE tried to compensate me for my various troubles. Last week, Zappos sent an order of mine to the wrong address and gave me a $20 credit when they figured it out. Why? Because they care about customer service.

After the last interaction I had at Buy Buy Baby, I was told that they would give me a 20% discount on my next purchase. No thanks!

Most companies have learned that treating customers well helps you keep and grow your customer base. But Buy Buy Baby seems to depend on the fact that most new moms are too overwhelmed to price shop and exchange items. Chances are, they’ll register at Buy Buy Baby, all their friends/family will buy them stuff and then they’ll forget to come back.

Their business model is built on a war of attrition with new moms. They clearly don’t think moms are going to pay attention to their store credits, because they make it nearly impossible to use them.

Companies like Diapers.com and Amazon are eating their lunch. Almost every item on sale at Buy Buy Baby can be found cheaper elsewhere. It’s only a matter of time before Buy Buy Baby is killed by the internet. I will be happy to see it go.

In the meantime, if you’re considering registering there or know someone who is, tell them instead to shop with a company who they’ll actually want to shop with after the baby arrives.

(Image: Buy Buy baby)