Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Knockoff cloth diapers: be aware before you buy



FuzziBunz diapers has recently touted a new phrase: "You get what you pay for and more."  This message is clear; a better product may cost a little more but it's worth it in the long run.  But with cheaper options popping up left and right, what consumer wouldn't be tempted by a similar product for a fourth of the price?  Cheaply made diapers are beginning to infiltrate the modern cloth diaper market.  However, buyers need to beware and be aware of potential dangers from these knockoff diapers. Diaper manufacturers may be using a variety of short cuts that could be illegal or dangerous.

1. Constructing diapers under safe working conditions

A legitimate company manufacturing diapers abroad has visited the manufacturing location, and is comfortable with the working conditions.  Workers manufacturing cheap knockoff diapers may be forced to work long hours under less-than-safe conditions.  How old are the workers?  How many days a week do they work?  How many are injured on the job?  These human rights issues are concerning, and the answers to critical questions like these are unanswerable in many of these manufacturing plants.

2. Testing the diapers for safety

Products that are manufactured and distributed need to be tested for safety.  We're all familiar with the hazards of lead-laced items being imported from China, but what about products with high levels of volatile organic compounds?  Cheaply made diapers may be "off-gassing" toxic fumes for years and the customer is completely unaware.  If your diapers have a strange odor they may not be safe for your baby.  Running safety tests on diapers costs thousands of dollars, and many of these cheaply made diapers are never tested or are tested intermittently without reasonable quality control.

3. Importing the diapers

Knockoffs are often being illegally imported in small batches under the cheaper listing of "paper goods" rather than having to go through the correct customs inspections.  This slip allows the sellers to pay a reduced fee for importation.  If the sellers are caught, it is less expensive to abandon the entire shipment then to pay the appropriate fees.

4. Distributing the diapers

Have you ever wondered why cheap diapers aren't typically available from retail stores, and are only available direct from the manufacturers?  Having the customer order directly from the company gives the retailer more control over the purchase should it be seized in customs.  Sometimes the websites of these companies are barely readable for an English speaker, and customer service often faces a similar language barrier. Cheaply made diapers may also be sold on Ebay, completely bypassing any type of regulation.

5. Patent infringement or counterfeiting

Look-alikes of major manufacturers may be sold on Ebay- a complete counterfeit of the original item without testing or proper inspections.  A counterfeit item could be sold for a high price (like the original legitimate diaper), but it is indeed a fake.  Sellers may also be creating products which they have no legal right to sell.  Patents on certain features of the diapers are completely ignored, and sellers dissolve into the hidden places of the internet when they are accused of infringing.

It is clear that the cloth diaper industry is facing a crisis- legitimate retailers are being forced to compete with cheaply made look-alikes.  The consumer is really the looser in these cases, because although they believe they are making a "green" decision for their family, they may be exposing their children to hazardous chemicals in an attempt to save a few dollars.  Cheaply made diapers may also under-perform, and turn a family that is new to cloth diapering completely away from cloth diapers.  The problem isn't limited to diapers, another blogger recently wrote about her experience with a fake ERGO baby carrier she purchased off Ebay.

To avoid being conned by these cheap look-a-likes I recommend:

1. Buying diapers from US based-companies if possible

2. Buy diapers from reputable retailers

3. If a price seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.

4. Avoid buying diapers on Ebay

5. Do your homework.  Check out the company's website- can you read it, or is there a translation issue?  What do other people say about the company?
Kanga Kare (the makers of Rumparooz) has a passion for providing safe and comfortable working conditions to overseas manufacturing employees. Employees enjoy catered lunch breaks, and on-site daycare.


Additional resources:

A cautious tale of Cloth Diaper Bargains

Why shouldn't I buy cheap cloth diapers?

Are Cloth Diapers from China Bad?

2 comments:

  1. Interesting post! As with anything else, apparently there are counterfeit designer diapers too!! I will definitely take these tips in to account. I haven't purchased any diapers on Ebay but have purchased some brands I haven't heard of before on Zulily becuase I thought they were really cute. Hope I didn't make a mistake in those purchases!

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  2. EEEEK! Wow. Thanks for posting this. I have already been victim of a fake Ergo. I learned the hard way that a deal wasn't a deal.

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