Monday, October 26, 2009

Beating Up Baby Einstein

If you've purchased a Baby Einstein DVD lately, you may be eligible to get your money back. In a move that just proves that some people have way too much time on their hands, Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood says, “We see it as an acknowledgment by the leading baby video company that baby videos are not educational, and we hope other baby media companies will follow suit by offering refunds.”

Are you kidding me?

First of all, if you're running to the video store looking for something to turn your child into a genius, then you deserve to lose your money. That being said, can we PLEASE give parents a little credit that they buy the Baby Einstein products because frankly, kids LIKE them. And if it gives us 30 minutes to sit back and eat Bon Bons, so be it (because that's what we all do with a spare half hour, right?).

I find it personally insulting that there are companies out there trying to protect me and my family from these non-educational videos. Let me give you some facts about the DVDs in this house

• It doesn't matter that the kids are 5, 4 and 2.5, when one of them doesn't feel well, Baby Einstein is on -- ALL DAY. They love to lie on the couch and talk about the videos, sing classical music and giggle at their peers and puppets.

• When Brady was 3-years-old, we were in a public restroom. As he washed his hands, he was drawn to the classical music playing from the speakers above. "Ooooh, a saxophone," he exclaimed. He was right -- it WAS a saxophone. He can listen to music and know when the piano kicks in or a guitar solo. He loves music and I think some of that stemmed from our time with Baby Einstein.

• The videos don't annoy the hell out of me. I know, it's supposed to be all about the kids. But, let's be honest, it isn't always. Sometimes it's about me not going nuts listening to Dora yell incessantly or throw a shoe at that obnoxious Phineas and Ferb. Give me Baby Einstein, Yo Gabba Gabba or even our old friend Teletubbies, and I can go on my merry way.

A while back, I had the opportunity to go to a Baby Einstein event. It was a day with no kids or work where they opened their offices to talk to (and most importantly, LISTEN to) a bunch of bloggers. For me, it was extra cool because Baby Einstein had been such a key part of my life as a new mom and, after three kids in five years, it's nice to go back to the days of sitting on the floor stacking blocks and watching Baby Einstein -- if only in my head for a few minutes. The general manager of the company, Susan McLain, was a cool working mom who I felt a connection to, she shared the same strong feelings of doing something with her professional life that not only helped her own family, but helped to support other moms and kids -- something I have always tried to incorporate into my life through my writing and consulting. Not one to curl up in a ball when attacked unfairly, this is what Susan sent out to the press and concerned parents today...

Dear Parents:

For the past several years, Baby Einstein has been under attack by propaganda groups taking extreme positions that try to dictate what parents should do, say and buy. Our philosophy has always been to focus on creating products that parents and babies love, and to not getsidetracked and pulled down into their street fight.

Unfortunately, with Susan Linn’s latest stunt, we cannot be silent any longer. Linn’s obvious dislike for Baby Einstein has now turned into a sensational, headline-grabbing publicity campaign that seeks to twist and spina simple, customer satisfaction action into a false admission of guilt. This is clearly not the case.

Linn’s moves are carefully crafted to prey on parental guilt and uncertainty. This time, she began by asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to go after Baby Einstein because, she said, we claimed that Baby Einstein was educational. But we do not make any such claim – and the FTC brought no action.

Not content to rely on the judgment of the federal government, her attacks continued and escalated despite the fact that her assertions have no merit.

That’s where we are today. However, we took a very different approach. We strongly believe that, unlike Linn, our consumers find value in our product, and rather than continue to fight with her, we decided it to leave it up to those consumers. That is why we extended a refund policy that was already in place. Although she would like to claim otherwise, there is nothing extraordinary about a company’s willingness to stand behind its product. To the contrary, it is the strongest possible show of confidence in it.

Baby Einstein announced this offer in a press release issued on September 4, 2009, which was largely ignored by the media. Linn’s latest public relations blitz simply distorts the facts and misleads the public. In the end, this smear campaign has everything to do with Linn trying to generate ink and funding for her cause, and not about the value that consumers find in our product.

Thank you for letting us set the record straight.


Susan McLain
General Manager, The Baby Einstein Company

These are hard economic times. Families are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Men and women are leaving the ones they love -- sometimes permanently -- to go to war. Relationships are falling apart. Kids are facing more pressure than ever. And parents are spread thinner than they have been in a very long time.

But yeah, let's spend time, money, and effort fighting a kids video. Sounds to me like Ms. Linn could've used a Baby Einstein video herself. She's obviously not that bright.