Cloth diaper co-ops. It’s a topic that’s been coming up lately. It’s been popping up here and there for years, but recently I’ve seen posts from Jennifer Labit on her personal blog and from Bummis on Facebook. I’m sure cloth diaper co-ops have popped up in other places over the last couple of months, but those two have been the ones that immediately registered with me.
I’m not going to come right out and oppose cloth diaper co-ops. The simple fact of the matter is that there are a wide variety of them and they are run by different people with different methods for different reasons. Really. How ethical a co-op is or is not depends entirely on who is running it.
Cloth diaper co-ops hurt retailers.
Absolutely true. Sometimes cloth diaper co-ops are run by people who have no other purpose than to undercut their local retailers and are thrilled beyond words when that retailer is impacted to the point of having to shut down their business.
That sucks. Hard.
That being said, though, some folks who run cloth diaper co-ops love their local retailer. I’m going to tell you a little story. There’s a little town that has a cloth diaper retailer, The Greatest Fluff Shop*. That same little town has a co-op, Little Town Co-Op. Little Town Co-Op is run by a few ladies who are actually really good customers at The Greatest Fluff Shop. They consider Kay, the owner, to be their friend. They love Kay to bits and are very conscious about some things that they do.
For one, Little Town Co-Op will not sell the same products that The Greatest Fluff Shop sells. Of course, premium brands like bumGenius and Rockin’ Green will not work with co-ops, and that’s fine with Little Town Co-Op. Even if they did, Little Town Co-Op would not touch them. There are, however, some smaller laundry additive companies that do work with co-ops. Little Town Co-Op has declined to run any further co-ops on those items since The Greatest Fluff Shop has gotten them in.
Little Town Co-Op works very hard to make sure that they are not hurting Kay.
Cloth Diaper Co-Ops Don’t Respect Big Name Companies
Some of them don’t. Some of them try to tell people that AlvaBaby inserts are just as good as other brands. Little Town Co-Op will not. In fact, Little Town Co-Op will say point blank that you will get far better diapers from The Greatest Fluff Shop.
If Little Town Co-Op doesn’t think that China Cheapies are as good as the amazing stuff at The Greatest Fluff Shop, why do they run cloth diaper co-ops? Pretty easy: there are some absolutely AMAZING adorable patterns out there. Sunbaby manages to come out with some pretty cute prints every few months. However, Little Town Co-Op also knows that there are some prints run by other companies that are blatant rip offs of prints by a big name brand. How does Little Town Co-Op handle that? Simple. They don’t sell rip off prints or solids. If any co-op members want solids or those particular prints, the co-op members are directed to The Greatest Fluff Shop.
Co-Ops Offer Knock Offs
The co-op that I’m using as a paragon of virtue once bought something that was a knock off. They did not expect it to have the actual tags of the item that it was a knock off of. They never did it again. When they decided to run it, they went with it because it was cute and because a lot of the moms already had the actual brand name version of those products. This was a different type of thing. (For example, some already had purchased backpacks, lunch boxes, and bibs for their children from the Real Legit Company from other small local businesses. But none of the small local businesses offered the coordinating bath mitts, so the co-op was not violating their “no compete” mandate.)
However, that co-op will absolutely not touch the knock off baby carriers, etc. Those are safety issues in the making. Plus, there’s already a small business in town that sells the legit baby carriers. And now that they know that those cute little coordinating things are full knock offs, complete with Real Legit Company tags, they won’t repeat that mistake.
Cloth Diaper Co-Ops Are Bad for the Community
Hmm. I can’t speak for all co-ops, but Little Town Co-Op is actually good for the community. Little Town Co-Op works with WAHMs when possible, doesn’t deliberately sell knock off products, avoids hurting The Greatest Fluff Shop, and operates on a different mandate. No one who works with Little Town Co-Op is actually making money off of the co-op fees. Instead, all of the co-op fees are used to support a local charity. That’s as far from “bad.”
Does this Mean I’m Pro Cloth Diaper Co-Ops?
When I started writing this post, I was all kinds of irritated by the idea that some would generalize that all co-ops are bad. I was actually pretty offended by one of the posts written about it. However, I’d never had “the ugly” experiences that some mention. Lately, though, I’ve been finding more even though I hadn’t experienced it.
I’d found some cloth diaper co-ops that were doing their best to “stick it to” a distributor by buying those brand diapers abroad. Sure, that’s great that someone has managed to figure out how to get her premium European imported diapers cheaper… but she’s not helping anyone but herself. You see, the savings would be perhaps in the $3 to $5 range… and that’s just not enough when you figure there will be PayPal fees, international shipping to her from Europe, and then shipping to the moms. Plus, since those diapers were imported without going through the North American distributor… if there’s a warranty issue, those moms are pretty much hooped.
So, really, I’ve had to decide that I am most definitely not pro cloth diaper co-ops. I’m pro ethical co-ops who do their best to not rip off their membership and not hurt their local community.
Have you ever bought from a co-op? What was your experience like?
*All names have been changed to protect the innocent.