The backstory

So what's this all about?

It all started when my friend H had a baby.  I wanted to do something nice for them, and thought it would be great to hand on the cot that my kids used a couple of years ago.  It was a really nice bit of kit - a Murano cot bed from Mamas & Papas, bought in that flurry of enthusiasm you get for baby gadgets when you're about to become a parent for the first time.  We thought the cot bed would make sense as we would get to use it for an extended period of time as our baby got a bit older.  We didn't expect that we would be using it for a second addition to the family shortly after, but once our two had grown out of the cot they preferred to sleep in a big bed so the cot became a bed for an ensemble of stuffed toys.

And that way it remained for a couple of years until H had her baby and we agreed to hand it on.  So a couple of weekends ago I thought I'd better check we still had all the bits to turn it back into a cot and that everything was in good order. 

As I put it together I found I was missing four small screws to hold the side panels together. Not ordinary screws, of course, really strange headless ones. So I called the Mamas & Papas help line and asked to order replacement spare parts. Because the cot is now discontinued the parts are no longer held. Apparently two years is how long they hold on to these things for. 

The cot bed is designed to move from a cot into a bed, so it's likely that they will be used for more than two years for a single child, never mind younger siblings who come along, or the chance to pass it on to others. So comes the first question: is two years really long enough to hold spare parts for a product of this type?

The discussion with the service agent indicated that a match for the part might be available from a parts kit from a more recent cot. On enquiring about the price for that I was advised it would be £30 plus delivery charge. 30 QUID FOR FOUR WEE SCREWS?!?! And no guarantees that they would fit either! Apparently the fittings pack is sold as a complete entity and you can't sell me the bits I'm interested in. So first they design in special fixtures which cannot be sourced at the local hardware store, and then charge a fortune for replacements. That's what I would call profiteering.

Next on suggesting that I would like to make a complaint, the advisor indicated that she could reduce the price to £15 plus postage, again for a full fittings kit that might not fit. I declined.

Instead I did a wee bit of research, measuring the screws and the dimensions of the recess where they fit. I found they were standard I found they were 8mm M6 sized, but the only tricky part was the fact that the original fittings had no head on them at all. On closer inspection of the recess I found that it was in fact wider than the screw, so could potentially accommodate another type of head if I could find one.
So off I went to EBay, searched on 8mm M6 screws and found a pack of 10 socket head screws for £1.60 with free postage. Yes, you did read that correctly. 16p each, giving me six spares should I need them again in the future. I thought at that price is was worth a punt in case they didn't fit, so ordered them, and a couple of days later when they arrived, guess what? They fitted perfectly. So much so it was almost as if the recess was actually designed for them in the first instance. Which I suspect they probably were, but M&Ps changed the design to lock in unsuspecting customers to their customer services team for overpriced spare parts.

So I thought, "this really isn't on", and posted the story to the Mamas & Papas Facebook page.

This is the response I got:

"thank you for your post, we very much appreciate all feedback as it allows us to continually improve our products and services. We have passed your comments onto the relevant department who are looking into this and working on improving our spares service. We're really sorry that you have had a less than satisfactory experience, and we hope that this won't put you off shopping with us in the future. Thank you."

I then asked how long that would take and whether they would be updating my thread when they had resolved it.  This was their reply.

"improvements to our products and services is continuous, there is no timescale. Unfortunately we will not be able to update your thread on any future improvements to the spares service. Thank you"

Unhappy with this response and lack of commitment I posted the following:

"OK, I like to think I'm a patient man. I can make the same enquiry of your contact centre on a monthly basis and post the results here if that helps. Hell, my phone contract is all inclusive so I could do it every evening and weekend. I can probably share the results on Twitter too if you like. In fact, maybe I'll set up a website and a blog and document it. That'll be good, eh? I'll also buy a bottle of champagne ready for the day that you can sell me four screws at a reasonable price instead of a full pack of stuff I don't need. Hopefully we can get there before my daughter turns 21 (she's 5 now). While I'm here I might as well ask who is in charge of spares policy at M&Ps so I can write to them too." 

Hence the blog.  And the website.

I'm now in the process of trying to persuade Mamas & Papas to change their spare parts policy as follows

1. I would like M&Ps to reconsider their position with respect to the timescale for which spare parts are held to one that is more reasonable and in keeping with the lifespan of your products, even if they are discontinued.
2. To reconsider their position with respect to selling individual spares as opposed to over-priced packs.
3. To ensure that standard components are built into the design so that if needs be customers can pick up what they need from a decent hardware store.

Don't think that's too much to expect.

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