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The Practicing Skeptic June 9, 2010

Posted by frrobins in Personal, Products.
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I am often confronted by people who feel that skepticism is all about debunking ghosts, alien abductions, and other supernatural phenomena. And there is definitely that aspect of skepticism and it tends to get the most visibility. But there is another type of more pragmatic skepticism, the type that people can used in your daily life. A lot of people already do this without thinking of themselves as skeptics, and it helps them avoid scams. In fact, this type of skepticism is very useful and can be applied broadly.

For instance, today I received an invitation for a “Getting Ready for Baby” show (my husband and I are expecting our first child). It reads:

You’re Invited

All future parents are invited to attend this year’s “Getting Ready for Baby” show. Both parents must present this invitation for free admission and a gift pack at the end. This is brief, light, and enjoyable while handing out information on preventing baby injuries.

Topics: SIDs prevention, new and old crib safety, walkers, car seats, highchairs, recalled baby products list, infant seats, and the newest safety information. Also Free DVD on Infant CPR, rescue breathing & infant choking.

Saturday June 12th at 9:00am OR 12:00 pm OR 3:00 pm
Sunday June 13th at 9:00 am OR 12:00 pm Attend either day or time

There was some info on where the event was and directions followed by: “This is designed for couples. Grandparents and other expectant couples are welcome at no charge.” There was some info about reservations and in very small print at the bottom of the invite “Attending Grandmothers will also receive a gift pack. Both parents and caregivers should attend. Invitations can be copied. Discounted items available. Gift pack’s value approximately $129.00. No charge or obligation. Sponsored by Baby Classes.”

At first, it sounds pretty good. My husband and I love researching and learning stuff, and what first time parent doesn’t want to load up on as much safety information as possible? Plus my parents could also come for free and we would all receive gift packs with items worth $129! It all sounds really good. Too good actually.

Remember the axiom about if it sounds to good to be true? A company wants all of the expectant parents and grandparents in the area to attend a free seminar at the Marriott. The invitation can be copied and distributed. And $129 gift packs will be distributed to those who attend. The Marriott is not a cheap place to reserve space for a weekend. Someone is forking out a lot of money for what seems like no return.

The first thing that struck me was that it was not easy to figure out who was sponsoring the event. There was no return address, no big name about who was sponsoring, etc. The only info was that is was sponsored by Baby Classes. And this was the last bit of info on the invite in very small print.

So who is this Baby Classes and why are they so generously offering a free seminar? Well I still don’t know who Baby Classes is. A search on Google just brought up a bunch of generic information on taking baby classes. Even a search in the Fort Worth area did not produce a company. I scanned the white pages of our phonebook. I was not too surprised to find no company named Baby Classes therein. In fact I could find no trace whatsoever of this generous company. This leads me to conclude that there is no company named Baby Classes.

So if Baby Classes doesn’t exist, who is sponsoring this event? Next I did a Google search on “Getting Ready for Baby.” Doing so pulled up several forums. Sure enough, other expectant parents across the US had received the invitation and, like me, were wondering if it was worth their time to go to. Several people replied that it was a scam by Babee-Tenda. Responses varied from saying that the first half was one big scare tactic about how other companies’ baby products were defective and would kill your baby to some people reporting that there was some useful but outdated information on child safety. The second half was a high pressured sales pitch to buy Babee-Tenda cribs, changing tables, and high chairs. And the gift pack at the end? Coupons. Coupons that you would have to spend a lot of money to use.

So I then did a search for “Getting Ready for Baby” Babee-Tenda and found and Amended Complaint for Injunction against Baby Tenda Corporation filed by the United States of America in 2007 for the misappropriation of government agency names and logos. The injunction goes on to say that Baby Tenda sends invites to people for “child safety seminars” that are really sales presentations and that the seminars do not mention Baby Tenda at all, instead maintaining that they are run by fictitious “Child Safety Groups” of a particular state. They further maintain that some invitations say used government logos such as the US Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to falsely imply that they are sponsors. Some even falsely claim during the seminar that their products are endorsed by the CPSC.

Thus far, not looking good.

Going further down the page of Google results, I found that multiple complaints had been filed with the BBB about false advertising. The BBB says that they contacted Baby Tenda about these complaints and that the company agreed to stop the practices to maintain good standing with the BBB. Let’s see how well they did.

Complaint #1. “We asked that the company mention the sale of products on the invitations. The original invitations contained the words “discounted items available,” which the Bureau felt did not properly convey the active sale of products. The company offered to change the wording to “safety products will be offered.””

The sale of items is not mentioned on my invite. Not even “safety products will be offered” is there. Only “the newest safety information.”

Complaint #2. “The invitations promised a “complimentary gift” equaling $129 value to attendees. Part of the gift was a packet of coupons. Because coupons have no inherent value and require purchases to take advantage of “savings,” the complimentary gift’s value did not equal $129. We asked that the company remove the reference to value unless a specific amount could be substantiated and to remove the words “complimentary gift” when referring to anything not unconditionally free. The company agreed.”

I’ve not gone and I don’t intend to, but there is still the promise of a complimentary gift equaling $129 and I’m not holding my breath that attending will result in one. When I called their hotline (1-800-551-1512) there was a menu options for what is in the gift pack. They allege it is a combination of “certificates, coupons and promotions” and advise that we should not attend for the gift pack, but for the safety information.

Complaint #3. “Phone numbers on the invitations led to an automated phone system that provided additional information about the event. Through the phone system, consumers have the option to ask who sponsors the event. The Better Business Bureau objected to the use of the words “information provided from…the Consumer Product Safety Commission.” (my emphasis) The statement suggested possible active involvement by the CPSC in the presentation. The speakers use data published by the CPSC in their sales presentation but the CPSC is not in any way involved in the presentation. Babee Tenda agreed to change the wording to lessen confusion about the direct involvement by the CPSC. The company agreed to change the wording to “information compiled from the Consumer Product Safety C omission.””

It is interesting to note that this was the subject of the injunction filed in 2007. The BBB report was written in 2009. And they have not changed the wording. When I called, they said “information provided by the National Safe Kids Foundation, the Consumer Products Safety Commission, the American Pediatrics Association” and other companies. They also allege that they work with local hospitals to provide safety information. I have no idea how accurate that statement is, but needless to say I’m rather dubious.

Overall, I’m not impressed. They are still using false advertising by saying they are sponsored by a fictitious company on their invite. They mention nothing about sales on their invite, and on the hotline menu option for if there is anything to buy they said only that some hospital equipment MIGHT be for sale. Yes, they actually used to word “might.”

That said, their product does appear to be a very safe, but very expensive one. So at least they’re not selling defective merchandise. However, luring people to attend a sales pitch disguised as a safety seminar does not sit well with me. And plenty of people felt that they were duped out of their time and money that formal complaints have been filed.

So while it might not seem like much, I saved my husband and myself a few hours of precious weekend time (there was no way we were going to buy an overpriced crib). Considering how busy things are and how precious time is, it is a lot. And it is a great illustration of how a little bit of skepticism can help you in your daily life. Just by doing a Google search or posting on a forum about a strange invite you received, people can learn about whether an event is really a safety seminar or a sales pitch and can manage their time. This can also save money. People have wasted money on vacation scams for instance.

While I like reading about debunking ghost stories and exposing psychics, it really doesn’t affect my daily life. Little stuff like this, though, does.

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Comments»

1. abc - July 24, 2010

How do they get a pregnant persons address?

2. Fritha - July 24, 2010

They get them from a lot of places. The OB-GYNs often sell companies the names of pregnant clients, and when women shop at maternity stores, those stores usually gather your name and address and sell them to companies.

3. Kristy - August 24, 2010

Thank you so much for posting this very informative review – my friend and I (both expecting) were thinking about making a day trip out of town to go to one of these next weekend. It would have been an expense and we would have had to get sitters for our kids and everything… now that we are a little more informed as to what this REALLY is about, we don’t have to waste our gas or our time.

frrobins - August 27, 2010

You’re welcome. Good to know this was helpful 🙂

4. Joe - August 25, 2010

Saved me a Saturday! Thanks!

frrobins - August 27, 2010

Glad I could help 🙂

5. Kenny - August 30, 2010

My wife and I attended this scam this past weekend. It is everything described above. Two hours of my life I cannot get back. If you get an invitation, throw it out!

For some more interesting info, google the former owner and former sole shareholder of Babee-Tenda, David Jungerman.

6. Upset in NJ - September 28, 2010

I not only attended the seminar, I placed a $500 deposit down because I would have like to have had the crib and two tables since I was expecting twins. Well, things went south financially quick and I soon found myself pregnant with twins and alone. I asked, begged and pleaded with Babee Tenda to refund my $500 and they became hostile and rude and told me NO! I filed compalint after complaint and now am in the process of suing them for my deposit. This company should be ashamed of themselves. I am financially clinging to life with twins and no merchandise and the jerk who did the presentation is refusing to give my deposit back. Please stay away from these inhumane jerks!!!! Warn everyone!!!! I wish I would have seen this board and others so that my high strung hormones would not have been doing the thinking and I just would have stayed home.

RLW - October 20, 2010

Wife and I attended in Harrisburg, PA. All of the above is true. I wish I wouldve done my research first. I thought I was supporting my wife and new unborn by attending but we were duped in the end.

I wanted to stand up in front of everyone at the end and give my opinion of the scam. I still wish I wouldve.

STAY AWAY!!!!

7. Enrenfro - November 7, 2010

I just saw this invitation in my mail today and it was this past weekend. I was like hmmm maybe we really missed something but am glad we did reading this. Just FYI the gift pack is now up to $139 and it reads that discounted baby items offered. Guess that is their wording for the sales pitch.

8. John brazzole - November 21, 2010

I had the unfortunate Luck of sitting through this seminar this morning. Its all propaganda.

He ( mike angelo) makes a claim that almost all of the products on the market are recalled…. If they were all recalled the stores would not be allowed (by law) to stock them. Idiot.

9. Offkey Lorelei - December 1, 2010

Just got this in the mail. Was very tempted by the offer of so many free goodies but there were subtle flags that were nagging me and hubby. Thank you so much for your informative and thorough post. Would NOT have been amused to drive 45 minutes to get a booklet of coupons and a sales pitch we don’t need. Did you know, it’s up to -$139- now?

Gets me wondering how they got my address: my suspicion is off of the Babies R US registry I signed up for. One of the rare occasions I’ve let my home address be published in any form on the internet. The only other possibility is that in the bundle of Sign!Here! paperwork they pushed at me in my hospital checkup I agreed to something vague like “receive important information about your baby’s health and safety”.

Hat tip to Fritha.

10. Cheryl - December 6, 2010

My husband and I attended one of these “classes” when I was pregnant with my son six years ago. I’m not sure how long they have been doing this, but I know that it has at least been six years. I must have been out of mind from pregnancy hormones, and my husband must have been to scared to say no to me (again because of my pregnancy hormones), but when all was said and done, I purchased the table and accessories for a whopping $375. I would have walked away with that crib too, but my husband did have the nerve to say no to that. Yes, we were ticked off that we had been tricked into driving an hour to go hear a sales pitch, but I do have to admit we loved the table, and my son did too. It really is a great product, but the salesman that we had to deal with was a little sleezy and non-responsive. My suggestion would be to look for a great used one on Craigs List. Mine is still in great condition, and I have lady that is coming by to pick it up today for $50. I’ve used highchairs and this table really is much better than the highchairs that I have used. So if you can find a good used one definitely get it. Then you don’t have to sit through a boring sales pitch and feel pressured to buy something that you can get for a much better price used. I hope that this helps any new parents.

11. Frederique Browning - December 27, 2010

Thank you so much for your post . Saved us a trip on New Year’s day … yes January 1st 2011 !!! I knew that when I told myself it sounds too good to be true, I had to do some more research and I found your post. I cannot believe that OB-GYN and maternity stores sell our names and address like this . Thank you again , very informative !

12. jlemons - December 30, 2010

We got one of these as well and were planning on attending until I did my research this morning. I was curious as to why they would have a seminar on New Year’s Day, but now I know. Big materialistic corporations never sleep or miss an opportunity to scam people.

Thanks for the information and the feedback everyone – saved me some weekend / sleep time.

13. Susan - January 4, 2011

So happy I found this post I posted the link on Facebook. I have a lot of friends that are expecting and pray they don’t fall for it. Thank you… this is why blogging is a good idea.

14. Kelly - January 19, 2011

Thank you so much for posting this, and more thanks to everyone for following up with their stories. I was also intrigued by the invitation for information and coupons/certificates and wanted to find out more before I signed up to go. Glad my instinct told me to check it out more!

15. William - January 25, 2011

I just received one in the mail today.
I’m 21 and I am very naive when it comes to baby’s I don’t know the first thing, but my girlfriend is very proficient but she won’t always be home 24/7 to help me so of course my paranoia almost got the better of me, because when they said words like “choking” “recalled” “free” “coupons” I got excited and scared at the same time and almost drove the 2 hours to get there this weekend.

Thank you for posting this article but I am still a little down-trodden that it’s a scam, there should be a local place to learn all the safety tips I need for free, I’m in and out of work and money is really tight. I shouldn’t have to be rich to make sure my baby has a healthy, happy life.

16. mrs case - January 25, 2011

i am sooooo glad i found this post. i was googling for info because i, too, was skeptical and your blog came up at the top! thank goodness for that! needless to say i will NOT be attending!

17. Liz - February 22, 2011

OMG! I googled the phone number because it was the only thing I could really figure out was something that might tell me what the company was other than Baby Classes. THANK YOU for your post! It was the first thing that came up.

18. Lynn - August 17, 2011

I was pregnant last year around this time, and this was sent to me. By the time I got the invite, I had already miscarried. I am currently pregnant and found the invite in the bottom of a drawer. I called the number on the invite to see if they might be having another seminar. The phone number is no longer in service. I was actually googling to see if another one was going to be held, and found this page. I don’t know what the fact that the phone number is no longer in service means, but it could mean no more invites. (I had called the number previously last year and it was the automated one). Just thought ya’ll might be interested to know!

19. Matthew - January 11, 2014

This has been going on a long time. In 1989, my wife and I were duped into putting down a sizable deposit on a Baby Tenda product after a very high pressure sales pitch. The pitch was required after a 2 hour presentation that frightened me to believe that our, soon to be born, child would be in danger if we didn’t buy their product. We immediately had second thoughts and were informed that, because of some strange loophole, we had no legal recourse. We walked away from that deposit and chalked it up to a costly life lesson and an unpleasant memory of Baby Tenda and the salesman named Michael D’Angelo. It’s really a shame to take advantage of young inexperienced couples. Over the years, I’ve been tempted to attend another of those “classes” and warn the other participants.

Bill - January 12, 2014

I frequently hear of scams in regards to older people, but it seems as if new parents are also a prime targets for these people.


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