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To Bank Cord Blood or Not October 29, 2010

Posted by frrobins in health, Products.
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It seemed like a no brainer. Save my baby’s cord blood and that way, just in case the worst happens and he develops cancer or some other disease, he will have a source of blood that is a genetic match to him to cure it. You’d be crazy to pass up on the opportunity! It seemed to be more of a question of where to bank his blood then whether or not to.

So I asked my doctor for a recommendation. And was floored when he didn’t seem too enthusiastic about it. He cautioned that cord blood banking was controversial, but if I really wanted to do it that they suggested company X. So I went into research mode.

First let me discuss the two types of banking: public and private. Public banking means that the blood can be used by anyone who has one of the diseases that cord blood can be used to treat and is a match. Private banking is where you pay a lot of money to have the blood stored for use only for your child or a family member of your choosing. It’s billed as a biological insurance policy for your baby. While the odds are low that your little bundle of joy will develop leukemia, would you really want to risk throwing away the cord blood that could cure him if he did?

I quickly found information about how, if you don’t have any family history of the 80 diseases that cord blood banking treats it’s probably not cost effective. Neither my husband or I do. Yet I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of ‘what if.’ What if my baby is the first one in my family to develop leukemia? I would be kicking myself for the rest of my life for not banking his blood.

There’s a secret that private cord blood bankers don’t want new parents to know, though. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics the premalignant cells that will cause your child to fall ill with most of the diseases that cord blood treats already exist in the blood! This means that your babies’ blood will be useless. If your baby is going to develop leukemia, it’s already in the cord blood and it can’t be used for treatment. Banking it will not save your babies’ life someday.

In fact, the only time that private banking is encouraged is when there is a sibling or other family member that has a condition that can be treated with cord blood. Otherwise, public banking where you donate the cord blood when the baby is born and anyone who is matched can use it is encouraged.

Not to mention difficult. I plan to deliver in Fort Worth, a fairly big city, and none of the hospitals in my area offer a means for you to donate cord blood. The closest one that does is in Dallas, and I’m not driving an hour away to deliver my baby. I found that if I was really interested in jumping through a complex maze of hoops and putting down a lot of money I might be able to arrange to donate it, but I decided it just wasn’t worth the headache.

While I do feel a bit bad knowing that something that is potentially life saving will go to waste, I feel a lot more comfortable with my decision not to bank his cord blood privately. It’s a really new and exciting field of medicine with a lot of potential, but it’s also very over hyped. And frankly, the private cord blood banking companies make promises that they can’t keep (I honestly think they should be required to say that cord blood will be useless if your baby develops most of the diseases that it’s used to treat).

I do hope that soon in the future it will be easy, perhaps even standard, to donate your babies’ blood to a public bank. But that day is not today.


The Practicing Skeptic June 9, 2010

Posted by frrobins in Personal, Products.

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.

Kind of a Drag September 5, 2009

Posted by Bill in Personal, Products.
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I need more closet space. Who doesn’t? I mean, is there anyone on this earth who actually has enough space to store all the crap that they have accumulated over their lives? However, my problem has more to do with the fact that I let my daughter have the master bedroom when she moved back home a few years ago so I had to take my belongings out of my huge, walk-in closet and put them in various nooks and crannies of the house. Some of my clothes are in the entry hall closet, some of them are in the closet in my office,  some of them are hanging on a rod over my office door and the bedroom door, some of them are piled on my chest of drawers and some are hanging on a pants rack in the hallway.

It is this last group that is giving me a problem right now– not the clothes but the pants rack. Because I don’t have enough room in my closet to hang up all of my dress slacks or skirts, I bought one of those rolling pants racks. I put all of my slacks and skirts on it and stuck it in the hall, but there’s a problem. The rack is not high enough off the ground so my slacks and skirts drag on the floor.

Now I am not a particularly tall person. In fact some people, such as my husband and my daughters, call me short. Consequently, my slacks are not overly long, which makes me wonder, if my slacks drag on the ground when on this rack, what would the slacks of a tall person do if hung on this rack? (Did that sentence make any sense? It did to me so I’m leaving it in.)

Now here I am with a product that was designed specifically to keep slacks OFF the ground, yet it is not tall enough to keep slacks from dragging on the floor. So I have to ask how this happened. Are the designers of this product all shorter than me? (I kind of doubt that. While I don’t consider myself to be short, most other people do.) Did they test this product on actual pairs of pants? Did they maybe bring in their children’s slacks instead of their own pairs of slacks to use when testing this pants rack? Why didn’t someone notice somewhere that the pants rack was not tall enough to keep the pants from dragging on the floor? Why make a product that isn’t designed to do what it is supposed to do?

It’s a small thing, I know. With all the problems the world has, I’m moaning and groaning because my slacks drag on the floor. However, I moan and groan about the other things too. This just happens to be what I am moaning and groaning about now.