Mystery Shopping – ‘Mothercare’ #1

Yesterday I decided that while I was in Milton Keynes to get some bits and pieces I would do “Mystery-shopping” at Mothercare.

They have just released a new catalogue, they even have five extended rear facing seats available for purchase now! (And one coming out in October!) If not in store, then you can find them online, or the store can order you one in! Mothercare is now stocking:

 

Now, before I start on my review on this particular store, I would like to quote what the catalogue promises me I will receive when I visit a MC store (p.163):

  1. Car seats are divided into groups and it is your child’s weight, not age, that matters. Weigh your child before visiting a Mothercare store so we can help you select correct car seat.
  2. Ensure you are clear on the benefits of keeping your child rearward-facing for as long as possible. There are a number of options once your child is ready to move into a Group 1 car seat and our car seat experts will give you all the information you need to make this decision.
  3. The make and model of your car is also important, if there are multiple cars that the car seat will be used in ensure this is communicated to our experts.
  4. Our car seat experts will demonstrate how to fit  your chosen car seat and ensure that  you are clear on the features and how to use them, leaving you confident on how to use the seat safely when you leave our stores.
  5. If you have an ISOFIX car safety seat and ISOFIX mounts in your car, you can minimise the risk of installation errors when securing your child car seat. ISOFIX is the standard system for all new cars and seat manufacturers, designed to make installing your safety seat quick and easy. With ISOFIX you simply ‘plug in’ a compatible car safety seat to mounting points in the car

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A Clueless customer..

I entered the shop with my two children who are 11 months and 33 months. I approached one of the staff letting her know I was looking for car seats for my two children. I can only assume this person was the ‘car seat specialist’ MC promises me will handle the car seat questions etc. As this is a Mystery shopping adventure, I acted as if I had no idea about car seats.

Our conversation started with something like this…:

Me: “Hi! I’m looking for car seats?”

Expert: “Yes! Right this way. Who is it for?”

Me: “Her, and Him. :D” (pointing at the kids)

Expert: “I see. This is what I can recommend for her (points to the Group 2/3 and Group 3 seats). How much does she weigh?”

Me: “Around 14KG, maybe 15 depending on what she’s wearing and if she’s stuffed! hehe “

Expert: “Oh! You can take the harness away then in 1KG and then just use the car seat belt. She would be fine with that.”

Now, before I continue, I would like to point out the things that bother me, and the things that she failed to do.

First of all, she should have asked me some very important things, and that is;

  • What car am I driving?
  • How old the children are and what seats they are currently in?
  • And if they have outgrown their current seat.
  • Am I interested in ISOFIX or belted

 

If she had asked those things, she would have had a much wider perspective and instead of jumping to High Back Boosters (which all of them were) she might have hopefully given me some other more appropriate choices. She also focused too much on weight! We have to remember that even if weight is important, because you should never use a seat after the weight limit has been reached, neither should you use a seat without your child being the minimum weight limit, but also it’s very important to remember when the fusing of the spinal cord starts and finishes <<check here for more on that >>, which is one of the reasons why it’s so important to rear face as long as possible! And that has all to do with age.

Child maturity is also something to consider. Even if I had no options for a normal G1/G2 car seat, there is just no way a child as young as 2,5-3 years old will be able to sit properly in a booster using only the car’s seat belt! So the advise she had currently given me, could actually be fatal for my child should we be involved in an accident. A HBB (high back booster) should not be used by a child under 4 years old, and even then, 4 is set as a minimum. Don’t be afraid to wait as long as possible and until your child has fully outgrown his or her current car seat. Remember that for each step up in Group, it is a step down in safety. Changing group in car seats should not be a milestone you look forward to.

Let us continue on to the conversation regarding the youngest…

Me: “What about for this dude? :)” (pointing to my son)

Expert: “How much does he weigh?”

Me: “Around 12kg give or take. :)”

Expert: “OK, then he’ll definitely go fine in one of these. ” (points to the Group 1 section, and one car seat that was Group 123)

Me: “Are these all forward facing ones?”

Expert: “Yes, these are all forward facing. How is he in he’s infant seat? Has he’s head reached the top?”

Me: “Yes, it’s JUST there now.”

Expert: “OK, yes then you definitely want to be looking at upgrading.”

Me: “Yeh! Oh! Are there any rear facing ones?”

Expert: “Yes, buuut we only have one (incorrect!) aaand it’s £300! (said with a face as if she ate a lemon…) And we don’t stock it in store, you’ll have to order it online.”

Me: “OK…So! You recommend a booster seat for her then?”

Expert: “Yes, and like I said once she hit’s 15kg you can stop using the harness and go over to seatbelt. :)”

Me: “Is there a specific age for booster?”

Expert: “Yes, 4 years. But KG is the most important thing.”

Me: “Oh..but she turns only 3 in January. :(“

Expert: “Oh! Well then I would go for a harnessed booster, and then when she hit’s 15kg mark, you can take it out. :)”

Me: “OK, thank you for your help! Could you please just show me what seats you recommend? So I could check them out at home? :)”

Expert: “Ofc! :)” (she gets the catalog and quickly puts a ring on a few of them and hands it over..)

Me: “Are there any sort of…what’s it called…safety difference on the seats? Like..cheap vs. more expensive?”

Expert: “No, they have all passed the same testing. :)”

Me: “OK! Bye! :)”

So…what was wrong with this consultation?

As with my daughter, she never asked how old my son is. He is 11 months old and though a little ‘tank’ he is far too young to forward face. Obviously this is not common knowledge to everyone, I have come to realize that, but a ‘trained car seat expert’ of Mothercare is supposed to know this. So that was very disappointing.

The second thing is that she never once mentioned rear facing as an option for either him or my 2,5 year old, but she should at least have let me know about it regarding him. She was also incorrect in regard to how many seats they have. Mothercare have, as I stated further up, no less then five extended rear facing car seats. So not just the one she was referring to.

Further on she was correct about the four year old approx. age for a booster seat, though personally I think this is still far too young, which is why you invest in a seat that will last until your child is at an actual booster age, which is more around 5, and if you can stretch it even further, I would say 6. But even after learning my daughters age, she still told me to use it as a booster once she hit 15kg!

15kg is the minimum weight for the car’s seat belt to actually lock up and work properly in an accident/sudden stop etc. Minimum! Ideally then you go for maximum, and maximum kg for a harness in a HBB is 18kg, except for two seats currently on the market that have a forward facing harness up to 25kg and those are the Britax Two Way Elite and the Britax Xtensafix.

The recommended car seats she gave me…

These are the boosters she recommended for my daughter who is 2,5 years old:

 

These are the car seats she recommended for my son who is 11 months old:

 

All forward facing.

Lastly, she was incorrect in her statement that there was no safety difference between the car seats because “they all passed the same test”. Yes they did all pass the same ECE regulation test, but that’s a crappy test and the most basic car seats only scraping by in it! There are more then one test, there are a total of 4 tests actually…
Let me quote Rear Facing Toddlers in her Car Seat Myth no. 2

 

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Car Seat Myth No. 2

** ALL CAR SEATS HAVE PASSED THE SAME TESTS, SO THEY ARE ALL AS SAFE AS EACH OTHER **

All car seats that are sold and used in Europe have to display a (usually orange) sticker, to show that they conform to the European Standard ECE R44/04. This is the bare minimum that all seats have to pass. The test includes a frontal impact at 32mph, a rear impact at 18mph and a 360º roll-over at 2-5 degrees per second. It also looks at things like seat belt routing, instructions, buckle, warning labels, etc. It does not include a side impact test.
Stiftung Warentest is a German consumer organisation, similar to Which? in the UK. And the ADAC is Europe’s largest motoring organisation, equivalent to the UK’s AA and RAC. Their tests include a frontal impact at 40mph and an 18mph side impact. However, only 50% of the Stiftung Warentest and ADAC’s overall score is based on how the seat performs in crash tests. The other 50% goes to user friendliness. So even though a seat may be very safe, it can still get a low score if they decide it is difficult to install for example, or if the cover is hard to remove.
The Swedish Plus Test is the strictest car seat test in the world and the only one to measure the loads that the child’s neck is subjected to during a crash. In a forward facing seat the loads on the child’s neck will always be higher than the safe minimum, so only rear facing car seats can pass the Plus Test.
When choosing a new seat for your child try to avoid the cheaper brands that have only passed the barest minimum. When it comes to car seats, you really do get what you pay for.

All in all I was very disappointed and I left the store terrified of what I could have walked out with had I actually known nothing what so ever about car seats.
I’m disappointed that this store obviously can not have had proper up to date training for their staff regarding extended rear facing and it’s benefits.
The ill advice I received on several questions is not good at all. The fact that this person didn’t even mention ERF to me at all before I asked and the face she pulled is to me concerning.

As a closing point I wish to share a couple of videos, maybe by seeing them, it will help you understand why we fight so hard for extended rear facing and harnessing to the max.

 

 

Children are not little adults. They are tiny, their bones are immature. They are not able to sit secured in the car as if they were an adult. Don’t be in a rush to “upgrade” their car seats, and even worse, don’t think for a second that your child of “7” does not need one.

The law states that all children must travel in the car in an appropriate restraint until they are either 12 years old, or 135cm tall, whichever comes first. Failing to do so can result in a £500 on the spot fine.

 

Family Fever
Super Busy Mum

Therese has completed the ‘Advanced Child Car Seat Training Course’ at TRL (Transport Research Lab) and is a CPD accredited car seat expert. She blogs about in-car safety, car seats, tips, reviews, giveaways and advice. She’s a mum on a mission to change the law and raise awareness. She is also a breastfeeding advocate and gentle parenting promoter who loves cloth nappies, baby-wearing, BLW and co-sleeping/bed-sharing.