Rental Startup Not Playing Around, Baby
Lori Pope shared an experience with millions of other American parents. She made sure she did her research and got her twin infant boys the best toys possible. Imagine her delight as she watched her kids take to those toys and the utter disappointment when they were quickly discarded for something else.
That experience gave Ms. Pope the idea for founding her company, Baby Plays, an online retailer that rents toys in much the same way services such as Netflix distribute films.
Consumers can subscribe to Baby Plays and choose from nearly 200 toys for kids from newborns to preschoolers. Subscribers create a wish list of toys and have them shipped when they come up on the queue.
Heidi Borden is a financial analyst from the Houston area who subscribes to the Baby Plays service for her 11-month-old daughter and two-year-old son. Baby Plays, she told The Associated Press, is great because it gets her out of going toy shopping with her kids.
“She (Ms. Borden’s daughter) wants to get on the floor and he’s running down the aisle and I’m just stressed to pick out something really good really quick, get in and out,” she said. “It’s just a lot nicer to be able to do this online and not worry about if it’s something that they don’t like.”
Baby Plays started out with 10 customers and has since grown to 200 subscribers, including 40 grandparents. Customers pay from $28.99 a month for three months to rent four toys to $35.99 to get six toys a month for three months. Subscribers making a year commitment can receive six toys a month for $31.99.
Members typically hold onto a toy for a month and then return it although there is no penalty if a family wants to hang on to a particular toy for a longer period of time.
Toys are always inspected to make sure they are up to Baby Plays quality and safety standards. Each toy stocked by Baby Plays is inspected for lead and the company doesn’t rent items with small parts that could represent a choking hazard.
Ms. Pope said the company looks at each toy when it is returned and before it goes out to make sure they meet Baby Plays’ quality standards.
“If it has a little scratch on it, we’re not going to take it out of the program,” she told The Associated Press. “We’re not going to ever send anybody anything that they’re going to feel like is junk.”
Discussion Question: Will Baby Plays do for toys what Netflix has done for movies?