Amazon customer reviews are a literary genre in their own right. But if you think you know all about them from the idle surfing you’ve done in search of a new book or CD, you’re wrong. You haven’t checked out the Baby Store yet.
The rules are entirely different in the Baby Store. There, reviews are part product commentary, part message board, and part personal narrative. To properly write a product review in the baby store, you must mention the age, weight, and general disposition of your infant, and also clarify whether or not you have any other children. Your child may be referred to simply as “baby,” or, more rarely, as “my son” or “my daughter”. You get bonus points for referring to yourself as “mommy,” in the third person. (I don’t know if this holds true for fathers as well, because I wasn’t able to find a review written by a man.)
Over in the Book Store and Music Store, you’ll find dozens of short-paragraph reviews, interspersed with monster essays by shoppers with a lot of ideas and no place to put them down. But one thing they all have in common is that they’re not really reading the other reviews; they’re just sounding off on their own. Over in Babyland, the reviews form an ongoing conversation. They’re full of references to other reviews, agreements, disagreements, clarifications, and expansions. It’s clear that there’s much more of a community thing going on over there, albeit a twee, slightly kooky community.
Classic example, from the crib section (all sic):
This crib is one of the best baby item’s I have ever received! My mother purchased this crib for me when I was 7 months pregnant with my first child (who is now 4.5 years old) I must say that at first I was a little upset that I did not get to buy my own crib, you know the first time mom syndrome, where you have to have the “most expensive” everything! Well let me say that I was wrong!
This crib is one of the cheapest on the market, however I have had NO COMPLAINTS about it what-so-ever. I have put this crib together and taken it apart 3 different times. Each time I was pregnant, and had no help from my furniture assembly challenged husband. Crib mattresses, (we just purchased #3, for our 3rd baby) have all fit very snug, with no gaps.
I’d like to call special attention to the “furniture assembly challenged husband” comment. Maybe I’m a bit paranoid, but it seems like the group consensus over in Amazon Babyville is that husbands are, by and large, an obstacle to be overcome in raising children and acquiring gear. The “my husband and I love it!” comments are there, but few and far between.
Why don’t guys have a bigger presence in the world of baby gear chitchat? We are talking about gear, after all. Some of the stuff is pretty darn cool, with as many moving parts and different configurations as the Decepticons. Figuring out which suite of gear to get is a sort of programming challenge — crib or pack ‘n’ play? cloth or disposable? Separate stroller and car seat, or modular travel system? Whats the optimal amount of gear, in terms of space and weight, to fit into the house/apartment? I can happily spend two hours surfing for digital camera reviews and specs, but after half an hour of baby-gear analysis, my eyes start to glaze over. Why? It doesn’t make sense.
I blame the pastels.
UPDATE: In email, my mom pointed out that this entry is mistitled. Clearly, the title ought to be “Crib Notes.” Thanks, mom. Wish I had thought of it.