Cut through the Hype. Or: Marketing language Vs Facts. Part Two.

One thing that has constantly irritated me my entire adult life is misleading marketing language. The sneaky kind.

This is Part Two of a two part series.

Part Two: Implying your product is Unique when it is not.

“Contains no Fat!” on a package of Gummy Bears.

Gummy bears, and any food product that is all sugar, flavoring, and coloring, of course do not contain fat. But tossing “FAT FREE” on your packaging, when it’s not on your competitor’s packaging, is a marketing attempt to make your product stand out.

“Innovative design.” “Unsurpassed ____.” “Best _____ in the industry.” “Truly unique.” “The most _____ available.”

These can be tricky because sometimes they are actually true. SOME designs of diapers, carriers, shirts, purses, cars, anything ARE innovative. Most are not.

As most smart consumers probably already know, take any marketing type language with a grain of salt when you’re shopping!


Cut through the Hype. Or: Marketing language Vs Facts.

One thing that has constantly irritated me my entire adult life is misleading marketing language. The sneaky kind.

This is Part One of a two part series.

Part One: Incorrect Implications

The kind like I posted about on my essay about my Fitted Diapers. (One website’s claim that their turned and topstitched diapers didn’t have “ruffly edges that irritate baby’s skin.”) I mean, I turn and topstitch my dipes, too. But I’m not walking around making things up about ruffly edges irritating baby’s skin. Because they really don’t, unless your baby has skin that can’t stand to have any fabric edges touching it, and then you’ve got bigger problems on your hands. (I’m allowing for the possibility that some children do have skin that gets irritated by overcast edges.)

I try to avoid marketing hype. Things that are technically true (the diaper in question did not have ruffly edges to irritate baby’s skin), but are based on misleading the reader into believing things that are not true (that ruffly – overcast – edges would irritate baby’s skin).

Usually, these types of statements are negative statements using “no” or “never.” If I said, for example, that my diapers contain no arsenic to poison your baby. That is technically true. But what are the underlying implications? First, that arsenic is dangerous to babies. Does arsenic in fact kill babies? Yes. Then it’s a good thing these diapers don’t contain it, right?

What else does the statement imply? That OTHER diapers do in fact contain arsenic. Why else would I bring it up, right? So keep asking yourself questions. “Are they implying that other diapers contain arsenic? Maybe. Do other diapers contain arsenic? Likely not.”

Let’s do another one.

Our diapers close with hook-and-loop tape so there are no nasty snaps to pinch baby’s tender skin. (I’ve never seen this one anywhere, I made it up.) So let’s look at it. Technically, the statement is true. But what is the implication? That snaps pinch baby’s skin. Do snaps on diapers actually pinch baby’s skin? It would be difficult to see how this would be possible.

But! This is where it gets tricky. Not all “no” statements are misleading marketing hype. For example, if I say that Wrapsody Bali Baby Stretch wraps are a stretch hybrid that does not sag like most jersey wraps do. Let’s evaluate this one. What am I implying? That most other jersey wraps sag. Do most other jersey wraps sag? Generally speaking, yes, they do.

How are you, the shopper, to know this? It pays to do your homework, or to use common sense. In this case, learning about the different types of wraps, reading reviews, and talking to other parents would likely get you the information that completely stretchy wraps are super comfortable for newborns, but saggy with older babies.

So, when you’re out there shopping – and baby products are WAY WORSE than anything else for this – be wary of what is truth and what is marketing hype. Marketing hype is technically true, but implies things that are not true.

By and large, I have liked Fashion Incubator since finding them a while back.  But I part ways with them over some of their thoughts re: CPSIA. (And pardon typos, I’m typing with my left hand, Wally sleeping/nursing/coughing in my right arm and Genna sleeping on my left upper arm.)

Here is a quote from their website about tiny businesses:

Tiny enterprises, self described (many are no different from us)
Which brings me to the tiniest of producers who stand the most to gain. Yes they do. Yes, I get that their homes and livelihoods will be dramatically affected in the same ways one would be impacted if one suddenly lost their job (no different than stitchers being put out of work when the largest producers go under). Some of them are making up household budget shortfalls and may have to go to work leaving their kids in daycare, definitely an unpalatable choice. Some may have difficulty securing work. However, of everyone, they have the most flexibility because they can react to produce basically the day market conditions change. I do predict some big changes in this market though. It will be more difficult for them to use fabrics they buy at the store because they most likely won’t be able to get certifications from retailers. In some ways it could be good because it will force them to overcome some trepidation and attend a wholesale fabric show. If you know where to shop, minimums just aren’t that high and you do have to know how to talk to people.

With respect to the tiniest of producers, I think an issue that has not been discussed openly is the conflict born of entitlement, often expressed in blogs and forums across the web as “freedom”. As the system existed, they had the freedom and entitlement to conduct their affairs as they saw fit and it won’t be that way anymore. It is only natural to resent that. We all resent forced change but it’s not practical to wallow in it or throw fits about it. Even under ideal modifications, this law will force many to either become more professional or get into something else. If this is something you love, it can only rankle being forced to put on a suit that’s too new or big for you. The truth is though, the only difference between many Etsy and eBay sellers and members of our forum is not company size but professionalism (for some reason, visitors and forum guests think we’re all big companies).

Tgis may be true for small apparel manufacturers. But I know, well, for one thing, going to a wholesale fabric show is not an option for me. First, I do not think it is likely appropriate to attend with small children. I am unwilling to travel overnight sans chidren – particularly those under 1 year old. Travel as a familu is impractical unless we want to forgo vacation and use dh’s vacation time to go to trade shows instead.

Second, wholesale minimums might not be that large if you know where to shop (and I know where to shop for the fabrics I use a lot of). But they’re certainly higher than 2 yards, which is my typical purchase for print fabrics (other than flannel). Two yards will make four Mei Tais, and four MTs is typically all I want/can sell from any particular print. 2.5 yards will make one ring sling. Two yards will make dozens of Cycle Pad Bags, six changing pads, three large wet bags, or about 6 small diaper outers.

I could certainly increase that, but even going up to a bolt (let’s say a bolt of the average cotton print is 8 yards) gives me 24 changing pads from that bolt. Consider that I typically restock 20 changing pads at a time, at least a dozen prints per restocking, it will take me over a year to go through just a single bolt of fabric.

Carrying that logic and math through to the conclusion, I will be able to offer far, far fewer prints. Much, much less variety.

Third, then continuning with the above point, I have less variety. Let’s say that currently, over the course of the year, I sell 100 MT carriers. Each of those 100 carriers are different. With having to buy fabric wholesale, I’ll be able to offer only 10 different prints. This will likely then appeal to fewer people resulting in fewer sales. Most of us very small diaper and sling makers rely on our variety to remain competitive. Everyone has the Frog Pond print from Bummis. Not too many people have the Cats In Space print from Wallypop.

Fourth, oddly, I currently get Better Than Wholesale prices by buying retail. I know, it’s crazy. But if I shop right, with sales or coupons or special discounts, I get my twill for less than what I could realistically get it for wholesale. Same with flannel. Because unless I’m willing to buy in serious bulk, I can’t get the really really good prices, I just get the sorta good prices. So having to buy wholesale actually makes my costs go up. My costs go up = my prices go up. My prices go up = less competitive against the “big guys” = fewer sales = no reason to buy fabric wholesale because I can’t go through it. It’s a circle. A bad circle.

Fifth, because I’m so small, I do have a lot more flexibility. I also have a much smaller margin. I truly cannot afford to NOT be able to use the fabrics and supplies I currently have in stock. There is a chance I could sell them off, but I really don’t run a fabric store. (The few fabrics I do sell for home sewers are almost more of a pain than they’re worth – it’s the very least efficient part of my operation.)

Now, I get their point. All this is part of being “more professional.” Yes. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s like when I gripe about home sewers who start selling their extras for a little extra income. They can dodge a lot of expenses I can’t since I’m an actual business. (Insurance, compliance with the law, respecting zoning ordinances, labeling laws, collecting sales tax, expenses involved in maintaining accurate records, etc.) I’ve had customers ask why my dipes, which are largely the same as Jo Schmoe’s down the street, cost more. She’s not a business; I am.

The same would be true of why my stuff is less expensive than some of the bigger companies’ and maybe I just need to suck it up and “grow up.”

But I don’t want to, darnit! (picture me on the floor throwing a tantrum.) But it’s more than not wanting to. It’s knowing that I can’t survive in the middle ground. I have to either stay very small like I am, or I have to actually be a big company. And Wallypop was never supposed to be a big company. It cannot and will not move out of my basement until my children are also out of my basement.

Going Green, Part 4 – Household Cleaning

Household Cleaning

Household cleaning is one area that offers a lot of opportunities to save money while also living a little greener. Our society has grown accustomed to using harsh household chemicals, but these expensive – not to mention dangerous – cleaners are not the only choice.


In the Bathroom

Let’s start with the room that receives the harshest cleaning chemicals, the bathroom. Most American households use caustic cleaners in the toilet, bleach-based cleaners on the sink and shower, and still more chemicals on the floor and mirrors. Yikes!


Instead of using expensive harsh chemicals in your toilet, try mixing ¼ cup of baking soda with 1 cup of white vinegar. Pour into the toilet, let sit for a few minutes, then scrub. (Vinegar is antibacterial in nature.) Additionally, consider swishing the toilet with a toilet brush as part of your morning or evening routine. You’ll find that a quick swish every day keeps the toilet from getting too disgusting.


For the sink and shower, apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar) does a fine job of removing soap scum and hard-water deposits, as well as killing the bacteria that thrives in the humid environment of the bathroom.


If scrubbing is needed, try using baking soda. It’s mildly abrasive, but won’t scratch. If more abrasion is needed, a good scouring stone (pumice, available at hardware stores) will usually do the trick. Keep the stone wet and gently rub.)


For mold, spray on a solution of diluted hydrogen peroxide (available at pharmacies). Let sit for several minutes (15 or so) before scrubbing or rinsing.

In the Kitchen

Many families these days prefer to wash their produce with a special fruit and veggie wash meant to safely clean the produce better than simply rinsing them with water. A homemade alternative is to soak the produce in diluted vinegar – try ¼ cup of vinegar for a sinkful of water. Soak the produce for 15 minutes, then rinse and dry.


For oven cleaning, use your oven’s self-cleaning cycle, if it has one. Not only does this save labor, but there are no chemicals involved! If your oven is not self-cleaning, or if you have baked-on spills that need special attention, try dampening the interior of the oven with plain water (using a spray bottle), then sprinkling on a few layers of baking soda. Let the whole thing sit for a few hours, then scrub with a rag. Use steel wool for really tough spots.


For clogged sinks, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain and follow with a cup of vinegar. The chemical reaction that follows will help break down greasy clogs. Let this sit for a few minutes before pouring a panful of boiling water down the drain to help clear the clog.

The Whole House

For general cleaning – de-smudging, polishing, dusting, and wiping – consider purchasing some microfiber cleaning cloths. These cloths make clean-up a snap, and do a fine job of cleaning up without any chemicals at all. You can use them dry, or with plain water.


For hard-surface floors, you can’t beat the old-fashioned broom and dustpan, or the more modern Swiffer. (For an economical, nondisposable alternative to swiffer cloths, consider Sweet Sweepers.) Follow up with a mop and some hot, soapy water – just use plain old dish soap, no need for speciality floor cleaners.


There are a lot of good resources out there for economical, environmentally-friendly household cleaning. My favorite is a book called Clean House, Clean Planet.

Going Green, Part 3

It’s been a while since I started this series, and I’m afraid I lost my notes, so I’m winging the remainder of the series!

Today’s installment is about the second part of the little Environmentalism Matra – Reuse. This step so often gets overlooked in our enthusiasm about recycling, but reusing something is so much better for the environment (and the wallet) than recycling.

Reuse is actually my favorite part of living greener, because I’m a big fan of World War Two pop culture – and during WWII (as well as during the Depression), they had their own saying – Use it up, Wear it out, Make it new, or go without. What they couldn’t or didn’t use up or wear completely out (and I do mean completely), they would fix up, repair, or reinvent. I have several sewing books from the era, each with large sections devoted to remaking clothes or housewares using worn out clothing. A man’s suit becomes a woman’s suit or children’s clothing. Two worn dresses are made anew by combining the good parts of each to make one new dress, and the leftover parts made into children’s clothing.

So, with the pioneerish spirit of our grandmothers, here are some ideas to get you started Reusing your worn or broken items.

  • Clothing. Clothing is the easiest item to reuse – at least for me, since I can sew! Plain T-shirts or T-shirts with smallish designs that you’d rather not see any more can be decorated and remade using the simple technique of raw-edge applique. (another example here) Bonus: This technique requires very basic sewing skills, and the stitching doesn’t need to be perfect at all – it’s just “art-ier” if it’s all crooked! Most other clothing items can also be embellished – skirts, jackets, coats, pants, jeans. Pants and jeans can also be decorated with trim, which is especially useful for adding just a smidge of length when your daughter shoots up 3 inches overnight or for those pants that you love that are getting a bit worn around the hem.Clothing can also be cut up and sewn, tied, woven, or braided into quilts or rugs. I made a neat denim rug when I was in college by cutting up denim scraps that would otherwise have been thrown away. I braided them into a long, long rope, then coiled the rope into a circular rug that we used to wipe our shoes on before entering our dorm room. (Similar to what this lady is doing.)

    My favorite use for old clothing is simply to cut out all the seams and then see what else I can make with the remaining pieces. Patchwork skirts are always easy, but most children’s clothing items can be made with parts of old adult clothing. An old skirt could yield a nice ring sling or Asian carrier. Cotton clothing can be remade into diapers or mama pads. Once you start seeing old clothing (or towels, sheets, etc) as fabric instead of clothes, the possibilities are endless!

  • Clothing again. Clothing that’s too worn (or ugly) to be reused can always be cut up and used for toilet wipes, rags, or washcloths. These items don’t have to be aesthetically pleasing.
  • Interesting but clean garbage. Things like toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, meat trays, cardboard boxes and inserts, cans, jugs, and just about any type of container can be used in craft projects for your children. Don’t have children? Contact your local church, preschool, or daycare. Most of these facilities will gladly take donations of craft supplies such as these! But don’t stop at children’s crafts. Egg cartons can be used to store small, fragile Christmas ornaments or as a palette for your next painting project. Aluminum cans can be used to store pencils. Baby food jars can be used to store nails and screws, or bobbins for your sewing machine, or hairpins.
  • Paper. What do you use for jotting down quick notes? Taking phone messages? Writing grocery lists? How about using your junk mail? Most envelopes have plenty of space for notes or lists. Not to mention that many business letters are printed on one side only, leaving the entire back side empty! And what about those pages that you printed on your computer, but didn’t need? Or that your printer screwed up? (Oh, is that just me?)
  • Cardboard boxes. What can’t these be used for, really? Besides the obvious – mailing out packages – these workhorses of the reusing world can be used to: make a playhouse, make a sled (my dad used to pull us around the yard in the winter on a giant, flattened box), protect your garage floor, store off-season clothes or anything else, or provide a giant easel for children to draw on. With a few cuts and some tape, they can be made into magazine holders or smaller boxes. I cut the sides from an old, large cardboard box, painted them to match my office, and stuck photos to them to make collages to decorate my walls. Another large cardboard box, with a few windows cut out, provides a nice play house for my son. A third box provided me with a bulletin board on which I plan upcoming projects.
  • What else goes in your garbage? Just a few miscellaneous examples from my own house: I use two old mugs to hold my pens and pencils in my office. An old desk drawer organizer from work (they were remodeling and throwing out – throwing out!! – all our old desk supplies like orgnizers, magazine files, photo frames, and the like) helps me organize my sewing cabinet. Some old shelving provided some of the wood we used to make built-in bookcases in our basement.

If you can’t reuse something yourself, take a minute before you throw it away to consider whether someone else could use it. Maybe someone in your family or your circle of friends could really use that old pan. Or perhaps you could freecycle some of your items or donate them to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with lots of good ideas for reusing some of the items you would normally throw away. Please post your own ideas as comments to this article!!