As a new homeowner in the area, and as a new parent (our son is just over eight weeks old), we were excited to find "Sid & Me" nearby. After experiencing the warehouse feeling of Babies R Us, and the high prices of the baby boutiques in Brentwood and Manhattan Beach, the store seemed like the perfect neighborhood, family-run answer to the other ends of the spectrum.
We bought almost everything for our nursery from the store. We shopped around, and even though we could have found the same stuff online for a little less, we appreciated the service and wanted to support a neighborhood store.
It was only later that we learned that owner of the store didn't have the same atttitude toward its customers. More on that in a bit, though.
Sid & Me carries several lines of kid and baby furniture, bedding and big ticket items (like Bugaboo strollers), as well as a fair selection of smaller items -- breastfeeding supplies, for instance -- that make it a one-stop shop for everything kid and baby. The store windows show off mainly bedding and furniture, but there is a wide variety of baby-related stuff. More than most new parents think exist. (And considering it's not even 10% as large as your typical Babies R Us, there is a LOT of stuff out there.) Who knew, for instance, how many difference varieties there are of the simple high chair.
But a neighborhood store needs more than nice window displays to impress and keep customers. It needs good customer service. This is where, over less than $20, Sid & Me fell apart.
Our story centers on the bedding set that we bought for our son's bedroom. The "jungle" line by Brandee Danielle, included everything -- including an embroidered lampshade. The whole set cost almost $600.
Unfortunately, that lampshade was a sore spot from the beginning. When we picked it out, the sales clerks didn't think to tell us that it only fit the unique lamp base they also sold. In fact, they didn't even mention they sold the lamp base. We spent a couple hours -- and new and soon-to-be parents know how valuable their free time is -- searching in vain at lighting stores for a compatible lamp. When we returned to Sid & Me, they finally did mention that they carried a base that fit it. We bought it on the spot -- another $30 or so, but we were happy to pay it.
Of course, not more than a few hours of use later, the lamp shade warped. And not just a minor warp -- it's a lamp shade, after all, and you wouldn't notice something small. The fabric peeled away from the top and the coating wrinkled the entire way around.
The lamp base said to use a 60 watt bulb, and that's what we used. So back to the store to exchange or return the defective shade we went.
The manager, Sonya, examined the shade and told us that she had never seen this sort of problem. She sent it back to Brandee Danielle. A couple weeks later, she called and suggested we call the manufacturer. That's the first time we got that response from a retail store, but went along with it. My wife actually talked to Brandee of Brandee Danielle, who told her (a) The shade was not defective; (b) We must have used a 3-way bulb that burned much hotter than a 60-watt bulb; (c) They would not give the store a credit. They were shipping the shade back to the store, and that was the end of it as far as they were concerned.
Baffled, my wife called the store, speaking again to Sonya. She said because the manufacturer would not give the store a credit, they would not give us a credit. Suddenly, their vendor relationship became our problem.
Today, we went to the store. We explained the situation to the manager (Sonya), who told us that she was told specifically by the owner of the store that since their supplier wouldn't give them a credit, we would not be given a credit.
It surprised us that after we'd already spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars there and, with an 8-week-old baby, we were sure to need many more things over the years, that they would take that hard line.
After a few minutes, Sonya grudgingly agreed to give us half our money back (as a store credit), acknowledging that we were right, without actually saying she was sorry for the hassle, for the problem, or taking real responsibility for the merchandise. We bought what we could with the credit we were given, and it is the last time we will step foot in that store.
If Sid & Me won't stand behind a $28 lamp shade, we have little doubt that they mistreat customers when there's more money at stake. We expect that sort of short-sightedness on the part of Babies R Us, not what purports to be a friendly neighborhood store.