Disadvantages Unsafe, no information to go with it, bulky, poor customer service
|Ease of cleaning|
|Ease of installation|
|Value for Money|
My baby girl had outgrown her 'newborn' car seat, so I really needed to pick up a new one for her. Although we don't drive, a car seat is essential for lifts from friends and emergency taxi visits, though thankfully we have not had any of the latter yet!I visited the local Mothercare store to look at car seats and was a little overwhelmed by all the different models and the general busyness of the store. The staff member I spoke to recommended the Madrid Combination car seat due to its low price- it was on sale for £39.99- and based on the fact that I wouldn't be using it much. They were out of stock however so I ordered it online later on.
It wasn't a great decision. First it took 5 weeks to arrive, despite the website promising immediate delivery. I pestered Mothercare but received no reply, and meanwhile worried about our newborn car seat being unsafe for use in an emergency. It turned out that the car seat had gone to the wrong address and been returned back to Mothercare HQ! None of the employees thought to phone or email me despite the fact that I had ordered the car seat through a Mothercare online account and all my contact details were on there.The Madrid Combination car seat from Mothercare is a large, bulky and heavy item. I had only used it a few times before wishing I had bought a smaller model and a better design. It is also not easy to use. Once you have lugged it out to the car you have to fiddle a lot to get it strapped in right. This usually takes two people to do correctly, as in order to secure the car seat the seat belt has to go through the car seat, but not all car seat belts are long enough for this to be achieved.
The car seat came with no manual and no explanation of how to use it. This implied that it would be easy to use, as per the basic diagrams on the seat itself. This has not been the case. Every car I used it in required the front seat to be moved forward so that it wouldn't be in physical contact with the car seat, but I only knew to do this because I had researched basic car safety online already. I wonder how many other Mothercare customers are fitting their car seats incorrectly even as I type this. This is surely a major safety issue and one that requires further investigation.If it had been possible to do I would have returned the car seat within a few days of purchase, but I didn't get the chance to use it right away and the nearest Mothercare is a drive away.. There's simply no way of travelling with this car seat without a car. I contacted Mothercare Customer Services with my concerns and promptly received a reply from Raashmi, who told me to take the seat into my local store, to discuss its faults. So, I took it back to Mothercare to find out what was wrong with it, and to hopefully exchange it for a better model.
The car seat is grey and very basic-looking, but so long as it was offering my baby girl safety I wouldn't have minded that. Sadly it didn't. The design could be a lot better. When my friend gave me a lift to Mothercare to see if I could exchange the car seat, it barely strapped into his car. The fact that it was at a jaunty angle worried me. The car seat would also jump whenever the car turned a corner at speed. But the main reason I wanted to exchange it was that whenever my daughter fell asleep in it, her head would fall forwards and I would have to hold it up the entire time she slept. If there had been a car accident with her head at this angle, I feared for the worst.When we arrived, the manager was busy with several other customers in the 'complaints' section of the store. I could tell that she wanted to get rid of me as soon as possible. She didn't make eye contact when she asked me what was wrong and I while explained about the seat. Then with two other sales assistants she fitted the seat into the model passenger seat in the store. When we put my baby daughter in it, the seat was fine and she fit in it fine. However I had used the car seat in at least 4 different vehicles, and never seen it fitted so well. My friend, who had driven us there pointed out that the store passenger seat which Mothercare uses to test car seats is of a front seat, not a back passenger seat like we had been using. However when we bought the Madrid car seat there was NO specification to use it only in a front seat.
I explained that in my friend's car, the seat didn't sit level like it did in the store seat. The sales assistant said that this was because 'no car seat is designed for every car. The seat you have is for specific cars only. We do advise customers of this'. I said that when I came into this very store to choose a car seat, I had not been advised of that at all. Nor was it written anywhere in the store or on the online sales website, as we had spent some time browsing the car seat section before our purchase. There was also no manual for the car seat to point his out. None of the cars we had used the Madrid Combination car seat in were an unusual model of car. Surely this is essential information regarding Mothercare car seats and should therefore be made in store/by sales assistants and at the point of sale, whether in store or online? Otherwise Mothercare are misleading customers regarding their products.The manager didn't really listen to anything I said, she just asked to see the car seat in my brother's car. Along with the two sales assistants we went to the car park, where the Mothercare staff tried to fit the Madrid seat correctly. This took them all of 10 minutes, and they needed our help in the end! The manager asked me: 'did you manage to get it in before?' because the seat belt did not fit around the car seat easily. I explained that we had not driven there without the car seat being secured by a seat belt! I showed her how the belt had to be adjusted and pulled in order to get it around the car seat, which made the seat unlevel. Then I put my daughter into the seat. It was clear that she was not supported properly and that the seat was not secure. Now the manager stopped to think. Then she said that this was because the seat needed to be forward-facing, then. I explained that we had bought the seat as a rear-facing one (ideal for taxi rides) and also that I thought only older children could sit in this car seat when forward-facing.
The manager was relentless, and determined not to compromise. She asked me how much my daughter weighs, her age and whether she is sitting up alone. I said that she is roughly 22 lbs in weight, 8 months old, and has started sitting up recently, but not always unassisted. The manager said that she could sit in the car seat forward facing, then, as a baby over 20 lbs who can sit up alone can sit in the seat when it is forward-facing. They rearranged the seat so that it was forward-facing. We put my baby in it and it did seem more secure.I was still unsatisfied, and also unsure whether it was true that it was safe to sit her forward facing at only 8 months. I decided to do more research at home, so the 50 minute long episode ended, as I didn't want to argue with the store manager and sales assistants. At home, I looked up the Madrid Combination Car Seat on the Mothercare website. It states: 'Use rearward facing from birth to approx. 15mths, and forward facing once your child can sit up unaided (approx. 9mths-4yrs)'. My daughter is only just 8 months old, and she has only just become 22 lbs in weight. When we purchased the car seat last year she weighed less than this, and she was also not sitting up at all at the time.
This means that, previously unknown to us, for the last month we have been using the car seat incorrectly - the exact opposite reason for buying a car seat! In fact the manager told us that it would have 'gone over' in an accident in the rear-facing position. I wonder how many other people are putting their babies in danger without realising it. I also wonder how Mothercare have been getting away with this, and how they can have staff who advise on and sell car seats without training individuals on the basic safety features. Even a basic manual to highlight the safe way to use Mothercare car seats could help to prevent a catastrophe- as I said, even the manager of this Mothercare store demonstrated that they are NOT easy to fit to ensure maximum safety.This car seat therefore does not seem suitable for either newborns or older babies, as we had been led to believe.
I have complained to Raashmi again and I am also planning to report the faults with this car seat to a consumer watchdog as I feel that Mothercare have put my daughter's safety in danger by offerin inadequate and misleading information about the nature of the Madrid Combination car seat.I would not recommend this car seat to anyone, for any reason. I'd also suggest avoiding Mothercare altogether, as the staff are not trained about their equipment, but such explanation is essential to their goods! (A quick Google search of 'Mothercare complaint' backs this up- I wish I had thought to do such a search before buying from the store!) In summary.. AVOID!!
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