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Caveat Emptor: Buyer Beware

By Shawn

Shawn is a personal friend of the Clever Dude and Dudette. At the time of writing this article, Shawn didn’t know he was going to be driving to the hospital that night to deliver his first child!

Latin for “Buyer Beware”, Caveat Emptor would have come in handy for me about a month ago.

Since we’re about to have a baby, I’ve been trying to find ways to cut costs associated with the new arrival (without compromising her safety, however). There are some things that you are warned against buying used, such as car seats and cribs, because safety requirements are constantly changing.

In an effort to save some money, we made a list of things that we could purchase used. One of the things on the list was baby gates.

Finding a Used Baby Gate

We have 2 rather large openings to 2 rooms that we want to block off when our little one starts roaming the house. The gates to fit these openings are pretty expensive. I did some searching on Craigslist, and I found a person selling a gate that would fit one of the openings at half the cost of a new one.

After a few emails, the seller indicated that the gate was in perfect condition, so we decided to go take a look at it. While we were there, they demonstrated how to work the gate (how to open it, how to expand it, etc). We decided that it was a good deal, so we bought it.

Finding the Dirty Little Secret

About a month later, I decided to look at installing the gate. I saw that it was the type that gets anchored into the wall, so I went online to find the user’s guide to see if there were instructions or a template for installing the anchors.

It was then that I realized there were two major things wrong with this gate.

  1. Although they demonstrated how to expand the gate, they were very careful to only show it on one panel. The second panel would not expand. It appeared as though they used a wrench to tighten it, and stripped the mechanism.
  2. One of the wall mounts was missing.

These two problems made the gate pretty much unusable as is (not to mention unsafe if we were to only use 3 out of 4 anchors). This taught me a very important lesson…

Always know what you’re buying

I didn’t do much research on gates except to find the one or two that would fit our opening. Thus, I’d never gone to look at what the gate should look like.

First, when making these kinds of purchases, I would recommend finding out how the product should function. Go to a store and look at a floor model (if possible). Try to take notes of all the parts you see and how they work.

Second, search online for user’s manuals for the product you’re interested in. Had I downloaded the manual and taken it with me when we looked at the gate, I could have compared the list of parts in the manual to what was actually there.

In the end, we may be able to use the gate. The section with the broken expander can be removed, and the remaining sections will fit the opening we have. As for the missing mounting hardware, I simple emailed the company’s customer service department, and they’re going to send me a new set of mounting hardware.

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Clever Dude


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