Why I Love The American Inventor TV Show and Really Hate Graco

What team of geniuses designed Graco Care Seats? Am I the only parent in America that thinks they were designed by monkeys on crack? One afternoon, after Dylan spit up and drooled all over the padded seat cushion of our Graco Car Seat, Victoria decided to remove the seat cushion and run it through the wash. All was fine, until she asked me to put it back on. I am the resident tech support “go to guy” in the family, so it’s always my job to deal with this stuff. Despite my being somewhat highly educated—I have a doctorate, so I guess that should count for something—it took me at least a half hour to put the stupid thing back together. That was with the help of Victoria's father, a retired college president, who also had a difficult time figuring it out. I guess I am lucky that I was not trying to reassemble it right before getting into the car, or that the fate of the world depends on my reassembly skills or lack thereof. I can just imagine: Dylan fidgeting and crying, getting a late start, fussing with this ridiculous contraption. It isn't really the cover itself that's so annoying, mind you, it's how the safety straps weave in and out of the slits in the cover and how they connect to the back of the plastic seat. I guess the secret is to never take off the cover and let it fester with baby drool. Yuck!

What gives? What team of idiots designed this thing?

You would think that of all products, a child’s car seat would not only be designed with the utmost attention to safety, but ease of use. They could have easily pasted clear directions all over the plastic shell (I mean, c’mon—it’s not like you need to make a fashion statement with your baby’s car seat), but no, you either need to have the manual on hand or practice taking it apart and putting it back together—like any parent has a half hour to dedicate to yet another idiotic chore. I wish I had pictures to illustrate how puzzling the underbelly of the seat is, but Victoria’s out of town right now with Dylan and the car seat is with her.

On a related note, I happened to catch the last episode of the American Inventor TV Show on May 18. I usually hate “reality shows”, but this one rocks. It rewards ingenuity and creativity and encourages people to take potentially world-changing ideas to the next level. I was particularly excited when American viewers elected Janusz Liberkowski as the winner. The other inventions were OK—an innovative Double Traction bike, a game called Word Ace and a Receiver’s Training Pole, but this is something that will potentially save lives.

For those who did not see the show, here is a description of Liberkowski's invention:

“Spherical Safety Seat - A new kind of infant car seat where the baby sits inside nested spheres instead of the usual seat. In a collision, the spheres spin and automatically position the child's neck and back so that they are perpendicular to the impact force, thus shielding the baby from the destructive force of the impact.”

This is such a fantastic idea! Liberkowski totally deserved to win, and regardless of how ingenious his design is, how can you not empathize? The man’s daughter died in a car accident because of a poorly designed car seat (a Graco?). I can see it now: millions of parents, just like me, hating their stupid Graco Seats, all of us imagining the ultimate horror: a similar disaster with our own children.

So, what’s the solution? If Liberkowski’s car seat really works well and actually makes it to market, speak with your wallet! Purchase it if you have a small child and show Graco that great design does matter.

Perhaps I’m the only parent who cares or thinks Graco’s are designed poorly, but I would rather speak up than ever have to go through what Liberkowski must relive every day for the rest of his life.

And like James Dyson, “I just think things should work properly.”