Overrated: High-tech strollers carry same old poopy pants

The parents in my Brooklyn neighborhood are known collectively as the "stroller mafia" and around these parts we take our strollers pretty seriously. We may live in an outer borough, but it's still pretty urban and gritty, and strollers take a beating around here. We use ours every day for walks to daycare that run about a half mile each way, plus weekend expeditions. We go up and down stairs, in and out of the car and fold and unfold all day long. That's the reason a lot of my neighbors spend a bundle on the latest in baby-carrying mechanisms. And what do I mean by a bundle? North of $400 in most cases, with many price tags in the $800 range. Giggle, a high-end online retailer, is selling a Stokke Explorer Complete for $1,200.

The rationale is that any extra comfort one can achieve for this kind of daily use is worth an extra couple hundred dollars, especially amortized over the course of three or four years (or three or four kids). This is how most people in my neck of the woods now justify the purchase of the $400-$600 Phil &Ted's suite, which can turn from a jogging-type stroller to a double stroller (which affixes underneath for a London double-decker bus approach).

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Also popular are the $500+ Quinny, which has a strange triangular look that makes a child look like he's about to fall out; the $400 BOB, which is just a huge, heavy jogging stroller; the Stokke Explorer, which perches the baby up precariously high and facing backwards, and the $900 MBUD (the Mountain Buggy Urban Double), which is just a huge double jogging stroller. These are all making $300 Maclaren's, which used to be all the rage, look downright puny. Some models come with iPod holders, and all have a variety of extras like rain gear, matching cup holders and stroller bags that are not interchangeable.

But I counter any big-purchase rationalization with this: Any kid item that is going to be pooped on, spit up on, have Cheerios ground into it or suffer the indignation of daily kid wear is only worth the lowest going price. Hand-me-down is best. Buying used is the next-best option. And when buying retail, you only buy as much stroller as you need. There are plenty of decent, light strollers on the market for $100.