So I thought for my first blog I ought to give a bit of background on my child seat knowledge and why I do what I do!
About 2 – 2.5 years ago, I knew NOTHING about child seats. I thought boosters were so kids could see out the window and it was overprotective to have an 8 year old in one with ‘wings’. To me, baby seats didn’t last long enough and the harnessed front facing seats were over priced – I vividly remember sticking my nose up at a £40 price tag on a supermarket seat when I thought to buy one to take my friends 1 year old out. A pretty bad view of child safety I’m sure you agree. I used to take my then 3 and 5 year old niece and nephew to the shops with no car seats (seat belt over lap and tucked under arm) and other than that gave seats no more thought or notice.
Then in December 2009 I lost my job in the banking industry and struggled to find work. I applied for anything and everything and eventually landed an interview at Halfords. I was so upset about being out of work that I was relieved somebody was considering me! I got the job as a cashier for 15 hours a week and started in April 2010. For the first few months I was just happy to be working and didn’t expect to stay for any more than 3 months as surely something would come up! 3 months came and went and it occurred to me that maybe I would have to build a career in retail. The problem in the store I was working in, was everybody had their ‘section’ and knew a lot about that section and it was pretty hard to ’get in’ anywhere to move over to the shop floor. During this time I’d noticed the child seat section, and that forms had to be completed when a seat was sold etc, but nobody really seemed to be an ‘expert’. On more than one occasion we had complaints about advice, or lack of it, and people walking out in disgust! So I decided to get trained on child seats. The female touch and all that.
I’m the first to admit that my desire to be trained on car seats wasn’t due to any superhero tendencies of wanting to help parents keep their kids safe, I just saw it as a foot in the door to get onto the shop floor and a supervisor role. My first battle was convincing my manager to train me. ”No, we have plenty of people trained” was the standard response. It was only when a customer requested a female assistant and we didn’t have anyone, did he relent.
I was pretty nervous about my child seat training and revised the Halfords child seat leaflet for days before, I could recite the weight categories and law by the time it came around – their child’s life was in my hands so I had to do a good job! To say that I was unhappy with the training is a complete understatement. By this time I had begun to have a little appreciation of what a child seat was used for and why it was needed, I did not feel comfortable helping people and selling seats, especially when some parents had no clue whatsoever and were relying on my ‘knowledge’ to keep their children safe. The crunch came when I was asked to demonstrate the Maxi Cosi Axiss – the swivels, the tensioner… I couldn’t figure out one from the other! Red cheeked I had to admit that I didn’t know how to operate the seat, final straw.
That evening I went home and spent nigh on 5 hours researching the entire seat range that was available in my store. I watched crash test after crash test, read blogs, reviews and mumsnet threads. This happened every evening for weeks and my family were soon sick of me running in going “have you SEEN this crash test? It’s shocking!” I’m pretty sure my family thought I was going crazy, I’d contacted my cousins who had a 5,6, and 7 year old to tell them to get them high backed boosters with ‘wings’, and regularly posted information about seats online.
Within a year I was Duty Manager at Halfords and finally realised why they put no emphasis on the importance of advising properly on child seats – they make barely any money on them. If I spent 45 minutes with a customer, making sure they knew what they were buying and how to fit it – the resultant sale would make them very little profit. However, If I advised on a CD player and fitted it they’d make £50 immediately from just the fitting. I guess that’s how companies have to run.
By November 2011 I had discovered extended rear facing and was telling EVERYONE about it – (Halfords even let me order in the Britax Multi-tech!) I needed a place to put all my acquired knowledge so set up a website. I started advising online free of charge and ran a facebook child seat page offering free advice. I wrote a business plan to offer independent consultations and training for parents – exciting times and then I went and crashed my car! Right into the back of someone at 35mph and completely my fault – whoever said they wouldn’t crash?? To say it shook me up is an understatement and put paid to any business plans.
Over the following months I moved into an office based role as there was a new store manager. The new manger disliked my advising on seats as I took ‘too long’ and I had to spend more and more time in the office taking care of the admin side of the store . I left the company in July 2012 as the store attitude to child safety and my own were different, we had gone our separate ways. I’ll always be thankful for gaining that role with Halfords however, they gave me the chance to get into car seats, which is now my absolute passion!
I continued building my knowledge of child seats, advising online and fitting seats for free. In September I started working with the national child seat campaign to help raise awareness of how important child seats are, correct usage and checking fitment.
I’ll mainly be blogging about my experiences with advising parents, a healthy combination of the views held in relation to car safety – even after advice has been given, the excuses used and before and after photo’s. I hope to also provide useful advice and tips for keeping your little ones safe on the move =D