Here’s the story of how Pampers dissed Elmo, made my baby cry and insulted my intelligence.
Our tale starts on the changing table, a place every parent of a toddler visits at least five times a day. These visits aren’t a picnic for either party, but for some reason it’s the baby who gets the most upset. A child can have a bum full of you-know-what, and still she will resist a diaper change. The answer to making this experience more pleasant is a mix of distraction and humor.
We parents use the tools we have at hand, and since diaper cream and wipes aren’t too entertaining, I turned to the happy cartoon faces on her diapers. Pampers licenses the “Sesame Street” characters and on the front is a rotating cast that includes Cookie Monster, Big Bird, etc. On the back Ã¢â‚¬â€ until recently Ã¢â‚¬â€ there was a picture of Elmo is all his red, cheerful glory.
A while back, I started a little game with Pumpkin: I’d show her the back of her Pampers and say, “Who’s this?” She soon learned to say, “Elmo.” It was amazingly effective. I’d tried other games in the past, but nothing calmed her down as much as the sight of Elmo, merrily smiling at her.
Then, a few weeks ago, I opened an 80-count box of Pampers Baby Dry and was putting them in the diaper holder when I noticed, “Hey! No Elmo!” There was still the character on the front, but the back was plain white. I thought to myself, “Huh, I wonder if this is a mistake?” I didn’t get mad until the change made my baby cry.
This happened last week when Pumpkin was suffering from her first-ever bout with a stomach virus. We were upstairs in her room and I was giving her tiny sips of water every 15 minutes to prevent a repeat episode of sickness. She kept asking for water over and over, and I kept trying to distract her. The only thing that entertained her was pulling her socks from the bin and other mischief that I don’t usually allow but tolerated while she was so miserable. Then, she started pulling the Pampers from their holder. One by one, she turned them over and said, “Elmo? Elmo? Elmo? Elmo?” She looked at me as if to say, “What happened to Elmo?”
I decided to call Pampers and get an answer to that question. On Friday, I called the toll-free customer service line and asked what was up with the missing Elmo. (I didn’t identify myself as a newspaper reporter, just as a concerned mom.) The customer service representative told me this was a new change. She said they try new features from time to time. I said, “This isn’t a new feature, this is removing a feature.” She said that was the feature.
Then, this week I called the media line and got through to baby care spokeswoman Lisa Jester at Pampers’ maker, Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. I told her I am a newspaper reporter who planned to blog about her experience. First Jester said, “Elmo is still on the front, right?” Then she said, “We are always changing our design. We listen to customers.” I pointed out that the new design has a lot less printing overall and seems to be more about saving money on ink than pleasing customers. Jester said she would pass along my comments. Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll tell them Elmo has a fan,” she said with an intonation that was, how I can I put it? A little mocking.
Now, cutting out Elmo was undoubtedly a small change in the minds of the bean counters at Procter & Gamble, but it was a big deal here in the little purple bedroom at the top of the stairs in the Alterio home.
I went to the store recently and bought a package of Huggies. Let’s hope Winnie the Pooh has a better agent.